Brent Rooker, after a lengthy layoff because of a shoulder injury, homered Tuesday night in his first game back with Triple-A El Paso in the San Diego organization. The former Mississippi State star had not played since April 17. Rooker, the 35th overall pick in the 2017 draft by Minnesota, was found wanting by the Twins (.212 in 208 MLB at-bats) and was traded in early April to the Padres in the Chris Paddack deal. In eight games for El Paso, he is batting .222 with three homers and 14 strikeouts in 27 ABs. Rooker won the SEC Triple Crown — and the Ferriss Trophy — in his last season at State but hasn’t hit consistently in pro ball (.262, 77 homers, 407 K’s in 329 games in the minors). The 6-foot-4, 225-pound outfielder/first baseman is on the Padres’ 40-man roster, can hit the long ball and may well get a call-up if a need arises. P.S. On this date in 2003, another ex-Bulldogs slugger and SEC Triple Crown winner, Rafael Palmeiro, hit his 500th career homer, becoming the 19th big leaguer to reach that milestone. Palmeiro finished with 569 bombs, far and away the most by a Mississippi college alum or state native.
Brent Rooker, the latest in a string of sluggers Mississippi State has propelled to the big leagues, hit his first home run on Tuesday in Minnesota’s loss to St. Louis in Game 2 of a twinbill. He’ll likely hit a few more. Rooker has been rated one of the top power-hitting prospects in the Twins’ system since he was drafted out of Starkville in 2017. He has 54 minor league bombs in 259 games, and he blasted a tape-measure shot in Tokyo in a Team USA game last fall. Rooker hit 23 homers at State in his All-America junior season and 36 over his three-year career. So, yes, he’s got pop. The all-time leader in homers by a State alum is, of course, Rafael Palmeiro, who ranks 13th on MLB’s career chart with 569. Coincidentally, Palmeiro hit his first career homer on this date in 1986. He played 20 years. Second on the all-Bulldogs list is Will Clark with 284, followed by the active leader, Mitch Moreland, who has 174, including eight in 2020. Hunter Renfroe, who has six homers this year, stands at 95 career. Tyler Moore topped out at 30 after a promising start to his career. P.S. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his Chicago Cubs debut on Tuesday as a defensive replacement in center field, a role that figures to be his primary. The speedy Hamilton was a waiver claim from the New York Mets this week and reportedly would be eligible for the postseason.
On this date in 2005, former Mississippi State star Rafael Palmeiro infamously wagged his finger during a Congressional hearing and declared, “I have never used steroids. Period.” Less than two months later, while playing for Baltimore, he failed an MLB drug test for steroids and was suspended. Though Palmeiro has steadfastly denied using steroids, that incident has stuck to him and is the main reason he is not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame despite having 3,000 hits and 500 homers over a 20-year career that ended in 2005. … On a somewhat lighter note, it was also on this date in 2010 that Meridian Community College product Cliff Lee, pitching for Seattle, was ejected from a spring training game – and subsequently fined and suspended – for throwing a pitch over the head of an Arizona batter. The fine and suspension, which would have been for five regular season games, were later rescinded. That incident is largely forgotten and is definitely not the reason Lee isn’t in the Hall of Fame despite 143 wins, a 3.52 ERA and a Cy Young award in a 13-year career. Lee was on the ballot for the first time for the 2020 election and promptly dropped off the ballot.
On this date in 2005, former Mississippi State star Rafael Palmeiro, playing for Baltimore, rapped his 3,000th career MLB hit. It was a double at Safeco Field in Seattle. He became just the fourth player in history with both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. There are now six in that exclusive club that also includes Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray. Shortly after recording hit No. 3,000, Palmeiro was suspended for failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs. He returned from that suspension in mid-August, put in a few more games with the Orioles but never played in the majors thereafter. Though he staunchly denied using PEDs, the four-time All-Star fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2014 after four years without ever coming close to election. Palmeiro is in the MSU, Mississippi Sports and College Baseball Halls of Fame.
Rafael Palmeiro went yard on Monday. At age 53. The former Mississippi State star, now playing for an independent league team in Texas, hit his first home run in an actual game since 2005, his last big league season. The blast came in his third game with the Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association and came against right-hander Trey McNutt, who was born three years after Palmeiro debuted with the Chicago Cubs in 1986.
Here’s some random Palmeiro home run numbers:
569 – Career MLB homers, 13th on the all-time list.
47 – Season-high in big league homers.
0 – Home run crowns in MLB.
21 – Age when he hit his first MLB bomb, on Sept. 9, 1986, at Wrigley Field against Kevin Gross.
38 – Age when he hit his 500th MLB homer, on May 11, 2003, at The Ballpark in Arlington against David Elder.
40 – Age when he hit his last MLB homer, on July 30, 2005, at Camden Yards against Jose Contreras.
4 – Postseason homers, all with Baltimore.
28 – Career minor league homers.
67 – Career college home runs, in three seasons in Starkville.
29 – Season-high in college homers, in 1984.
There’s clearly not much cooking on the Hot Stove when Rafael Palmeiro’s comment on making a comeback gets so much attention. Former Mississippi State star Palmeiro floated the idea in a published report that he can still play at the big league level. It’s hard to take this seriously. He is 53. He last played in an MLB game 12 years ago. True, he did go 2-for-4 in one appearance for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters in 2015. But it’s a long way from the Atlantic League to the major leagues. Palmeiro is in both the 500-homer and 3,000-hit clubs but not the Hall of Fame, mainly because of a failed drug test in 2005 that came not long after he defiantly wagged his finger at Congress during its inquiry into PEDs. Palmeiro fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in short order. “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,” Palmeiro told The Athletic. That sounds pretty far-fetched.
The 3,000-hit club expanded to 30 members with the addition of Ichiro Suzuki on Sunday. Rafael Palmeiro, the former Mississippi State standout, is in the club (with 3,020 hits), but no native Mississippians have reached that hallowed plateau. The closest anyone has come to date is Dave Parker, who retired in 1991 with 2,712 knocks. However, a Mississippi native was directly involved in a 3,000th hit. Vicksburg’s John Thomson yielded Rickey Henderson’s milestone hit — a double — on Oct. 7, 2001. Thomson was pitching for Colorado, Henderson batting for San Diego. Thomson won 63 games over a 10-year big league career and made a couple of rehab appearances with the Mississippi Braves (in 2005 and ’06).