In some Aug. 12 editions, a Sports article incorrectly said that Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees hit 12 home runs in July. Giambi hit 14 home runs last month. (Published 08/13/05)

The Orioles should have cut Rafael Palmeiro. They should have just released him. That's what the baseball people here wanted to do anyway.

Every time he's in uniform it's just an annoying reminder he's a steroid guy. Every time he signs an autograph -- and he did that plenty at the old ballpark Thursday night -- we're reminded that in the absence of some stunning evidence to the contrary that he's essentially a fraud. Seriously, what good can come from having Palmeiro around now? Before the positive drug test he was at least 50-50 to retire after this season anyway. It's not like he's a key player to the final six weeks of a pennant race; the Orioles are going nowhere.

It's not like he's a key player in a youth movement, or the club's big picture, not at 40 years old. Every at-bat Palmeiro takes the rest of the season should be going to Walter Young, the hulking first baseman at Class AAA Ottawa who's already 25 years old and shouldn't wait another day to join the big club. Nothing is being served by having Palmeiro around now. Okay, his purposes are being served. This is how he rehabilitates himself, by glad-handing in the clubhouse and signing autographs and hanging around like nothing has happened that shouldn't embarrass him and the club.

You can outrun pretty much anything now, just about any moment of infamy or notoriety or humiliation. All you need is a good lawyer, a smart media consultant, a sincere appearance, and somebody who'll take a chance on you.

That's got to be what Palmeiro is counting on. All he has to do, really, is look across the parking lot at the football stadium where Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis play on Sundays. Probably one-third of the people who call themselves sports fans don't even know Ray Lewis was once on trial for manslaughter.

That is so long ago that the Ravens middle linebacker is now trusted to be a national pitchman, and he's a damn good one at that.

Jason Giambi, after apologizing for juicing, is done with his five minutes of shame. Hey, he hit 14 home runs for the Yankees in the month of July. What's the problem? The Yankees probably can't even remember that they once wanted to dump Giambi. In the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday, several different groups of fans began chanting "Raffy, Raffy, Raffy" or "We Want Raffy!" If Palmeiro was 33 instead of 40, there would be a line of suitors calling the Orioles.

But he isn't, so he'll be content with rehabilitating his image to whatever extent is possible and serve at the pleasure of one Peter Angelos.

Angelos is the reason Palmeiro is still here. The baseball people don't want him around, but the owner does. Angelos was definitely a pit bull bearing his teeth when it came to trying to keep a team out of Washington, not to mention decades of business negotiations. But it seems he's a teddy bear and not a grizzly if you're one of his guys, and Palmeiro apparently is. Remember, Angelos fired Ray Miller as manager, but later brought him back as pitching coach. Raffy is one of Angelos's guy. When Jose Canseco's book ratted out Palmeiro, Angelos said he would be happy to defend Palmeiro in a libel suit against Canseco.

So, here is Raffy still. He had already learned the first lesson of image rehabilitation: talk, even if you're saying nothing. He said after the game he didn't know how to act, in a baseball sense, after 10 days off. "I've played 20 years and I've never been on the DL." He said the reception from the fans was "good, and I really appreciated that." He said he talked to "all my teammates" before the game, and their reaction to him was "good. It was positive."

You see, it's all good, except the part where Palmeiro explains to anybody's satisfaction how the steroid stanozolol accidentally got into his system when it reportedly isn't found in supplements or over-the-counter stuff. Of course, the day his suspension was announced a week ago Monday, Palmeiro spoke and answered questions at length on a conference call. Why didn't he get his story out then?

A couple days ago, Palmeiro's agent, Arn Tellem, said Palmeiro would soon tell "his side of the story." But now, Palmeiro says his lawyers have instructed him to stay mum on the subject until after a Congressional investigation is complete. "I am just going to wait on that situation to be over with," he said. "I'm just taking it one day at a time."

So for now, Palmeiro is just hanging out. Interim manager Sam Perlozzo said he's not sure Palmeiro will be in the lineup Friday either, though "if he runs in there and knocks down my door we'd consider it." He might DH a little first, might not. If this whole ordeal is too difficult for Palmeiro to handle, he might beg out of the lineup, but then again he might not.

Of course, Palmeiro should have been dismissed for the rest of the season. Bud Selig's proposal for steroid users -- a 50-game suspension for first-time offenders, 100 games for a second-time offender, and banned after a third strike -- is absolutely the appropriate penalty, something that will be a deterrent. And Selig has not only most fans on his side, but old-timers and Congress. Finally, he appears to be in position to muscle the union, instead of being muscled by the union.

It would be refreshing to see baseball throw down the hammer on Palmeiro, and to a greater extent, Kenny Rogers, the Texas Rangers pitcher whose reward for slinging around some cameras and endangering the men operating them was a reduced suspension (20 days to 13). Palmeiro, the hypocritical cheat, is back being cheered. Rogers, the thug, is back on the mound. And instead of having suffered appropriately, both seem none the worse for wear.

Rafael Palmeiro takes a seat in the Orioles' dugout last night, his first game back after serving a 10-day suspension for testing positive for a steroid. Palmeiro was not in the starting lineup.