- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

Frank Robinson is ready to impose the death penalty on the career of Rafael Palmeiro, which is as it should be.

There was no equivocating on the part of Robinson earlier this week. There was no need to parse his comments to MLB.com. The old-school manager of the Nationals took aim on Mr. Never Ever Period and expunged his steroid-enhanced numbers from the record books.

To Robinson, it is clear-cut, and no asterisk is necessary, and no long-winded explanations either.

As he said, “Where do you go back, stop and say, ‘OK, where did he start using steroids?’ To eliminate all that, and get the players’ attention, you wipe the whole thing out.”

Otherwise, how do you put Palmeiro’s numbers in their proper context?

Do you go by the claims of Jose Canseco and start circling Palmeiro’s numbers in red ink after Canseco became his teammate in Arlington, Texas, late in the 1992 season?

Or do you attempt to deduct a percentage from the totals? Or what?

See the futility of it?

All we know for certain is that Palmeiro tested positive for steroid use, and darn if he knows how that happened, and darn if he ever will come clean in the short term, because deny, deny, deny is how the game is played.

Perhaps in 10 years, as memory of Palmeiro fades, he will come up with the novel idea of a biography that purports to tell all, and then maybe we will get a kernel of this or that. But who knows?

Palmeiro has made a wonderful living playing a game, and if money and a high standard of living is all he gets from the game in the end, he should consider the exchange a bargain.

His Hall of Fame candidacy certainly is in serious doubt, if only because of the Pete Rose example.

Rose bet on baseball and compromised the integrity of the game. What Palmeiro and the rest of the steroid-enhanced hitters did is arguably worse. They built careers on lies and good chemistry.

Rose may be a self-serving scoundrel, but what he did on the field remains pure to this day. No one questions his integrity as a player or his all-time hits record, even as his persona as a pathological liar came to overtake his persona as Charlie Hustle.

And so we come to the problematic issue of Palmeiro, Mr. Never Ever Period, and what his place in baseball history should be.

To Robinson, there should be no place for him, period. Never. Ever.

And there is clarity and efficiency in that view.

As Robinson said, “Why put the burden on baseball to try and figure out where to go, and maybe put an asterisk? Just wipe the whole thing out.”

Palmeiro and his kind are the Black Sox of our times, and it matters not a bit if Palmeiro gives to a zillion charities and rescues little old ladies from burning buildings. If so, put him up for a Nobel Peace prize.

But the baseball dimension of him is a fabrication, and trying to determine the beginning and end of the fabrication is an impossible undertaking, as Robinson points out.

And, really, to honor Palmeiro’s dishonorable numbers diminishes the membership of the 500 home run club and undermines the game’s numbers.

And baseball is more about its numbers than any other sport.

Robinson, who is from another time, recognizes the urge of today’s leaders of institutions to be uncertain before an arduous challenge.

They study the nuances. They try to find a common ground. They then stick their finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

Old-fashioned as he is, Robinson actually thinks cheating is cheating, and that Palmeiro and his ilk have done a significant disservice to the game, far more than a pitcher with a dab of Vaseline underneath the visor of his cap.

And he is right.

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