clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jose, Can You See?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

There has been much written both in the mainstream press and in the blogosphere about Jose Canseco's "Juiced", released in bookstores today. So, naturally, I felt I had to join in.

Not wanting to give Mr. Canseco a dime of my hard-earned money, I decided to mosey on down to the local Barnes & Noble, which will pretty much allow you to sit in an overstuffed chair and read anything you like, and read it there for free. I can always count on my buddy Mike for a cogent comment on this lifestyle:

One thing about the "café" ambience bookstores cultivate these days, you can read the whole damn thing without paying for it. A virtual library. Remember how, years ago, if you tried to do that, some employee would swoop down and ask you what you thought you were trying to do? Some attitudes improve with time.

Anyway, that's how I spent much of my afternoon today.

Here's the capsule review:

Oh. My. God.

Well, that's what Canseco thinks of himself, anyway. He saved baseball, dontcha know -- because everyone knows that home runs sell tickets, and because he singlehandedly brought steroids to baseball (this is probably the truest statement he made in the book), and injected dozens (that's what he says) of his teammates with them, including, as you have no doubt read, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Bret Boone, ad nauseam -- that he's personally responsible for the home run explosion.

That's about all he takes responsibility for. Everything bad that's happened to him -- from his arrests to his divorces to his claim that he was blackballed from the game -- is everyone else's fault. Either it's the media's fault (isn't everything?), or because Mark McGwire was the golden boy and Jose felt resentful; or maybe it's because he was Cuban.

That's right, he's crying racism and claiming that there were "no" Latino stars in the game at the time. He says, correctly, that the last Cuban star before his career began was Tony Perez. Why is that?

There's a guy named Castro (not former Brewers pitcher Bill, either) who is responsible. None of the great baseball players in Cuba got out after Perez, until the boatlifts of the 80's, and then the well-publicized defections of the Hernandezes (Livan and Orlando), among others. So who is he kidding?

Canseco tries to portray his life as a tough one, but I didn't see it that way. Jose's father had actually lived and worked in the US before Jose was born, and though the family wasn't wealthy after they came to the US, his dad had a decent job as a refinery manager. It appeared to be a solid, All-American, middle-class upbringing to me. Canseco and Palmeiro are the same age and knew each other growing up. Does Palmeiro cry racism? Of course not, because in this case, that's not where the problem lies. It lies in the way Jose Canseco conducted his life, from his arrests to his divorces. He lived the fast life. He also loves to brag, brags throughout the book about how wonderful he was.

And you know what? For the first few years of his career, he was. Even if he was totally hopped-up on steroids in 1988, that was one of the greatest offensive seasons in baseball history and I credit him with that, because I think it was as much hard work as steroids back then. Canseco was a skinny teenager (there's a photo of him as one in the book), and for his early career (he was only a 15th-round draft pick) I will give him at least some credit for working hard to get there.

About the steroid accusations he makes, well, I'm of two minds. I don't think there is any doubt that steroids are rampant in baseball -- that's why, a couple of years ago when steroid testing was first implemented, most of the White Sox wanted to refuse the test. Why? Not because they were doing them, but because they weren't, but wanted to register positive results so that mandatory testing would be triggered. Don Fehr shot that idea down, and luckily, the lawyers aren't running the asylum any more.

But about the specific statements he makes? A lot of them are assumptions, example: his claim that McGwire put Andro pills in his locker as a ruse to put the press off the trail. This is a case of "he said, he said", and we may never know.

Here's another good example, courtesy of The Seattle Times:

The portion involving Boone is in Chapter 24, titled "Did He or Didn't He?" Canseco relates an incident during a spring-training game in 2001 between the Mariners, who had just signed Boone to a free-agent contract, and Canseco's Anaheim Angels.

"I hit a double, and when I got out there to second base, I got a good look at Boone," Canseco writes. "I couldn't believe my eyes. He was enormous. " 'Oh, my God,' I said to him. 'What have you been doing?'

" 'Shhh,' he said. 'Don't tell anybody.'

The same article goes on to say:
A check of spring-training records from 2001 shows that Canseco batted four times against the Mariners and didn't have any doubles. He reached base once, and it was not clear if he advanced to second.

This calls Canseco's credibility into question.

The book is worth reading, because Canseco does call on baseball to clean up its act, which it clearly needs to do. But that's a case of "pot, meet kettle". So, do what I did. Head on over to your local big-box bookseller, plop down in a comfy chair, and read it there.