When you look at the stats, it seems like Rafael Palmeiro should be a certain entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If you take all of the controversy about steroid usage out of the equation entirely, just looking at the numbers, and you see a man who set records and who, in any other era but the steroid era, would have been a certain bet for the Hall.
What you may not remember is that Rafael Palmeiro debuted in a Chicago Cubs uniform in 1986. Yes, he played for the team that many consider the poster-team for losing and frustration. He played for them until 1988 when he ended up with the Texas Rangers. From there he went on to play for the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers (again), and back to the Orioles. While he bounced from one team to the next, he also began to hit the ball out of the park and rack up Hall of Fame numbers.
By the time he decided to quit baseball, he had an overall batting average of .288. He also had 3,020 hits and 569 home runs. He also notched 1,835 RBIs, was a four-time All Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. He also won the Silver Slugger Award twice. He also played in 2,831 major league baseball games, which is still the most games played by anyone who did not end up in the World Series.
However, despite these particular stats that should have given him a definite spot in Cooperstown, controversy dogged him. His former Texas Rangers teammate, Jose Canseco, named Palmeiro as a man who used steroids right along with him. Then, on March 17, 2005, Palmeiro appeared at a Congressional hearing about the use of steroids in baseball and denied that he used steroids while under oath. In August of that same year, things got bad for him when he tested positive for steroid use. Palmeiro stated that he never "intentionally" used any sort of steroid, but he was now tainted.
He has continued to deny that he used steroids, but his career seems to be forever tainted. In the minds of fans, he has now been ranked among those players of the steroid era and, to many who feel that using steroids was cheating, he is now thought of as a cheater. And now, with the most recent balloting to get retired players into the Hall of Fame, he may be paying the ultimate price for his steroid usage.
In the most recent ballots, several of the players form the so-called steroid era were denied entry into the Hall of Fame. All of them, however, have impressive stats and would normally have been locks for the Hall. It seems that those responsible for the voting wanted to send a message to the players of the late 80s and early 90s that steroid use, although not banned at that time by Major League Baseball, is frowned upon. None of them made it.
Given the rules of the Hall of Fame, all of them have chances to make it in again. However, whether or not they will remains to be seen. And whether or not Rafael Palmeiro will make it into the Hall seems more in doubt than ever before.