Jose Canseco: Is the Jury (Still) Out?

Justin GormanCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2009

In 2005, when Jose Canseco’s book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big came out, I have to admit, I could have been the Chairman and CEO of the “I Hate Jose Canseco” anti-fan club. 

I’ve never been a huge fan of him as a player; not when he was a Bash Brother in Oakland, not when he was letting balls bounce off his head for home runs or requiring Tommy John for pitching in Texas, not even in the twilight of his career, which passed briefly through Boston. 

He’s always been a wad in my eyes, and once a wad, always a wad. 

Let me be clear, this article is NOT about me changing my view of Canseco, either as a person, a player or *cough* as an author.  This is not vindication on any level. 

I just think that since Alex Rodriguez has received so much attention and press this Spring, his admitted steroid transgressions beg the following question: 

Did Jose Canseco—as many say—hurt baseball, or might he actually have helped baseball in the long run?

When the book first came out, many people said he would hurt baseball, and while the media placed an emphasis on all the names Canseco dropped, the results didn’t really show until the Congressional hearing, where Mark McGwire handled the situation poorly, and ultimately should just admit to his use of performance enhancing substances. 

Beyond that, when Rafael Palmeiro tested positive, received the subsequent suspension, and watched his career and reputation fade faster than Marty McFly’s arm in Back to the Future, you could feel the paradigm shift in the media —people were no longer categorically vilifying Canseco’s claims.

Canseco’s sequel, Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball, which didn’t receive nearly the publicity that Juiced did upon its release, had suggested that Alex Rodriguez was using steroids. 

When Rodriguez admitted to this a few weeks ago, not many mentioned that Canseco essentially nailed it.

The argument could truly go either way.  Canseco, in exposing the rampant 'roids' in baseball, did tarnish the reputation of an entire sport for a long period of time.  

I’m certainly not saying that these athletes were innocent, because they were not.  They knew there were potential risks with what they were taking, and they were taking these substances for one reason—to gain a competitive edge.  

However, Canseco’s book spawned the Congressional hearings that ruined McGwire and Palmeiro’s careers, and made more people question Sammy Sosa’s career (as well as his English). 

It was essentially the reason Congress became so obsessed with steroids in baseball that they gave former Senator George Mitchell several million taxpayer dollars to write an impotent report, save the implication of Roger Clemens and the admissions of Andy Pettitte and Brian Roberts. 

Furthermore, it is the underlying cause of a general sense of distrust amongst fans, antipathy towards many players whose names have been mentioned or even loosely associated (with or without evidence), and why most believe that steroids were a “silent partner” in the MLB’s ability to so aptly recover from the strike of 1994. 

No offense, Kevin Millar.

However, now that the MLB is a monolith of a professional sports league, they can go confidently in letting players like A-Rod, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens all fall by the wayside for cheating.

In fact, now that players of such legendary magnitude have been publicly indicted, could one say that Canseco has made baseball better? 

When Canseco's book was released, Steroid discussion turned a page from secrets and conjecture to widespread finger pointing.

Now, you can’t get away from the topic of steroids in baseball.  And the three aforementioned players prove that nobody is safe. 

Could this be the deterrent that young aspiring major leaguers needed to stay clean?

Did Jose Canseco singlehandedly change baseball’s steroid policy and force MLB’s hand to eradicate the use of performance enhancing drugs?

However you (or I) answer that last question—he’s still a wad.

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