Is Jose Canseco really the Biggest Jerk on the Planet?
Jose Canseco has been called a great waste of talent, similar in nature to Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry
These days, former Major League Baseball player Jose Canseco is persona non grata in the very organization that gave him a career. Canseco not only admits he used anabolic steroids, but also extols their virtues, saying they improve both players and the game. Unfortunately, in the world of Major League Baseball this kind of talk is heresy.
Further soiling Canseco's reputation, during his career which lasted from 1985 to 2001, he seemed almost constantly in trouble, at one point spending three months in jail for flunking a drug test while on probation. (He actually went to jail in the summer of 2003.)
Perhaps the worst perceived transgression of Canseco’s career is that he wrote about the steroids exploits of many of his fellow baseball players in his book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big. It seems probable to this writer that Mark McGwire, in particular, may possibly bear Canseco some ill will in this regard, though McGwire probably shouldn’t try to do anything about it because Canseco has enough black belts to cover Jabba the Hut!
(Unless otherwise noted, all quotes in this article are taken from Canseco’s book, Juiced.)
Let’s cover many of the highlights and “lowlights” of Jose Canseco’s life, and then try to conclude if he’s a monumental jerk or what.
Around 1980, Cuban immigrant Jose Canseco played baseball in high school, not thinking he was all that good actually, yet his father, a dominant figure in Jose’s life, kept pushing his son. (As a teenager, Canseco started learning Tae Kwon Do, eventually earning three black belts in various martial arts.)
The Oakland A’s drafted Jose in the fifteenth round in 1982. Then, playing in Minor League Baseball, Jose did okay; at least he could hit the long ball. In 1984, when Canseco’s mother died, Canseco vowed to become the best athlete in the world. Perhaps to attain this lofty aspiration, Canseco began using anabolic steroids before the 1985 season, quickly adding 25 pounds of pure muscle.
During the 1985 baseball season Canseco went from Double-A to Triple-A and then to the majors. Then, in 1986, Jose Canseco was named Rookie of the Year in the American League. By this time, Canseco showed an impressive combination of power and speed, much coveted attributes in MLB.
About this time in his life, Canseco wrote, “I was just a twenty-year-old kid, tall and lean, but what I noticed was, I was far stronger than someone my size should have been. My strength and my stamina were just incredible. I really had the feeling that I could hit a baseball six hundred feet.”
Slugger Mark McGwire arrived with the A’s in 1987. McGwire hit 49 home runs his rookie season, a record for Major League rookies – accomplishing this feat without taking steroids, or so Canseco wrote in his book. But the following year Canseco and McGwire began shooting steroids together - once more - according to Canseco. “I injected Mark in the bathroom at the Coliseum (in Oakland) more times than I can remember,” Canseco penned. Eventually these two homer-happy youngsters became known as the sensational Bash Brothers.
The following year, 1988, Jose Canseco hit more than 40 home runs and stole more than 40 bases, the first player in history to do so. He also won the Most Valuable Player Award in the American League. Canseco thought at this point in his career he was the best baseball player in the world.
Nevertheless, Canseco claimed he was always portrayed as the bad boy, particularly in relation to white players. He wrote, “The truth is, no one wants to face the fact that there was a huge double standard in baseball, and white athletes like Mark McGwire, Cal Ripken Jr., and Brady Anderson were protected and coddled in a way that an outspoken Latino like me never would be. The light-eyed and white-skinned were declared household names. Canseco the Cuban was left out in the cold, where racism and double standards rule.”
Canseco wrote that his only weaknesses were women and fast cars. Now getting big paychecks from the A’s, Jose began collecting sports cars, including a modified Porsche with 820 HP! Canseco once got a ticket for driving 125 mph in his Jaguar. According to an article on the Web site BaseballLibrary.com, in February 1991 when the Miami police gave Canseco a ticket for driving 104 mph, he quipped, “Oh, you’re so generous.”
As for broads, while Canseco was still married to Esther, pop star Madonna began showing interest in him, at one point inviting him up to her penthouse apartment in Manhattan. About the pop star, Canseco wrote, “Madonna doesn’t fool around. She’s a woman who knows what she wants, and goes after what she wants, and for a few weeks that year she had decided I was what she wanted: I was Cuban, I was a superstar baseball player, and she liked the way I looked.”
