Rafael Palmeiro took a swing during spring training in 2005, the year he should've quit baseball for good.
Rafael Palmeiro took a swing during spring training in 2005, the year he should've quit baseball for good.
Ed Brown

Rafael Palmeiro's Cleburne Sideshow Is Still Limping Along

Rafael Palmeiro has proved something this spring and summer. It's not exactly clear what.

The Rangers legend and North Texas resident has played in about two dozen games for the Cleburne Railroaders, an independent minor league team. Palmeiro is 53 and was strongly linked to steroid use at the end of his major league career. He's plugging away, enduring Texas' summer heat in a 1,750-capacity stadium, 50 miles from anywhere.

If not for the Palmiero's statements, it would be pretty clear what the designated hitter was up to. His son Patrick Palmeiro plays for the Railroaders, too, and it would make sense if Palmeiro the elder wanted to join Palmeiro the younger for a special summer, doing what they both love. According to Rafael Palmeiro, however, that isn't what's going on — at least not exclusively.

Palmeiro, with just as much conviction as he appeared to have when he denied using steroids to a congressional committee, said when he joined the Railroaders that he wanted another shot at the big leagues.

"I'm doing it because I love the game, first of all," Palmeiro said, according to The Associated Press . "And because I want to get back to proving to myself that I can do this and maybe for some of those people that think that I cheated, they might think again and say, 'Well, wait a minute, he's 53 years old, he's playing at this level, he's playing in the big leagues, he's producing.' Maybe some of those will say, 'OK, he did it legitimately.'"

So far, Palmeiro's performance on the field has been legitimately middling. In 89 plate appearances, Palmeiro has three home runs and a .786 OPS. If Palmeiro were putting up similar numbers against major leaguepitching, he might, might, be in competition for a big league bench spot. The American Association isn't MLB quality, however, not even close.

Since its inception in 2005, the American Association has seen exactly one position player, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta, get significant playing time with a major league team after leaving the minor league. Peralta, playing for the now-defunct Amarillo Thunderheads, had a .986 OPS while slugging over .600 in 2013.

Unless Palmeiro can raise his stats to at least that level, shave a couple of decades off his age and chase away the steroid-inspired dark cloud that hangs over his legacy, his Cleburne adventure isn't headed anywhere.

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