Chris Webber, then still an NBA player, took batting practice in an indoor cage with the Baltimore Orioles in the mid-1990s. Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson was asked how Webber looked at the plate. Anderson asked, "Who are you comparing him to, someone who hasn't played, or Raffy?''
Raffy is Rafael Palmeiro. And, at least to Brady Anderson, a very good hitter who now teaches hitting, when comparing the competence of a hitter, one of the ceilings was Rafael Palmeiro. So, if it's possible, forget for a moment the rest of Palmeiro's story, the steroid controversy, the wagging of the finger at Congress, the pariah, all of it. Look at the numbers, put them in a historical context and it is clear: Rafael Palmeiro is a Hall of Famer.
Palmeiro hit 569 home runs, 12th most of all time. Everyone with 500 homers and who is eligible for the Hall of Fame, is in Cooperstown, except Mark McGwire. Palmeiro had 3,020 hits, 23rd all time. Everyone with 3,000 hits, and who is eligible for the Hall of Fame, is in. Palmeiro is one of only four players in history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, joining Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Eddie Murray. Palmeiro is 15th all-time with 1,835 RBIs, more than Frank Robinson. He scored more runs than Joe Morgan. He had more doubles than Rogers Hornsby. Only eight players in history have 3,000 hits and 1,800 RBIs: Mays, Aaron, Murray, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, Dave Winfield and Palmeiro.
Palmeiro is the only player ever to hit at least 38 homers and drive in at least 100 runs nine years in a row. Using advanced metrics, specifically Bill James' win shares, Palmeiro rates at a level that usually results in a first-ballot election.