Palmeiro Makes Quiet Return to Baseball
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
After serving a 10-day suspension for violating baseball's steroids policy, Rafael Palmeiro rejoined the Baltimore Orioles yesterday. The first baseman did not play in last night's game, and he didn't talk about his positive drug test, either. Well, since it's Friday, we turn to sportswriter Stefan Fatsis of The Wall Street Journal to talk about these matters.
First, Stefan, we know that Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, but baseball didn't announce what he tested positive for.
Mr. STEFAN FATSIS (The Wall Street Journal): Right, because under the guidelines that have been negotiated with the players union, baseball doesn't announce that. Initially, Palmeiro said that he didn't intentionally take steroids. Then someone did leak the name of a drug for which he tested positive, stanozalol, which drug experts say is not the sort of thing that you get from a tainted batch of protein powder. Then you throw in the fact that Palmeiro wagged his finger at Congress during a hearing in the spring and said that he never took steroids, and you've got, on the one hand, this ultimate PR disaster for baseball, the confirmation of every bad thought that we've been having about the game's best players from the 1990s. On the other hand, you've got proof that baseball's new testing policy is working.
NORRIS: And it happens just after Rafael Palmeiro hit his 3,000 mark last month. And this, once again, I guess, raises interest in Congress in this matter.
Mr. FATSIS: Absolutely. The House Government Reform Committee is looking into whether Palmeiro perjured himself at that earlier hearing. The committee today said that it had received from major-league baseball all documents related to Palmeiro's positive test, but it wouldn't comment further until it had conducted a review.
NORRIS: Well, one thing that this case seems to show once again is that baseball seems to be at odds internally about how to handle drug violations.
Mr. FATSIS: Yeah. There is still wide disagreement between management and the players union. The union clearly has lost a lot of power here on this subject for obvious reasons. You got a big-name guy testing positive. But the union is still there to protect players. They're mulling filing a grievance over the leak of the name of the drug that Palmeiro tested positively for.
And this points out the difference between pro sports and amateur sports. In the Olympics, you get the names of the exact drug that athletes test positive for, and you get details about the test itself. Baseball and football don't do that. There is protection for players' rights, because these are negotiated as part of a labor negotiation process. But the Palmeiro case and Congress' continued involvement could give baseball management more leverage to push for tougher penalties which Commissioner Bud Selig says he wants, and maybe more disclosure.
NORRIS: Well, let's go to the game, if we can, onto the field. Is it too early to talk about the pennant races?
Mr. FATSIS: Nope. You've got good races in four out of six divisions. The closest one right now is out West between the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics in the American League. Oakland has a 22-and-5 record since the All-Star break. And yesterday it took over first place alone for the first time all season, and it did it by beating the Angels in a way that I have never seen before in a baseball game.
NORRIS: Well, we actually have some tape from the radio broadcast, but before we play it, let's set up the situation.
Mr. FATSIS: OK. It was the bottom of the ninth. Score's tied 4-4. There are two outs. Oakland's Jason Kendall is on third base. Francisco Rodriguez is pitching for Los Angeles. After the first pitch, the Angels catcher, Jose Molina, throws the ball back to Rodriguez.
(Soundbite of baseball game)
Mr. BILL KING (Athletics Announcer): Defensive indifference. Now the ball gets away behind the mound on a throwback! Coming home to score is Jason Kendall! And on a freak play, the Athletics have won the game and the series! You would not believe it! That is one for the books! Holy Toledo!
NORRIS: That was Athletics announcer Bill King. He made the call on KFRC.
Mr. FATSIS: Yeah. Holy something if you're the Angels. I saw the highlight. Rodriguez just missed the ball. He looked like he was beefed about the call of the first pitch, which was a ball. He stuck his glove out. He turned his head away. And before he knew it, the ball was behind him. This was like Little League stuff.
NORRIS: Well, Stefan, it's always good to talk to you. Thanks for coming in.
Mr. FATSIS: Thanks, Michele.
NORRIS: Stefan Fatsis writes about sports and the business of sports for The Wall Street Journal.
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