Baltimore Orioles: Redemption for Palmeiro?


Short of injury updates on Jim Johnson, Zach Britton, Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, and Jason Berken, there’s not really much going on in Sarasota short of run-of-the-mill workouts. For the record, Johnson and Britton are throwing bullpen sessions, Brian Roberts participated in yesterday’s team drill (no infield practice) and hit off a tee, Nick Markakis feels he’s slightly ahead of schedule after his surgery last month, and Jason Berken’s day-to-day. With Ryan Braun of the Milwakee Brewers having his suspension for a banned substance lifted this week due to “improper handling” of his specimen, I feel that it’s worth calling into question other players who have been suspended for like reasons. From the Orioles’ standpoint, namely Rafael Palmeiro. Raffy was the first high-profile player in baseball that tested positive back in 2005, and was suspended for ten games.

I’ve always liked Palmeiro, and to this day he’s my sister’s all-time favorite Oriole. At the time I was torn because here was a player that I liked very much, and he was suddenly one of the game’s biggest goats. One thing did hit me the wrong way was the perception that MLB somewhat hung the Orioles and Palmeiro out to dry. Again I’m not suggesting that what Palmeiro did was right, however in my opinion the league and the national media seemed to operate under a guise that the Orioles were the main franchise that was culprit in the steroids era. Even when whispers about Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, and Barry Bonds began, somehow the Orioles remained front and center.

If six or seven years later Ryan Braun was able to “clear his name” by way of a technicality and go along with his business as if nothing happened, I do feel that the league should now call into question the situation of every player that’s ever tested positive. I don’t bring Palmeiro up because he’s an Oriole; I do so because the one thing he has in common with Braun is that he claimed vehemently that there was more than meets the eye.. The most notable PED case previous to that of Braun of late was Manny Ramirez, who never denied doping. He served his penalty, and then…proceeded to do it again. But he never denied the claims.

Palmeiro wagged his finger at Congress and said that he never knowingly did steroids. When he tested positive he swore that there was more to the story, yet we’ve never heard what that was. It’s water under a bridge now because Palmeiro’s retired. However this case with Ryan Braun could well call into question the legitimacy of other cases, even that of Manny Ramirez or Barry Bonds. This is not to say that they weren’t guilty of doping, however if their specimen was mishandled in some way they might have a legitimate claim that they aren’t guilty in a legal sense. Furthermore in Bonds’ case, if baseball cleared his name due to something like that, would he still be guilty of perjury?

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the league to review the circumstances of any test at this point. Again in Palmeiro’s case it isn’t as if he were still playing and wouldn’t have to serve the suspension. However if the league or an arbitrator found an issue or loophole such as in Braun’s case, Palmeiro could in theory have that black mark expunged from his record. If that were the case, he would then have a claim of ten days worth of salary (from the Orioles),  and repayment of any fines that were levied against him (payable by MLB). Not only that, but if that was expunged from his record he would immediately be in the hall of fame discussion, although the difference there would be that the voters for the hall are independed writers as opposed to MLB people. (So while the charge would be expunged, it could still be valid in their minds.)

I don’t think that any of that is going to happen, however if I was Rafael Palmeiro or any previously suspended or accused player, I’d be on the phone to my agent today trying to get him to inquire about this. As much as I might dislike Manny Ramirez, he probably has more to gain in the interim than anyone else in that if there was some sort of irregularity with his test his 50-game suspension would have to be lifted. For the record, I think that most of these guys are as guilty as sin, however that’s not to say that the league or it’s representatives should be allowed to be careless in testing them. Everyone deserves a fair shake.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala