Another first year candidate this year, and probably the most controversial of the group, is first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.
569 career HR
1835 career RBI
10 seasons with 30+ HR
3020 career hits
4 All Star Appearances
3 Gold Gloves
11 seasons with OPS+ of 130 or higher
6 seasons with AVG of .300 or higher
10 seasons with RBI of 100 or higher
Career WAR of 66.0
The Case for Palmeiro
Palmeiro was one of the prolific power hitters of his generation, and overall one of the best all-around hitters as well. He finished with 569 career home runs and over 3000 career hits.
The Case Against Palmeiro
Palmeiro was another power hitter from the steroid era, and tested positive for steroids shortly before the end of his career. He was essentially a designated hitter for a majority of his career, despite winning Gold Gloves in seasons where he was primarily a DH.
Palmeiro is most definitely a lightning rod for controvery at this point. Honestly, he has all of the numbers you would be looking for out of a career that would be Hall of Fame bound. Every player who is eligible to be in the Hall of Fame (that excludes Pete Rose) who has 3000 or more hits is in the Hall. Every player who is eligible to be in the Hall of Fame except Mark McGwire who has 500 or more home runs is in the Hall. But he remains an unusual case study because of how his career ended.
Palmeiro was suspended on August 1st, 2005 for a violation of the MLB drug testing policy. This occurred shortly after he recorded his 3000th career hit, and after returning from the suspension only played in 7 more games. Palmeiro vehemently denied that he had ever taken steroids from this point forawrd, as well as previously in front of Congress. It is hard to judge entirely whether or not this is true, but the failed drug test is extremely damning.
So where does that leave me? By many of the numerical thresholds for both seasonal and career numbers, Palmeiro meets the criteria of what a Hall of Famer is. Palmeiro also has the positive test sitting on his record, which clearly brings some of the numbers into question. That said, I don’t believe it to be a thing which should just force us to ignore the volume of his career. He clearly was one of the best hitters of his era, regardless of his positive steroid test. Would his numbers have been different had he not tested positive? Possibly, probably even likely. Has anyone found an effective way to measure what this difference would have been? Not really. As a result, I try to look at his numbers (and all players from the steroid era) against each other more than aganist the other players in history. And to me, he ranks as one of the top hitters of his era, and gets my vote for the Hall of Fame.
MY VOTE: YES