Rafael Palmeiro, the Baltimore Orioles' first baseman, has been suspended for ten games for testing positive for steroids. This is the same Rafael Palmeiro who testified before a congressional panel in March that he had "never used steroids. Period."
He says now that he never intentionally used steroids. He has no idea how they got into his system.
I want to believe him. I want to believe him because he seems like a nice enough guy, and because it would be better if he were telling the truth. Like it or not, a lot of people look up to baseball players, and a lot of those people are young kids, still putting all the points on their moral compasses.
Jose Canseco, who may or may not be a nice guy, and I'm not going to weigh in on that, told Sixty Minutes that he had injected Palmeiro with steroids sometime in the past. Palmeiro says that's not true.
And I want to believe him. But this is a guy who went from hitting 15.6 home runs per season his first five years as a full-time starter, to hitting over 38 every season but one between 1993 and 2003. In 1994 he hit only 23. He also had only436 at-bats that year (average is in the neighborhood of 600).
Those are only statistics, and they don't prove a thing. So still I want to believe Mr. Palmeiro. Because he held his finger up before the congress and looked so sincere. And you should be sincere if you're before the congress. Or the American public. You should be sincere if you are a role model, and yeah, a guy with over 3000 hits is a role model. So he should be sincere, he should appreciate all that the game has given to him, and he shouldn't take illegal drugs.
Someone once asked Joe DiMaggio why he played so hard every game. He answered, "because there is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time. I owe him my best."
Rafael Palmeiro owes the kids who come out to see him his best, too. For the sake of the future, for the sake of the game, and for the sake of his own integrity, which has taken a beating over the past few months. I want to believe that he has it in him to suck it up and give the kids his best.