- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Rafael Palmeiro was the star of the Congressional hearings in March, period.

Palmeiro pointed his finger in front of the gas bags on Capitol Hill and said, “I have never used steroids, period. I do not know how to say it more clearly than that. Never.”

America was inclined to embrace the powerful performance of Palmeiro, especially given the whimpering sight of Mark McGwire, who came to Washington to talk about the future instead of the past, although the whole point of the exercise was to discuss the use of steroids during baseball’s home-run era.

Here was this previously Paul Bunyanesque figure sniffling in the microphone, looking to discuss the future of all the little Johnnies across the globe while trying to cover the syringe sticking out of his backside.

And there was Palmeiro in all his defiance, speaking with authority, letting it be known he was one of the squeaky-clean good guys.

Palmeiro was so convincing he might as well have said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.”

Palmeiro has been obligated to re-work his material following a positive steroid test.

“I’ve never intentionally used steroids,” he said. “Never. Ever. Period.”

Palmeiro never has intentionally sought a speeding ticket either.

Never. Ever. Period.

Maybe we should expect no better from a Viagra pitchman.

Palmeiro was a 37-year-old employee of the Rangers at the time of the ad, which seemed an awfully young age to be dancing with Viagra.

It raised all sorts of questions, most of them embarrassing. But Palmeiro handled all the snickers with a straight face, just as he handled his appearance on Capitol Hill with the proper amount of righteous indignation and conviction.

Palmeiro knows how to play an audience far better than anyone imagined, mostly because his numbers were fashioned with a less-filling quality to them, which allowed him to fly below the radar of the national press most of his career.

He always has been a character actor on the baseball stage, never the leading man, despite being the only major league player in history to have 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, a positive steroid test and a lifetime supply of Viagra.

No one bothered to point out that he hit at least 38 home runs a season for nine consecutive seasons after beginning his career as a singles hitter.

He hit eight home runs in 580 at-bats in 1988. He hit 43 home runs in 619 at-bats in 1998, the season of the McGwire-Sammy Sosa duel.

With baseballs flying out of ballparks in record numbers, it was easy to overlook Palmeiro’s power surge.

He also lacked the requisite massive forearms, chest and cranium, as opposed to many of the synthetically made Popeye types.

Jose Canseco undoubtedly is feeling a sense of vindication this week.

It was fashionable to condemn Canseco as a snitch looking to make a quick buck and reclaim some of his lost fame following the release of his biography last winter that detailed how he would play doctor with Palmeiro in Arlington, Texas.

Canseco still may be greasy to a fault, but it is becoming harder to question his credibility.

Funny. We have heard no more on Palmeiro’s initial threat to file a lawsuit against Canseco.

We apparently were not supposed to notice that Palmeiro’s ascent from banjo hitter to slugger coincided with Canseco’s trade to the Rangers late in the 1992 season.

We feel better knowing Palmeiro never intentionally allowed Canseco to inject steroids in his buttocks.

Perhaps he was bound and gagged as Canseco went about his Frankensteinian business.

Whatever the case, our naivety has been exposed anew.

Oh, how we wanted to believe in Palmeiro in March, in someone, just this one time.

Silly us.

Never. Ever. Period.

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