T.R.'s Memoirs: Rafael Palmeiro never got the credit he deserved, and probably never will (Part II)
The Rangers chose Will Clark over Palmeiro after the 1993 season, but brought him back for 1999 as he reached new heights as a player.
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Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers over 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com and is sharing his “memoirs” with this newsletter. In this installment, T.R. goes into Rafael Palmeiro’s career with the Rangers and the events that ruined his Hall of Fame candidacy.
Rafael Palmeiro entered the 1993 season as a potential free agent and flourished. He hit .295/.371/.554 with 124 runs scored, 37 home runs and 105 RBIs, and it was clear he had developed into one of the best players in the game.
It was also clear the Rangers needed him back. They needed his bat in the lineup and they needed him at first base. But they had options on the free-agent market. One was Eddie Murray, who was still a dangerous hitter but also getting ready to turn 38.
The other was Will Clark.
At that point, Clark was no longer considered the better player. In 1993, in his final season with the Giants, Clark hit .283/.367/.432 with just 14 home runs and 73 RBIs. That was nothing compared to Palmeiro.
But there was one big difference, and the person who articulated it best was Orioles manager Johnny Oates. Yes … that Johnny Oates who would later become the Rangers manager.
In the winter of 1993-94, Oates was still the Orioles manager. His team also needed a first baseman, and Will Clark was their choice.
“Clark is a gung-ho leader who is a vocal, intense, impact player,” Oates said on Friday Nov. 19, 1993, while the players and their teams were still playing musical chairs. “He’s just the type of player I am looking for. Rafael Palmeiro is more of a laid-back player who lets his numbers do the talking.”
Gung-ho-leader vs. laid-back player. That comparison irritated Palmeiro to no end.