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Will Rafael Palmeiro fall off the Hall of Fame ballot?

As you dive into turkey, stuffing and football on Thanksgiving, I thought we’d look at a baseball issue that may be close to Orioles fans' hearts, but may not get much buzz nationally.

The rules for the Baseball Writers' Association of America’s Hall of Fame ballot specify that a voter can select no more than 10 players per year.

That’s going to be particularly difficult for 2014, because the controversy surrounding several former players who used — or are suspected of using — performance-enhancing drugs has created a logjam on the ballot.

A viable argument can be made for more than 20 candidates this year, meaning a bunch of quality players won’t make it on a lot of ballots.

And although much of the talk leading up to the Jan. 8 announcement will again surround Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, as well as newcomers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, this could be the make-or-break year for former Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.

Palmeiro is one of only four players in baseball history with more than 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. He’s the only one of that select group not in the Hall of Fame.

The reason is pretty obvious. His failed drug test in 2005 made him a poster boy for cheaters, though he’ll always contend that a tainted vial of liquid vitamin B-12 was responsible for the steroid stanozolol ending up in his system.

Hall of Fame voters didn’t buy that excuse, or they didn’t care. In his first year of eligibility, Palmeiro received 64 votes and was named on 11 percent of all submitted ballots. In 2012, he got a slight bump, to 72 votes and 12.6 percent — still far shy of the 75 percent needed for induction.

But last year, he took a real hit when suspected cheats such as Bonds and Clemens were added to the ballot. Palmeiro received only 50 votes, for a dangerously low 8.8 percent.

Candidates need to be named on at least 5 percent of ballots to return for the following year. Palmeiro’s 8.8 percent was lowest among the 17 returnees to this year’s ballot.

And given the influx of strong new candidates, Palmeiro is likely the highest-profile candidate in the most jeopardy of being dropped. If he falls under 5 percent, his only chance in the future is to be selected by the veterans’ committee.

It seems incredible that Palmeiro, one of baseball’s most consistent hitters for two decades, may last just four years on the Hall of Fame ballot before getting unceremoniously kicked off. But that looks like a potential reality. We’ll know in January.

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