The press began calling him Madonna’s Bat Boy.
Canseco also wrote that he and Madonna did nothing but talk. However, when Canseco's wife Esther found out about their “affair,” she screamed at Canseco.
Moving on, Canseco claimed in 1988 he was singled-out as a steroids user while white players such as Mark McGwire were not. Canseco highlighted a story in the Washington Post by Thomas Boswell, who, Canseco wrote, claimed Canseco used steroids, yet offered no evidence for such an accusation. Canseco thought this article kept him from getting a million-dollar endorsement from Pepsi and perhaps other endorsements as well. Canseco wanted to sue Boswell, but he decided against it.
About fairness in journalism (or the lack thereof), Canseco wrote, “Reporters are always talking about objectivity and fairness, but who are they kidding, anyway? Everyone knows the media can portray an event however they want to, positively or negatively. They have that power, that degree of control. They can make your career, if they like you, or they can destroy you.”
Then the cops found a loaded pistol in Canseco’s car. Canseco said it was legal for him to carry this handgun. The headline in the San Francisco Chronicle read: CANSECO ARRESTED – LOADED PISTOL IN HIS JAGUAR. Referring to this episode, Canseco wrote, “And as bad as the Chronicle’s story seemed, there were others that were a whole lot worse. By the time you were done reading them, you’d think I’d been waving the gun around, shooting at kids or something. (When reporters talked to Esther when she came to the sixth floor of the county jail, she just told them the truth: ‘This is all bullshit.’)”
After that, in another incident involving Esther, while driving along the freeway in separate cars, she and Canseco had an argument, the two cars somehow bumping into each other, and then the cops labeled the incident as domestic violence. The couple divorced in 1991.
Meanwhile, back to baseball. When Canseco was traded to the Texas Rangers during the 1992 season, he began “juicing” with fellow superstars Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. At this point in his career, Canseco said, many players began asking him advice about using steroids, elevating him to the level of "Godfather of Steroids."
While with the Rangers, one night while playing the outfield, a ball hit by Carlos Martinez hit Canseco in the head and then went over the wall for a home run. This, Jose said, was turned into a “huge sensation.”
Then there was the players’ strike in 1994, cancelling the remainder of the season and the World Series. “This was a dark period for baseball,” Canseco wrote.
Over the next couple of years, when Canseco began suffering from a succession of injuries, including three back surgeries and elbow reconstruction, the press blamed Canseco’s perceived steroid use. Canseco said the press had the cause and effect backwards: “I would never have been a major-league caliber player without the steroids. I wouldn’t have been capable of playing softball in a beer league – not with my health being what it was.” He went on to write, “The only reason I was able to play baseball for so many years was that the steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) allowed me to build the right muscle structure to hold up my frame.”
Throughout the book Canseco emphasized that steroids and HGH should only be used in small amounts, thereby avoiding potentially dangerous side effects. He pointed to Jason Giambi as a player who went overboard with steroids. “Giambi,” he wrote, “had the most obvious steroid physique I’ve ever seen in my life. He was so bloated, it was unbelievable.”
Canseco also pointed out how players such as Miguel Tejada obtained multi-million-dollar contracts because of their use of steroids. Tejada signed in 2004 a $72 million-dollar contract covering six years. Canseco himself also grabbed a huge contract back in 1990 - $23.5 million for five years, the biggest contract ever for a baseball player at the time. All of this made possible by the use of steroids, Canseco insisted.
David Letterman: “If you’re a baseball purist like me, you know the season doesn’t really begin until Jose Canseco gets arrested.”
Next, as the prior quote mentions, Canseco ran afoul of the law once again. Canseco and his second wife, Jessica, got into an argument in a friend’s car, where Canseco supposedly grabbed Jessica by the hair, and later Jessica called the cops. Thereafter at baseball games, fans began calling Canseco a wife beater. This hurt, Canseco admitted.
While separated from Jessica, Canseco became depressed about his lack of acceptance by baseball fans, and then he discovered that Jessica was staying with another man. One night, Canseco pulled out his pistol and considered blowing his brains out – until he heard his daughter Josiphene crying, though Canseco maintained that it would have been impossible for him to hear his daughter on the other side of his 22,000-square-foot house.
