Jonathan Raskin
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August 16 - A Song for Raffy

The normal sounds of a ballgame at Camden Yards rose into a
cacophonous explosion of cheers and jeers. Rafael Palmeiro, fresh off a ten
game suspension and two extra days of paid vacation stepped into the box,
and the confusion ensued. Seemingly trapped in a live Jerry Springer
episode, Palmeiro was forced to endure the very public opinions of a crowd
that smelled blood. While well wishers were audible amidst the tangle of
vocalized emotion, many fans chose to flip the Birds in lieu of cheering them.
Honestly, it’s the cheering I can’t fathom. But let’s play fair, it wasn’t just
Palmeiro that was being booed, it was the game itself.  

Much has been made of Raffy’s ardent denial of his steroid use, not the
least of which is an investigation into whether or not Palmeiro committed perjury in his testimony in
front of the United States Senate. This is obviously an extremely serious charge, and one that shakes
the foundation of Rafael Palmeiro the man, not just the baseball player. In fact, the booing Palmeiro
encountered was misdirected. If anything, I say lay your ire at the feet of every ballplayer that took
performance enhancers. While Palmeiro chose a public forum for his false testimony, there are
countless others that have chosen to lie silently.  

Mark McGwire’s silence at the hearings spoke volumes to fans of the game. While his testimony
provided us with little insight into the mind of a fallen slugger, his words from a 1999 Simpson’s
episode read as prophetic. “Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a
few dingers?” The crowd that has gathered mechanically chants “Dingers, Dingers” as a response,
and all is forgotten. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Now that his offense has momentarily returned, when
was the last time you heard Jason Giambi’s checked past scrutinized? At least we’ve located the
sanctity the game of baseball had lost; it was merely buried under obscene statistics and tape
measure, oh hell, dingers. And the saddest thing of all is Jose Canseco now appears to be the most
honest man in the game.  

Despite the obvious shortcomings of some of the boys of summer, the
fans must accept some of the blame as well. We deify players that
dominate the game, and then watch with a mixture of vested interest and
undeniable horror as they reveal themselves to be simply men. This is
our comeuppance.  

So vilify Palmeiro, go ahead, but remember the role each and every one
of us has played in the downfall of this great sport. But all is not lost, do
not hang your heads, we can rebuild her, make her stronger, equip her
with the morals of years gone by. I understand that the love of the game
has transformed into an obsession with statistics, but that doesn’t mean
those statistics need to be sullied. While it’s certainly naïve to expect another baseball renaissance in
this era of huge contracts and endless endorsements, that doesn’t mean it can’t be played on an
even field.

So let’s all take a lesson from Palmeiro’s recent experiences. 3,000 hits and 500 homeruns don’t
make a hero, and a few poor decisions don’t define a man. I, for one, am all for looking forward,
because all that’s behind us, and Raffy, is an unsightly past.