Remember the last time you saw Rafael Palmeiro on the news? He was on Capitol Hill wagging his index finger at politicians saying, “I have never used steroids. period.”
That was March 2005.
Thirteen years and a handful of months later, Palmeiro is once again the talk of Texas. That’s because he will attempt to reboot his baseball career in Cleburne, Texas with the independent league Cleburne Railroaders.
Cleburne — population 30,000 — is a long way from Chicago, Arlington, Texas or Baltimore. That is where Palmeiro spent his 20-year major league career. He has Hall of Fame numbers: .288 BA/569 HR/3,020 hits/.371 OBP, four All-Star Game appearances and three Gold Glove awards).
So, it’s not all of Texas, but who’s counting? Apparently no one in Cleburne. Whether they are aware of it or not, Palmeiro is 53 years old, nearly a decade older than the oldest active player (Bartolo Colon). The average age of a Major League Baseball player is 29.81. That’s one year older than Palmerio’s son, Patrick, who is also on the Railroaders roster.
For the record: I am 53 years old. In fact, Palmeiro is only six weeks older than I am. I get light-headed just bending over to tie my shoes. Some mornings my knees sound like Rice Krispies. I climb a flight a stairs and get winded. Granted I was never a professional athlete, and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but the body slows down with age regardless of your physical shape.
Time is not on Palmeiro’s side either. The last time he stood in the batters box against a major league pitcher was August 30, 2005 against Jason Fraser of the Toronto Blue Jays. He struck out looking.
“I want to get back to proving to myself that I can do this and maybe for some of those people that think that I cheated, they might think again … When I was done with my career, the way it ended, I wanted nothing to do with baseball. It didn’t end the way I wanted it to … My time came and went,. That clock has gone, it’s dead, it’s not going to get restarted. I don’t want it. If it happens the other way with the veterans committee, I’ll accept it and move on.” – Rafael Palmeiro
Palmeiro’s hopes and dreams are going to battle with a three-headed monster: age, time and reputation.
The sad truth is Palmeiro is attempting a comeback for all the wrong reasons. He played 20 years in the majors, collected over 3,000 hits and 500+ home runs, but none of that matters. There is no unfinished business to tend to, just a man with a bruised ego trying to reclaim his reputation.
If only that menacing performance-enhancing drug charge would just go away. But, it won’t. Ever.