McGwire, A-Rod and Canseco……Oh My!
When former Tampa Bay D-Rays player Jose Canseco came out with his book Juiced on February 14, 2005, no one in the baseball community knew what to expect out of the allegations and the extent and lengths that steroids and illegal drugs were being used in the MLB even before the Major League Baseball brass had decided to include testing for steroids or Human Growth Hormones (HGH).
We all personally had our little mental lists of certain players in the league that could be suspected of illegal use or might be under the umbrella of investigations, but no accurate information was in hand at that point in time in 2005 to provide concrete evidence or even a hint of a “failed drug test list” controversy to support any of Canseco’s claims at that time. With the recent MLB Network’s interview with former slugger Mark McGwire finally shedding light on his extra injectable “helpers” during his Home Run barrage of 1998, it seems most of us have finally gotten some measure of closure on an explanation years past due.
And even with these recent McGwire remorse and vocal tales of his transgressions, it seems more and more that the subculture of baseball before the beginning of MLB testing in 2003 might just begin to unravel with McGwire’s testimonial leading the way for others to admit and seek forgiveness for their past deeds. We all still have fresh in our minds the revelations of the knowledge that current New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez used PED’s during his 2001-2003 Texas Ranger days.
Mixed into this same drug cocktail is the recent admissions and failed drug test results evidence of Boston Red Sox players Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz back during the Red Sox World Series season of 2004. And we are far from over in this revolving door of names being slowly leaked out into the open about players who have failed tests back during that 2003 MLB season. It is becoming more and more plausable that Canseco might have been right the entire time, and we were fooled by the shiny lights and twirling balls by the players. And maybe it was the American baseball fans that were the ones naive to the entire extent of the steroid scene.
If Jose Canseco was seeking a personal level of revenge, or even a ” I told you so.” moment, he can finally get that long overdue last laugh or justified response to his past allegations. With both of his books, Canseco was taking us on a journey into the heart of the baseball clubhouse culture and was actually trying to educate us as to the level of deceit and the unknowing extent and usage problems in baseball’s not so distant past.
All this from a guy who was in the drivers seat of using these same stimulants and drugs himself, and Canseco has never denied the fact of his usage, or lied about trying to gain that ‘competitive edge” in the ever swirling arena of professional baseball. How enlightening it is to me right now that for years people in the media and in the high ranks in baseball have tried to shut him up and went beyond normal means to prove him wrong, to say he was trying to extract revenge over the so-called “blackballing” of him out of Major League Baseball because of his vocal noise about the scandal and his willingness to address the problem in the public eyesight.
I am not trying to paste Canseco up here as the patron Saint of America’s Pasttime within a room full of devils and serpents, but Canseco was right, and he has gained a huge amount of respect recently on the “so-called” incidents he wrote about in both of his books. I know when Amazon.com reviewed his book back in 2005, and called it the ” Ball Four” for the new millennium. Canseco’s Juiced was intentionally written to show the rampant use of performance-enhancing substances in baseball (with steroids replacing the amphetamines of Bouton’s day).
Canseco is a self admitted steroid devotee since his 20’s, and he goes beyond admitting his own usage to claim that he acted as baseball’s ambassador of steroids and is therefore indirectly responsible for “saving” the game. Canseco admittedly says he was nice enough to educate Alex Rodriguez about steroids and even introduced him to a friendly steroids dealer in the late 1990s, but A-Rod returned the favor by trying to bed his wife, the former Bash Brother alleged in his book, Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars and the Battle to Save Baseball. Whatever his motivation, Canseco writes that he is “confident” the Yankees star and three-time MVP used steroids and stated it in his book published in March 2008. “I did everything but inject the guy myself,” Canseco says in the book. Canseco said he introduced the future Yankee to a trainer named “Max.”
But despite the headline-grabbing claims in his first book, and whether Canseco really knows anything about the problem beyond his own use was viewed as opinion and total speculation at that time. He was viewed as a ” teller of tales”, and with no one coming forth to back him up, or even claim “off the record” of steroid usage in the majors, he was discounted as a bitter former player looking for his last series of hurrah’s.
Most shocking at the time of both of the books release dates that Canseco remains an unabashed booster of steroids, claiming they’ll one day be used safely under medical supervision to propel humans to better health and great feats. Doctors disagree, and it should be noted that doctors did not administer Canseco’s steroid use. “Is it cheating,” Canseco asks in a revealing moment of moral relativism, “to do what everyone wants you to do?” If that very question were asked by a Little Leaguer, its answer could not be more obvious.
So here we are a few days removed from the latest Mark McGwire confessional after finally letting both the Ramirez and Ortiz transgressions fade to black along with A-Rod’s own media fiasco. But at what extent has this begun to tarnish the good spit and polish image of the game of baseball? Is the fact that since nothing in either of Canseco’s books have been disproven, should we again read them both and look for other answers before we are confronted with future demons coming to the surface?
