- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rafael Palmeiro vowed to tell his side of the story after he was suspended for steroid use in August.

He said he did not knowingly inject steroids into his body. No, no, no. Never. Ever. And oh how he wanted to make that clear to the public and the perjury-minded members of Congress.

But now we know better. We know Palmeiro believes he tested positive because of a dose of B-12 vitamin supplied by teammate Miguel Tejada. At least that was his theory during his grievance hearing. It could have been the B-12. Yep. Or maybe someone stuck something in the post-game food platter and he unknowingly consumed steroid-laced fried chicken.

Oh, please. Stop. These guys are pathetic.

Jason Giambi apologizes for something, not certain what, Mark McGwire says the past is the past, Barry Bonds sticks to his flaxseed-oil defense, and now Palmeiro trots out his B-12 spiel, as if he expects the baseball public to swallow it whole.

Move Palmeiro immediately into the Hall of Fame of lame excuses.

By the way, that particular Hall of Fame is the only one that ever will grant Palmeiro admission.

His 500 home runs and 3,000 hits are tainted beyond repair, too toxic and radioactive. Generations will pass before anyone in baseball will have the stomach to sift through them, and only then in a Hazmat suit.

Baseball no longer wants any part of Palmeiro, although the game is complicit in this scandal.

Baseball turned a blind eye to the home-run explosion of the ‘90s, because it was financially beneficial following the strike and lagging attendance figures. The home run chase of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 rejuvenated the game, although baseball insiders knew the assault was not as genuine as it appeared to outsiders.

That mind-set eventually became counterproductive to baseball, as the BALCO scandal emerged and it became obvious that seeing was not believing. A sport more dependent on its numbers than any other had a slew of bogus numbers, and still does.

Players cheated the game, and the game cheated its fan base, and no amount of calibrating ever can resolve this chemically enhanced period in baseball.

This span is far more damaging to the game than Pete Rose’s stint as the gambling-addicted manager of the Reds. Rose’s sin was obvious but limited to his maneuvering of the Reds. The steroid scandal is all-pervasive, and where it stops, no one can be sure.

Baseball sells its rich past in part to the public, from Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth to Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Yet the accomplishments of these mythical figures have been reduced in scope, as Nationals manager Frank Robinson has lamented this season. He, too, is one of the game’s greats, lovably old school with no sympathy for the cheaters in his midst.

Baseball sold a lie, so no one should be surprised that Palmeiro is trying to maintain the lie, however ridiculous it looks. He might as well claim that the dog ate his homework.

If Palmeiro elects to pursue free agency this winter, his is destined to a long and potentially unrequited wait.

Palmeiro undoubtedly will have an urge to rewrite his exit after free-falling from the cheers of 3,000 hits to the suspension, to wearing earplugs in Toronto, to the O’s saying thanks but no thanks and finally the B-12 bomb.

His was a putrid but well-deserved finish following his finger-pointing performance on Capitol Hill.

And there is no way to undo the statistical harm.

Think of all the clean pitchers who have surrendered home runs to Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa, Bonds and Jose Canseco. Think of the pitcher who was working on a shutout until he gave up a three-run homer to a cheater in the eighth.

And if a skewed playing field works, then why have any rules?

Let pitchers employ Vaseline and let Sosa use his corked bat.

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