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The Hall of Fame has announced its ballot for the 2011 class, and the most interesting addition for Orioles fans is Rafael Palmeiro.

By now, we all know the deal with Raffy. He has Hall of Fame credentials. He is one of just four players in the history of the game with at least 3,000 hits and 500 homers. The other three, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray, are already in the Hall.

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But Palmeiro's failure of a 2005 drug test likely sinks his chances for first-ballot induction -- if he gets in at all.

Palmeiro has continually denied using steroids, speculating that the only way the banned substance, stanozolol, could have entered his system was from a vial of Vitamin B-12, which he received from former Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada. That argument has never held much standing in the court of public opinion, and Palmeiro's status as the first star suspended under baseball's strengthened drug-testing program damaged his legacy.

The best Hall of Fame test case for Palmeiro is Mark McGwire, who never failed a drug test but eventually admitted to using steroids during his playing career. Last year, McGwire, in his fourth year on the ballot, received 128 votes or just 23.7 percent of the vote. It was the highest percentage he has received in his four years; he has 11 more years on the writers' ballot, including this one.

Players need to be named on 75 percent of all returned ballots for enshrinement.

The former Oriole with the best chance of getting in is second baseman Roberto Alomar, who was named on 397 ballots -- or 73.7 percent -- last year, his first year eligible. It was the highest percentage received for a first-time candidate without being inducted in the Hall's history.

Alomar, who played with the Orioles for three of his 17 seasons (1996-1998), and pitcher Bert Blyleven (74.2 percent) became the first duo to fall within 10 votes of induction in one ballot in 2010.

Other former Orioles on the 2011 ballot include newcomers B.J. Surhoff, Charles Johnson and Kevin Brown and holdovers Lee Smith (47.3 percent in 2010), Tim Raines (30.4 percent) and Harold Baines (6.1 percent).

Palmeiro played seven of his 20 big league seasons with the Orioles (and nine with the Texas Rangers). Overall, he had a career .288 average, .371 on-base percentage and .515 slugging percentage.

He hit 585 doubles (16th all time) and 569 homers (12th all time) and drove in 1,835 runs (15th all time). He was a four-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and was top 20 in the AL MVP voting 10 times; his highest finish was fifth in 1999 with Texas.

Results will be announced Jan. 5.

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