Later, the home run race of 1998 rekindled interest in Major League Baseball. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa kept blasting towering homers in the quest to beat Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61. Canseco wrote that he knew both McGwire and Sosa were using steroids. Moreover, he insisted that the owners knew about their steroid use, but didn’t care because the race was so good for the game.
Canseco also pointed out that when rumors were flying regarding McGwire’s possible use of steroids, McGwire let it be known that he used Androstenedione, a temporary testosterone booster that was legal in MLB at the time.
In the book, Canseco also insinuated that Barry Bonds was juiced up on steroids when he hit 73 home runs in 2001, breaking McGwire’s record of 70 hit in 1998.
CANSECO GETS INTO ANOTHER BAR FIGHT.
This headline refers to an incident in 2001. Canseco and his twin brother Ozzie went to a nightclub in Miami. Canseco was with his date, Amber. At one point, somebody grabbed Amber’s butt and an altercation ensued between Jose, Ozzie and two men, both of whom sustained injuries in the resulting fray. Days later, Canseco was arrested and then later convicted of two counts of aggravated battery and sentenced to probation.
Canseco wrote that people have the misconception that steroid use can make people violent. “I’ve never seen any sign of this so-called ‘roid rage’ in any other baseball players," he wrote, "and I’ve never felt anything like that affecting me. Any chemical, if used incorrectly, can alter your mood. Then again, a lot of things can do that. Spending too much time in traffic can do that.”
Canseco went to jail for three months in the summer of 2003 because he failed a drug test while on probation. The test results showed steroids, though Canseco insisted he had stopped taking steroids long before the test. Canseco maintained that the urine sample wasn’t his. Canseco also wrote that he had a nervous breakdown while in jail.
According to an article in Wikipedia, in Canseco’s second tell-all book, Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars and the Battle to Save Baseball, published in 2008, he wrote that MLB stars Albert Belle and Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) had used steroids. Initially, A-Rod denied any steroid use, but then came clean during the 2009 season when it was revealed that he had flunked a drug test during the 2003 campaign.
Also according the aforementioned Wikipedia article, in November 2008 Jose was convicted for bringing steroids from Mexico into the U.S. and sentenced to 12 months probation. Jose told authorities that he had gone to Tijuana, Mexico looking for a substance to restore testosterone levels in an attempt to reverse damage caused by years of steroid use.
You don't say, Jose?
So, is Jose Canseco really the biggest jerk on the planet?
Jose Canseco had a great baseball career which he admits was enhanced by his use of anabolic steroids and HGH. But some think his career was also damaged by the use of those drugs because of the serious injuries he suffered. In the end, though, Canseco seems to have altered his conviction by admitting that his steroids use wasn’t entirely safe.
Then Canseco wrote two books about his use of performance enhancing drugs, identifying himself as a user and many other baseball players as well, including Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez. He also became an outspoken critic of what he perceives as the hypocrisy of MLB teams for not speaking out against the use of steroids when baseball seemed to need a boost in popularity after the infamy of the strike-shortened season of 1994.
Canseco theorized that the owners eventually conspired to get rid of the one guy closely indentified with steroid use in MLB: Jose Canseco. If true, this tactic could keep Canseco from making the Hall of Fame, because when he could no longer find a job, he was 38 homers shy of 500, often considered a lock to make the Hall. Who’s the jerk in this scenario?
Canseco has also been arrested numerous times and convicted of misdemeanors. In virtually every instance, he wrote that he was a victim of circumstances or simply misunderstood. But he may have been arrested too many times for people to swallow such an excuse. At any rate, should Canseco be labeled as a jerk because he’s repeatedly broken the law?
Perhaps Canseco’s worst transgression - or however one cares to label it - was his betrayal of trust for his fellow baseball players. Did he really have to put their names in a book? Hey, after all, nobody likes a snitch. Yet is Canseco any worse than the numerous players, including Alex Rodriguez, who said they never used steroids and then turned about to be liars?
Therefore, because of wrongdoing – perceived or otherwise – Jose Canseco probably isn’t the biggest jerk around. However, in the world of baseball, he may be in the top ten.
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© 2010 Kelley