The Curious Case of Clark and Palmeiro

Clark and Palmeiro Graded Cards

Clark and Palmeiro Graded Cards

Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro will always be linked since they both were team mates of and both came to the Majors through Mississippi State University. They were nicknamed “Thunder & Lightening” at the time. Both born in 1964 (Clark March 13th, Palmeiro September 24th, they were both drafted in 1985. Clark went in the 1st round, 2nd pick by the Giants, and Palmeiro followed 20 picks later by the Cubs. Both took the first basemen’s job when they settled in the Majors. Clark stayed with the Giants most of his career (with a few years in Baltimore) while Palmeiro left Chicago to play most of his career as a Ranger (with some of his best years also in Baltimore).

Clark & Palmeiro Mississippi State Baseball

Clark & Palmeiro Mississippi State Baseball

When Palmeiro left Texas to join the Orioles in 1994, Clark took over the position (leaving San Francisco). When Clark left Texas after the 1998 season, Palmeiro returned to the Rangers to replace him. And where did Clark go? You guessed it, he went to Baltimore to replace Palmeiro.

In so many ways the two were interlinked and carbon-copied. Both hit for average, both hit for extra bases, both were left-handed, both were great defensively at first base (gold gloves for both). And both it ended up, but for different reasons, were dropped quickly from Hall of Fame voting. Clark received only 4.4% of the votes in his first year of eligibility (2006) so was dropped from the ballot (you need at least 5% to stay on the list.. Palmeiro survived his first year (11% in 2011) but failed the following year with, you guessed it, 4.4% of the vote.

Clark & Palmeiro at Mississippi State

Clark & Palmeiro at Mississippi State

1989 Fleer #631 Clark & Palmeiro

1989 Fleer #631 Clark & Palmeiro

In college, Clark was the star, Palmeiro the shadow. In the Majors it seemed the same would occur. Clark got the headlines, the All Star votes, and MVP considerations, while Palmeiro got little press in Chicago. Palmeiro, in 1994, was not resigned by Texas because the Rangers signed Clark. And that was where everything changed. Palmeiro went on to find a power stroke (most likely with the help of steroids) hitting 569 HRs for his career (compared to Clark’s 284), had nine straight years with over 100 RBIs (10 total), Clark had one (4 total), and became a force in the A.L. while Clark, from injuries and wear-and-tear (and because he didn’t juice) slowly declined in production until he retired at 36 after the 2000 season. Palmeiro continued playing until 2005 at the age of 40 before retiring, becoming one of only five players in the history of baseball to achieve 500 HRs and 3000 Hits (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray and Alex Rodriguez).

Will Clark, later on, through the Veteran’s Committee, might get a 2nd look, but that i think is remote althugh he did have some great years:

1988 .287 29 HR 109 RBI
1989 .333 23 HR 111 RBI
1991 .301 29 HR 116 RBI
1998 .305 23 HR 102 RBI

But his career totals, low HRs without reaching 3000 hits show he is just under the threshold to be inducted, perhaps:

15 Yrs, 2176 Hits, 284 HRs, .303 AVG

As for Palmeiro, his lie to congress about steroid use will keep him out just like it has with Bonds, McGwire and others. Palmeiro was always a doubles hitter with some power, just like Clark, then out of nowhere, past his prime years, he begins to hit HRs in the 40s, not the 20s which would be his norm, not the 30s which would happen occasionally when he did reach his prime in his late 20s, but totals like 39, 39, 38, 43, 47, 39, 47, 43 and 38 (ages 30 to 38). There is an outside chance he just developed into a better hitter over time, but going from the high tens and low twenties when he was younger, to the 40s when he was reaching the end of his career seems implausible. If you look at Bonds you see the same trajectory.

Palmeiro Testifying

Palmeiro Testifying

Many collectors in the late 80s early 90s were all over Clark (and then later in the 90s Palmeiro) collecting all their rookie cards and first cards but like Mattingly before them, they both wound up disappointing these collectors. Myself, not collecting for investment purposes, wasn’t upset with them at all, I just had fun watching them on TV. Although I would’ve put money down back in the early 90s that Clark would eventually reach the Hall. Although it’s remote, I still might end up right.

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