Wait, someone has evidence that Rafael Palmeiro really was clean and is unwilling to do anything about it?

56 Comments

John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus has a Hall of Fame vote and has published a Hall of Fame column, and boy howdy does it have an interesting passage in it regarding Rafael Palmeiro, for whom he is voting:

Rafael Palmeiro: An extremely reliable source—with no ties to Palmeiro—told me an off-the-record story at the Winter Meetings that convinced me that Palmeiro was indeed a clean player and was tricked into using the steroid when he thought he was taking a shot of vitamin B-12 that led to his suspension and end of his career in 2005. Unfortunately, there would be too many legal ramifications to make the story public.

“Legal ramifications?” That’s … interesting. Normally I’d dismiss such stuff out of hand because it’s all so he-said, she-said sounding. But it is probably worth noting that, in Maryland, where Palmeiro was playing at the time of his positive PED test, there is no statute of limitations for felonies so, yes, someone may very well be worried about legal ramifications for assault or whatever you could think to classify drugging someone without their knowledge or consent.

Not that I’m prepared to actually buy this. After all, are we truly to believe that Rafael Palmeiro possesses convincing evidence that one of his teammates (or trainers or whoever) doped him, ending his career, ruining his legacy and putting him at risk of criminal prosecution for lying to Congress and yet Palmeiro is unwilling to say anything about it publicly? The man has became a disgrace and a laughingstock as a result of that positive test. The poster boy for lying cheaters, thanks to that finger-wag while under oath.  Is it reasonable, then, to assume that he has no incentive to clear his name with the convincing story Perrotto was told? He’s worried about someone getting in some relatively minor criminal trouble and is willing to wear the goat horns the rest of his life because of it?

Or I suppose maybe he doesn’t know. In that case, there is apparently someone working in baseball — the guy was at the Winter Meetings after all — with evidence that would clear Palmeiro’s name, yet rather than bring it to anyone’s attention who could do something about it, is simply telling to baseball writers, off the record, over drinks at the lobby bar in the Opryland Hotel. What kind of a person is that?

I don’t know. It all sounds like far-fetched bar talk. I can say this much, though: if there is any truth to this, it brings us back to the old dynamic of the PED story in baseball: people, including writers, knowing what’s really going on, yet no one being all that interested in exposing it. How very shameful. And, in some ways, how very appropriate.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
2 Comments

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.