Harry called him ìPalermo.î Often. His friends call him ìRaffy.î Maitre Dís and concierges call him ìMr. Palmeiro.î I call him the most underrated ballplayer ever to suit up. Finally, he is getting the respect he deserves. Too bad it took Rafael Corrales Palmeiro becoming just the fourth man to ever hit 500 home runs and collect 3,000 hits, which he did last night in Seattle. Ever since he was drafted by the Cubs in 1985, Raffy has gone out and done his job and done it with class and unmistakable proficiency.
After hitting over .300 in 1988, GM Jim Frey mortgaged the future in an effort to win in the short term. Palmeiro was traded along with Jamie Moyer (6th round/1984) and Drew Hall (1st round/1984) to the Texas Rangers for Mitch Williams, Paul Kilgus, Steve Wilson, Curtis Wilkerson and 2 guys who never made it to the bigs.
Hits & HR
3,771 755 Hank Aaron
3,283 660 Willie Mays
3,255 504 Eddie Murray
3,001 566 Rafael Palmeiro
Escaping Castroís totalitarian regime when Raffy was six, the family made their way to the freedom and opportunities afforded by the United States of America. According to reports, his father wouldnít let him watch television unless he would strengthen his hands by squeezing tennis balls and the like.
Palmeiro seems a cinch for Cooperstown. After 19 years of consistently producing, 19 years of contributing, 19 years of being a team player instead of a whiny pouting egomaniac, it is appalling that there are STILL those out there (and Iím sure Iíll hear from a couple of them) who contend that Rafael Palmeiro is NOT Hall of Fame material. Skip Bayless, I guess, is one of them.
“He is a Hall of Famer,” insists the Braves’ Julio Franco, an old teammate of Palmeiro’s with the Rangers. “If he’s not, I don’t know who is.”
Let me beat the detractorís to the punch. Palmeiro’s critics argue that he’s never been an MVP, never led the league in hits or home runs, never even been the best player on his team. He’s been to only four All-Star games, won just three Gold Gloves and, many believe, he’s never even been the best player at his position during his career. He’s played in only three postseasons, too, and he’s never made it to the World Series.
It’s true that Palmeiro’s long career has lacked the flash of many in the Hall. Instead, it has been a silent study in consistency at the highest level. Since becoming a regular with the Cubs in 1988, Palmeiro has played in an average of 154 games a season. He’s averaged 31 homers the past 17 seasons. He’s driven in 100 runs 10 times. The numbers go on. The numbers don’t stop.
To deny Rafael Palmeiro his honored place in history with a plaque hanging on the wall in the beautiful New York countryside would be a greater injustice than Ron Santoís omission. Worst of all, it is a sign of disrespect to even have to have this argument.
I hope he keeps going. After a slow start, heís having a very good year, and the pressure of the last week hasnít slowed him down. In his last five games heís hitting .470 with 3 homers, 10 rbiís and 5 runs. Heís doing what heís always done. Help his team. With a little luck the Orioles just might make the playoffs and the World Series. And 600 homers is within sight, like next year. (34 shy). That will really put him in exclusive company.
“If anyone told you that they were going to hit 500 home runs and have 3,000 hits back when they were 19 or 20, they were just dreaming. You don’t think about those things. You just want to establish yourself and try to make a career,” Palmeiro recently told Mike Finney of
The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal.
And what a career it has been. Congratulations, Raffy. Enjoy the applause. You deserve it.