Monday, January 11, 2010

Will They Ever Apologize To Jose Canseco?

I vividly remember when Jose Canseco came out with his book "Juiced" detailing a bunch of Major League Baseball players including himself, using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. At the time the sports media took great delight in throwing him under the bus, especially when certain players who at that time were thought of to be beyond reproach, were named in his book as fellow steroids users. Precious few in the media took those allegations seriously and for the most part they all cast him as a guy just trying to make a buck writing a tell all full of libels. Many of them painted him as a rogue guy who simply wanted to project his proclivities onto other clean players to justify his actions.

But then a funny thing happened, nobody named in the book ended up suing Canseco. That should have been the first clue that maybe people should have paid attention. Then all of a sudden you had Congress calling for hearings into steroids in MLB. At the hearings while a few players who were named in the book explicitly said the allegations were untrue, several other players refused to testify on whether or not they took PEDs. Most prominent among them was one time single season home run record holder and former teammate of Canseco's, Mark McGwire.

Still many in the media were not convinced and St Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa who had formerly coached both McGwire and Canseco came out guns blazing against anyone who would read anything into McGwire declining to say under oath that he never took steroids.

But then finally the dam started breaking when Raphael Palmero, one of the guys who denied under oath ever taking any PEDs and vehemently called Canseco a liar, was popped for PEDs in a drug test. A drug test that was only given to him after MLB finally decided to press for drug tests in light of the players' embarrassing performance before congress. Now there are so many guys who have been popped, many of them in Canseco's book, that people have taken to calling the last decade "the steroid era".

Still there was one guy who refused to come clean.

Well today, finally, Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids when he broke the single season home run record. Now at this point most people are meeting this news with a resounding "Duh!" Still its worth revisiting the sentiment BEFORE McGwire avoided answering questions before congress. In the time between Canseco's book coming out and that congressional hearing, journalists and people in MLB close to those named in his book were pitting he and McGwire each other damn near in a good vs evil kind of way. I would venture to say that pre hearing more than half the public including the sports media thought McGwire was completely clean and had been slandered. Just check out some of the quotes in just this one article published shortly before the book came out.

"I'm so pissed off at him," said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, who
managed Canseco in Oakland. "First of all, I think he needs the money. Secondly,
I think he's jealous as hell. Jose had a head start over Mark and screwed it up.
The jealousy eats at him.

"Early, Mark was, 'See it and hit it,' " La Russa said Sunday. "From
about '93 to the end of his career, Mark became one of the smartest hitters in
the game. Jose signed his big deal and started half-stepping with the way he
played the game.

"Last but not least, Jose never took responsibility for anything. When
the Expos cut him (in spring 2002), Jose's line was, 'I'm being blackballed by
baseball.' When we traded him, it was, 'They weren't loyal to me.' It's always
someone else's fault, not his."

La Russa has said many times that McGwire used natural means, including
constant weight lifting and a solid diet, to strengthen his body. Former
teammates Terry Steinbach and Carney Lansford agreed, in other interviews with
The Chronicle on Sunday.


Like La Russa, Steinbach took exception to Canseco's accusations that McGwire was a steroid user.

"I came through the system with Mark; we were roommates in '87," said Steinbach, recalling their rookie year. "Mark wasn't one of those guys who all of a sudden one offseason got so big you couldn't recognize him, like they say about steroid users. Mark loved to lift weights. ... He was in the gym regularly.

"Jose? No, at least not in the gym at the Coliseum or the gyms set up for us on the road. He was phenomenal in '88. Up to that point, he showed up on time and did his drills. All of a sudden, he didn't do the extra work in the outfield, and it showed. It frustrated us as teammates. It was frustrating that 24 guys marched to the same beat and Jose didn't."


"That's so silly," said Dave McKay, who has been on La Russa's coaching staffs for 19 seasons and headed the strength and conditioning program in Oakland. "It's such a ridiculous comment by Jose. We're not that smart. It was just what Mark needed -- more headlines. The fact is, he was embarrassed when someone said there's a possible steroid inside andro. He wasn't using it to get bigger; he was using it for recovery after games."

McKay disputes McGwire used steroids and said he never saw any ballplayers take steroids.

"I'd be absolutely shocked to hear that Mark used a steroid or anything that would hurt him -- he was always so careful with what he put in his body," McKay said.

"I know Mark well enough that if he used it, he'd tell me. This makes no sense. We had a program, and all the players followed it. The only one who didn't was Jose. He became smarter than us and wanted to do his own thing."

Now was it kind of sleazy for Canseco to sell out guys who were once his teammates, some of them even his friends?

Of course it was.

But ask yourself a question. If Canseco never released his book would anybody ever really dug into performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball? And if nobody ever dug would the players have ever agreed to drug testing? Like it or not Canseco was right about damn near every single person he named in his book, and as much as anything else he is the reason why Major League Baseball at least has mechanisms in place now to clean up the game.

In my opinion, whether you like the guy or hate him, its time for the media to at least acknowledge that fact. And for more than a few, including McGwire himself, its time to apologize for the way they attacked his credibility when all of this first came out.

It is what it is.


  1. That last line "it is what it is " Says it all Steve. Love it when a Man backs up his opinions with FACTS!!

  2. Jose Canseco, the voice of reason, who'da thunk it?