Disgraced former MLB star Rafael Palmeiro says he is serious about attempting a comeback to professional baseball at the age of 53.
File this one away to “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but former MLB star Rafael Palmeiro insists he is working on a comeback to professional baseball at the young age of 53. The desire to play again seems to stem from some sort of quest for redemption and closure on a career that ended in disgrace in August of 2005 after he was the first high-profile player popped with a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.
Palmeiro is one of only four players in MLB history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, and he stated in no uncertain terms to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that he believes he is still in good enough shape to have an impact as a hitter.
“There’s no doubt in my mind I can do it,” says Palmeiro, who ended his career as one of four players to reach both 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. “I’ve taken care of myself really well. I’ve been working out for years. Everything feels better than when I played.”
Julio Franco became the oldest regular player in the league when he played 55 games for the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets in 2007 at the age of 49, hitting .222/.321/.289 with a home run and 16 RBI. Unlike Palmeiro, however, Franco had been consistently playing 100 games a year for the previous five seasons.
The 53-year-old professes to be in phenomenal shape and has been working out every single day with his sons, Preston and Patrick, who both play professionally. Palmeiro actually played in one game with Patrick in the Atlantic League in 2015 and went 2-for-4 with an RBI. He also pulled up lame at first base with a balky hamstring after driving a ball into the gap for what should have been a double.
Driving Palmeiro’s quest to return to the big leagues is a desire to receive closure on a 20-year career that ended in disgrace. Today, a handful of well-known players test positive and serve their suspensions every year and return seamlessly to the clubhouse. Back in 2005, however, things were different, and Palmeiro just simply faded away.
His reputation is another matter; Palmeiro longs to shift the public perception of what he accomplished in his 20-year career. “Maybe 12 years later, I can prove to the whole world that I didn’t need anything to have a good career,” he says. “Maybe 12 years later, if I can come back and prove I don’t need anything as an older player with an older body, then people might think, OK, maybe he didn’t do anything intentionally.”
The one thing to keep in mind when it comes to Palmeiro and a serious comeback is that he was always one of the purest hitters in the game, even when his power stroke mysteriously developed in the height of the PED era. He only struck out more than 100 times once and walked more often than he struck out for his entire career.
This is more than a longshot, and Palmeiro would likely have to play a full season in the independent leagues before a MLB general manager is willing to take him on even as a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Stranger things have happened, I suppose, but don’t write this off completely.