Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rafael Palmeiro, 1994 Score Select #317

It's hard to believe that it's been exactly 18 years since Rafael Palmeiro signed a 5-year, $30 million contract with the Orioles. I remember it fondly because it was the team's first marquee acquisition since I had become a fan the previous summer. As I recall it, there was a lot of to-do about Raffy's college teammate Will Clark earlier in that offseason, despite the fact that Palmeiro had been healthier and much more productive in the just-concluded 1993 campaign. "Will the Thrill" was the household name, but he displaced Palmeiro by signing a similar five-year deal around Thanksgiving. I was still in the midst of a crash course in baseball fandom, but I knew enough to be excited by big numbers like a .295 average, 37 home runs, and 105 RBI. For the first time since trading away Eddie Murray five years earlier, the O's had the big bat (and a nifty glove besides) that they craved at first base. They could officially turn the page from Glenn Davis' disastrous chapter in club history.

Raffy more than lived up to his contract, with a pair of Gold Gloves, an All-Star appearance, and a batting line of .292/.371/.545, 182 home runs, and 553 RBI. He was a member of the 1996 squad that won the American League wild card and upset the Indians in the Division Series before mumble mumble something Yankees mumble ALCS. He was also a steady force on the 1997 wire-to-wire A.L. East championship team that dispatched the Johnson-Griffey-Rodriguez-Martinez Mariners in the ALDS before grumble grumble Indians cough ahem ALCS.

Of course, the rest of the story isn't so textbook. Davey Johnson leaves, the free agent-heavy O's tumble in 1998, Palmeiro returns to a chastened Rangers club in free agency and continues knocking the cover off the ball for the next five years, then returns to Baltimore to finish his career and collect his 3,000th career hit but winds up retiring in disgrace after a positive test for the steroid stanozolol. Despite his continued insistence upon a bizarre alibi involving a tainted B-12 shot borrowed from Miguel Tejada, I've concluded that life is too short for harboring animosity. I think Rafael Palmeiro belongs in the Hall of Fame, I'm grateful for all of the positive contributions he made to the Orioles during his career, and I think he's suffered for the mistakes that he made.

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