Could there be other hidden facts and players within its pages that are still to be bought out into the light of day and coffed at and discounted, or even shunned like Canseco has endured for so long. Or is the fact that the biggest stars in the game today and yesterday have either been caught or admitted usage of these drugs be an indicator to others to come forward before they are also brought to light.
You can bet with the MLBPA’s agreement coming to a close soon that these drug issues and even some of the past trangressions might be a huge question mark being considered by Major League Baseballs’ higher powers right now. Should the rest of the world know their internal struggles and business in this issue?
Here are a few passages taken from Canseco’s book Vindicated that talked directly about the Yankee Alex Rodriguez with Canseco’s personal observations on their careers and steriods :
“I’m confident it was the ‘roids ( that made A-Rod buff ). I believed it then, and I believe it now. I’ve been down this road too many times with too many guys. I know my ( stuff ), and I know the way it works. I may not have seen ( A-Rod ) do the deed, but I set the whole thing up for him, just like he wanted. I saw the changes in his body in a short time. Hell, if you ask me, I did everything but inject the guy myself.”
And Canseco is being put on the hot seat again by McGwire and current St. Louis Cardinals and former Oakland A’s Manger Tony LaRussa about his tales of steroid usage and administration in connection with him and McGwire in the past. McGwire admitted Monday that he used steroids for a decade, including when he hit 70 homers in 1998, but denied Canseco’s claims that he injected himself and McGwire with steroids in bathroom stalls.
“I’ve defended Mark, I know a lot of good things about him,” Canseco told ESPN 1000 Radio in Chicago on Tuesday. “I can’t believe he just called me a a liar. Umm, there’s something very strange going on here. “I even polygraphed that I injected him, and I passed it completely. So I want to challenge him on national TV to a polygraph examination. I want to see him call me a liar under a polygraph examination.”
Both the above quoted players by Canseco have been linked, or subjectively linked to steroids in the last few years. McGwire is currently fighting for his Hall of Fame career life among allegations and evidence that he has either used, or lied under oath about his past usage. The only difference in these two gentlemen is that one knows that by admitting it now, he can still regain some of his credibility, while the other might always be mired in the thoughts of mistrust and lost opportunities to be honest to the fans who admired them.
Right now it seems that McGwire will be basically left in a lepers colony by baseball’s fraternity to fester and rot within his own misguided statements and falsehoods. McGwire has gained some supporters in his Hall of Fame selection over the past two years, but could this new revelation push even those devoted believers to shun him and save his redemption for the Veteran’s Committee in the future?
I give Alex Rodriguez a lot of credit for coming clean and admitting and showing his true nature by not dodging the issue, but taking it head on, even if it garnered him a shower of public ridicule for years to come. Canseco has talked about both of these players in his books, and the last few months have shown that more and more Canseco is becoming more credible on all counts concerning these accusations. But will the baseball community ever acknowledge that he was right?
Will his legacy be that Canseco just got lucky in his MLB usage estimations and player accusations. Will Canseco ever get the true credit due to him for trying to soften the blow of the honest extent of the steroid scandal and its short-lived era. Isn’t it about time that we all wised up to the fact that we were lied to right to our faces, and even manipulated to see the evil intent of what Canseco was writing about at the time.
But now it seems like Canseco might come out of all of this smelling like a rose after years of badgering and misinformation by baseball and the media. Canseco will never be known as a prophet among the legions of baseball fans, but he did educate us to the darker side of the game that we did not want to see, or even realize until a top tier player’s name got put out there for everyone to see firsthand.
So will this recent reveal make people again take notice of his two novels. Canseco is not a trying to be a poster boy for baseball. To the contrary, he is the one player who had admitted and showed no remorse in his choices to use performance enhancing drugs to better himself and his abilities in baseball. Not unlike a pitcher who relied on spitballs and scuffed balls in the past to produce movement on the ball coming into batters, Canseco found and edge and used it to its fullest.
But was it his personal knowledge and his frank honesty about the rampant drug usage throughout the Major Leagues that condemned him for years. I am not saying that he should be given a chance for the Hall of Fame. We all know the actions he took to get that edge will condemn him to baseball purgatory, but could his upfront honestly and revelations at least gain him some respect now with baseball fans?
I believe Jose Canseco’s statements. I saw him play here in Tampa Bay as a member of the Rays highly touted ” Hit Show” in the late 90’s. He did garner some great moments in a Rays jersey, but the fact that he also tainted those multi-colored jerseys by using PED’s in that sacred clubhouse takes him off my Rays favorite player list. I admire him more today knowing that he tried to warn us of a storm that was brewing off our bows. Canseco got us all ready for the facts to finally come clean and the truth to be finally known in and around baseball……………….that there will always be evil within all that is good with the game.