One of only four players with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs answered his phone on Wednesday and spoke solemnly, but not angrily, about receiving only 11 percent of the vote in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot.
It takes 75 percent to be elected, and less than 5 percent to be removed from the ballot, and Rafael Palmeiro was much closer to 5.
"I am disappointed, obviously I am disappointed, I thought I would get more support," Palmeiro said. "But I am grateful that I get to stay on the ballot for at least another year. Maybe I'll go up, maybe I'll go down. I thought I was worthy of a better showing than what I got, but I had a black mark against me my last year in baseball. That is hard to overcome. I know there were some voters that said, 'He's a Hall of Famer, but he tested positive. I can't vote for him.' That's the reality of it. And it is something I have to live with."
On Aug. 1, 2005, Palmeiro, then 40, was suspended by Major League Baseball for 10 days for testing positive for steroids. That came less than five months after he appeared before Congress, pointed his index finger at the camera on national TV and said, under oath, that he had "never done steroids. Period." It was a response to Jose Canseco's claim that he had injected Palmeiro with steroids.
The positive test essentially ended his career, and just over five years later, Palmeiro continued to insist that he had never done steroids at the time he appeared before Congress, and continued to insist that the positive test was "an accident."
"What got in my body was an accident, I got a B-12 shot that might have been tainted," he said. "I failed a drug test, so I can't say I'm innocent, but I did not do it intentionally. Going into that season, I had 550 home runs and I was 70 hits short of 3,000. To take something then would have been the absolute stupidest thing in the history of mankind when I could have been tested at any point of that season, it would have made no sense at all."
Palmeiro paused. "I know people are going to call BS on me, and that's fine," he said. "I will never be able to change their minds. I got a lot of texts and e-mails [from family and friends] today. There was a lot of anger at the vote total. But I was expecting it. I knew I was not going in today. I might never go in. But I am not going to let this define the career I had. I gave it everything I had in my career. Every player I ever played with, every manager I ever played for knows I gave it everything I had. And I am not going to let something that happened in 2005 overshadow my 19 years of dedication and hard work."
Palmeiro sounded confused about one point. "I was listening to someone today say that [Barry] Bonds, A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez] and [Roger] Clemens would get in the Hall of Fame because they were already Hall of Famers when they started doing steroids," Palmeiro said. "I tested positive in 2005, not 1999. My career was over. Some arguments are contradictory."
Palmeiro was clearly not in an argumentative mood Wednesday.
"This day is about Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven," he said. "I want to congratulate them. They are two of the greatest players in the game. This is their day. They deserve it."
Tim Kurkjian covers Major League Baseball for ESPN The Magazine.