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May 19, 2003

Palmeiro belongs in the Hall
By Rob Dibble

Is Rafael Palmeiro a future Hall of Famer? You bet:

  • 500 home runs (since '93 only Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa have more)
  • 1,600 RBI (only Barry Bonds has more)
  • .293 career-batting average (plus power, can't beat that)
  • 1,479 runs scored (will surely top 1,500)
  • 2,666 hits (simply devilish)
  • Three consecutive Gold Gloves (first time since Don Mattingly '91-'94)
  • Played in 98 percent of games over last 12 years (Cal Ripken-esque)
  • Eight straight years of 35+ HRs and 100+ RBI (one better than Babe Ruth)

    And he's not done yet.

    I can remember facing Palmeiro in the minors. Even back then, I knew he was going to be great. I remember cringing at the thought that making a living depended on facing hitters like him.

    Some so-called "experts" believe that Palmeiro's numbers are inflated because he's played in home run-friendly parks, he's never led the league in any one particular category and because pitchers he's faced are sub-par to those in past decades.

    That's a joke... spoken like true journalists who've never played the game. To say that Palmeiro isn't one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen rips into my ERA, and I'm certainly not going to let that happen. This is personal.

    Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux are as dominant as any pitchers throughout history. Get over it -- the game is just as tough today as it was back in the "Stone Age."

    Certainly the game has evolved -- private jets have replaced trains and buses, and over-sized flat screens have replaced transistor radios and black-and-white sets with "rabbit ears," but that doesn't mean that the game itself has gone soft. Both hitters and pitchers enjoy the luxuries of personal trainers and technological advancements.

    And the argument can go both ways. Back in the day there were no specialized "Nasty Boys" coming out of the bullpen from the seventh inning on. By their fourth at-bat, hitters had the luxury of facing tired starters. Today's players face guys who are fresh on the mound and looking for blood.

    During my career, I threw 100 mph fastballs and 90 mph sliders to some of the best hitters to ever play the game -- Bonds, Sosa, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson, and Mark McGwire to name a few. But I can assure you that Palmeiro was always the hitter pitching staffs worried about most.

    Palmeiro's consistency was startling. And if you ask any manager, scout, or player, they'll tell you that consistent hitters should be feared the most. To say that Palmeiro hasn't dominated throughout his career is the equivalent of saying playing like him is easy.

    Palmeiro is one of many awesome players who quietly put up numbers and generate power over years of tireless service. Combined with solid defensive skills, he's one of the best to ever play the game. You've got to respect his skills -- they're Hall of Fame-worthy.

    Former Cincinnati Reds reliever Rob Dibble is an ESPN baseball analyst and a co-host of "The Dan Patrick Show" on ESPN Radio. Dibble, who was co-MVP of the the 1990 NLCS, contributes regularly to

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     True Great
    The Baseball Tonight crew talk about Rafael Palmeiro's historic milestone.
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     Pardon The Interruption
    The PTI crew debate Rafael Palmeiro's Hall of Fame credentials.
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