Sunday, February 20, 2005

Just Shut Up

Last Sunday former major leaguer Jose Canseco was on 60 Minutes promoting his new book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big. In the book, Canseco claims that steroid use in baseball is rampant and that several prominent players have used steroids including Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Tejeda, Bret Boone and Mark McGwire. Among Canseco's most startling claims, Canseco alleges that he injected McGwire and other teammates and that when he played for the Texas Rangers, team owner and current U.S. President, George W. Bush, knew about the steroid use within the team and did nothing to stop it.

What shocks me most is not so much Canseco's allegations, but rather that people actually believe what he says. ESPN's Skip Bayless said that Canseco came off "quite convincingly" in his 60 Minutes interview and that it "might open a window into our national pastime through which only a few media members have peeked." Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey argues, "[I]f you want to find out about steroids, it makes sense to ask a guy who made a career out of them, just as you go to Dennis Rodman if you want to know about tattoos." The San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial adds, "The credibility of the former Oakland A's slugger was widely dismissed several years ago, when he suggested that 80 percent of major leaguers had used steroids. But that was before the BALCO scandal and the grand-jury testimony of superstars Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi shed a harsh light on the use of performance-enhancing drugs at the highest levels of sport."

Along with the media, the general public is gobbling up the book with it listed #12 on Amazon's Best Seller List. Now I certainly don't have my head in sand and believe that steroid use was limited to just to a few players. However, I would believe something Bill Clinton said before I would believe anything that Jose Canseco said. Canseco is a man with significant financial problems. According to ESPN, he owes over $30,000 in taxes to the State of Massachusetts. Just a few months ago, Canseco put up for bid on eBay an opportunity to hang out with him for a few hours with the bidding starting at several thousand dollars (no one bid on the item). With the book selling at $25.95 a pop, that should help ease Canseco's financial situation. [UPDATE: Canseco has put up his World Series ring for sale and it can be yours for the low price of $40,000.]

However, it is not Canseco's motivations that destroys his credibility, but rather his own words. Jeff Merron of ESPN points out that Canseco's memory is a little fuzzy. For example, Canseco states in his book, "I remember one day during 2001 spring training, when I was with the Anaheim Angels in a game against the Seattle Mariners, Bret Boone's new team. I hit a double, and when I got out there to second base I got a good look at Boone. 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 only problem with Canseco's claim is that in the five times that Canseco's team (the Angels) played the Mariners in spring training in 2001, Canseco never reached base.

Baseball certainly needs to clean up its act after the BALCO scandal and it has taken an important step in reducing steroid use with a new, tough steroid policy that has a mandatory suspension for the first positive test. I have no problem with someone naming people who have used steroids, but I'll wait for a more reliable source than Jose Canseco.