- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2005

BALTIMORE. — The mood was somber in the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse at Camden Yards. Baseball’s pariah — Rafael Palmeiro — stood in front of his locker and opened a box of new bats, although he wouldn’t be using them last night.

Palmeiro was not in the lineup, which was just as well. How would it look to put Senor Steroid back on the field after kids received school supplies when they entered the ballpark as a back-to-school promotion?

Pencils. Notebooks. Specimen cups?

No, they didn’t need that kind of attention last night, and everyone tried to play down Palmeiro’s return. He made his way around the clubhouse, approaching teammates and talking to them quietly.

And then Sammy Sosa arrived, and the party began.

Everyone seemed to be careful about Palmeiro’s return after serving his 10-day suspension for testing positive for steroids.

When he spoke on a conference call last week, Palmeiro said he was eager to tell his side of the story but couldn’t because of confidentiality issues. Since it was his confidentiality he was talking about, that seemed like a bogus defense — and it looked bad.

Then Palmeiro hid behind the facade that he couldn’t talk because Congress was looking into his case and investigating whether he perjured himself when he defiantly said he never used steroids at a Capitol Hill hearing in March.

On Wednesday, Palmeiro’s agent, AR Teller, issued a statement saying Palmeiro would have nothing to say to reporters upon his return to the team because of the congressional probe, although he is not bound by any order not to talk. And that looked bad as well.

Yesterday the order of the day was clearly not to look bad, and most everyone got it. Palmeiro agreed to meet with reporters and stood in the Orioles dugout and talked to more than 50 media members.

He talked, but he didn’t say anything.

“I have been instructed by my attorneys not to comment on steroids,” he said. When asked when he would have something to say, Palmeiro replied, “I’m not sure. Congress is going through all the stuff right now.”

But you will be happy to know that Palmeiro “is taking it one day at a time.”

And you also might be happy to know that inside the clubhouse, the Orioles are sticking by their teammate, according to interim manager Sam Perlozzo.

“When we are inside the clubhouse, we are together as a team,” Perlozzo said.

Togetherness can be expressed in different ways. Some teammates walked up to Palmeiro and shook his hand. Others gave him a hug.

Sosa looked around at the media in the clubhouse and strutted around with a smirk as if to say, “Boy, I am glad this isn’t about Sammy.”

He shouldn’t be so smug. There, but for the grace of Dominican citizenship, goes Sammy Sosa.

The three players accused of using steroids in Jose Canseco’s book “Juiced” who testified before Congress took different routes. Palmeiro was the defiant one, waving his finger at the committee and declaring he had never taken steroids — ever.

Mark McGwire was the pathetic one, his voice quavering as he tried not to face the question of his own purported use.

And then there was Sosa, the lawyerly one, who read a statement from his mouthpiece that he has “never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs” and never “broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic.” For those not versed in the laws of the Dominican Republic, steroids are not legal there.

You might think Sosa would be a little contrite or humbled by seeing the experience that his teammate Palmeiro is going through, becoming a national joke and an embarrassment to the game. But then again, you would think after Palmeiro’s show before Congress in March, the last thing he would ever do is go near steroids.

There is a level of arrogance in premier athletes you don’t find in most people, and it manifests itself sometimes in strange ways. Yesterday Sosa, after barely acknowledging Palmeiro as he arrived, let his arrogance show through by treating what was a horror show for his team as a joke.

He continued to smirk as he sat on the couch in the clubhouse, laughing and yelling “No media, have to get out in 10 minutes,” and then yelling, “Just kidding.”

That Sammy Sosa. What a cutup.

“Five minutes, then outside!” Sammy yelled, smiling.

Later, as the media gathered in the dugout, Sammy walked by saying something that didn’t sound very nice in Spanish, and then joked to the group, “You guys ready,” as if he was about to talk to reporters.

Not Sammy, baby. He didn’t get caught, although he tests positive every time he brings his shrunken body and his pathetic (presumably uncorked) bat up to the plate, with his .232 average and 14 home runs.

There was an army of reporters at Camden Yards last night, and they wanted to talk to someone other than Sammy Sosa about steroids. He was a happy man.

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