Discrediting Jose

Fair warning to those who might expect this blog to get back to more important themes (it will, don't worry): this is another steroid-related post. It will be the last one in this recent series, from me, anyway.

Many fans look to Jose Canseco as some sort of anti-hero in the game for his role in bringing the issue of steroids to light. Of course, rare is the fan who will enter this defense of the man without prefacing it with various caveats ("I'm not saying he's a hero or even a good guy, but..."); however, that "but..." is still a common refrain. ...but he did get baseball to do something about steroids; ...but when has he been wrong in what he has said?; ...but where would the game be if he hadn't spoken up. There is always that addendum of credence following the caveats. People constantly use these justifications for taking what he says seriously every time he says something new with regard to steroids. There is this perception, at least among a significant portion of the interested population, that Canseco has earned credibility on the subject such that we should act under the assumption that when he says something on the subject, it is true.

I have to admit, I just don't see it that way. Canseco's record in speaking on the subject is littered with inconsistencies and lack of integrity, rife with the sense of self-interest. He stakes his credibility on his vast first-hand knowledge of the issue on one hand while making many of his claims with no first-hand knowledge on the other and doesn't seem to differentiate between the two. Many of his claims are unverifiable. Some of his verifiable claims have been proven false. I really see no reason to even listen to the guy at this point.

I bring this up because Canseco has thrown himself into the spotlight again this summer with statements following the HOF induction ceremony that baseball definitively has steroid users in the Hall. This, as I will discuss a bit later, falls in line with some of his other claims as a bit of a "duh" statement, meaning something that anyone could say with just as much certainty as Canseco. We know steroids have been around for decades. There is documentation of steroid concern in the media and from fans (though nothing like today) at least back to the late 80s, yet nothing was really done about it until recent years. So one could assume that it's likely that at least one person in the Hall of Fame has used steroids at some point in his career. Do we have any idea who? No (and most likely neither does Canseco), but probably someone has. Even if none of them have, there isn't really any indesputable proof that they haven't, so there's not really any way to be "proven" wrong on that. So Canseco is basically making a claim that you or I could have made just as easily.

I guess there's nothing wrong with that, as long as Canseco is clear that that's all he is doing, but he's not. He is implying some sort of first-hand knowledge, as always, where there is no indication he has any. Beyond that, he is either deliberately implicating one specific player or he didn't think at all about what he was doing. He has had the opportunity to say this at any point over the past several years, but he waits until immediately after a former teammate of his from that Oakland clubhouse he has spoken so fondly of gets inducted to speak up. Coincidence? He also seemed to imply that the HOFer was on the list of 104 names from 2003 (note that when he says "I know who's on that list" in the quote below, it is in a discussion that began with the revelation of Ortiz' and Ramirez' names being on that list), which, considering the number of HOFers who played in 2003, really narrows it down. Canseco insisted he wouldn't name names, saying the following:

It's not about naming names. I've never had anything against the players. It's always been against Major League Baseball. I know who's on that list, but like I said, it's not about attacking the players. It's about the machine that allowed this to happen. What I speak out of my mouth is the truth. It burns like fire. Just remember, I have never lied about this subject.

The disingenuities here are numerous:

-He is again invoking his supposed credibility, claiming he has never lied about this subject (which is not true)
-He claims he is not about naming names. This should be self-explanitory
-On top of the above hypocrisy, he is implicating one specific player, either through deliberate deception or through sheer stupidity, by dropping so many hints that point to that player and then refusing to name anyone different
-The player he is implicating, either through deliberate deception or through sheer stupidity, is a player he has specifically named multiple times as being 100% clean, at least to his knowledge

I don't know how I can take a quote like that seriously. On top of all that, stop for a moment and think just how ridiculous it is for us to believe that Canseco actually knows who's on that list. The list is sealed under court order, and only persons involved in the legal proceedings have access to it. The media is hungry for the names on the list and goes to great lengths to work them out of leaks from those with access to them and to get whatever verification they can and still has trouble getting reliable names, but we're supposed to believe that Canseco went to the goverment or lawyers or whoever and asked to see the list, and they just said, "Sure, here you go. Take your time, copy it down in full if you'd like."? And then, even though he has the list and has had no problems telling us that Manny was on that very list, we should just trust that he has it but won't name names because that's not what he's about? Come on. Even JOB Bluth can figure this one out.

Canseco quite clearly seems to be full of BS here. That's no surprise. His entire history on the subject is nothing but contradictions and inconsistencies. Let's examine his claim that he has never lied on this subject:

-In 1988, stories surfaced of Canseco's since admitted steroid use. He denied it at the time.
-The following spring, Canseco again denied steroid use after steroids were found in his secretary's bag at an airport, even though his friend was facing legal charges stemming from the event.

-Jeff Marron of ESPN's Page 2 finds a pattern of at the very least lazy fact-checking and lack of regard for accuracy in Canseco's book Juiced, but one particular detail is particularly relevant. One of Canseco's supposed triumphs of truth is that he correctly named Bret Boone as a steroid user, but Marron's research on the passage where Canseco details a conversation where Boone told him of his steroid use in ST shows that the conversation is almost certainly fabricated and could not have taken place as described in the book. So, in effect, while Boone did happen to use P.E.D.s, Canseco's claim to first-hand knowledge of that was a lie. You don't get credit for that, Jose.

-Canseco wrote in Juiced that he and Clemens had discussed steroids and the effects of different combinations of drugs, as well as that he heard Clemens use the term "B12 shots" in discussing players, which Canseco claims was common joke, especially among pitchers, of referring to steroids in an indirect way. He later told investigators for the Mitchell Report (<-PDF file) "that he had numerous conversations with Clemens about the benefits of Deca-Durabolin and Winstrol and how to 'cycle' and 'stack' steroids." However, according to AP reports, he claimed in a sworn affadavit that Clemens had never discussed any interest in using P.E.D.s with him and that he had not been contacted by Mitchell's people to discuss allegations against Clemens. Beyond just blatantly lying, many of Canseco's claims have little merit. His credibility is supposedly built on his first-hand knowledge of the subject from within the game. Various statements from Canseco have put the number of players in recent years who used steroids from 80-95%, and Jose claims in his book, "When I talk in detail about steroids and how I single-handedly changed the game of baseball by introducing them into the game, I am saying what everyone in baseball has known for years." (p 3). With such a vast first-hand knowledge of what players have used, players he specifically introduced to steroids, he has to resort to naming players like Brady Anderson and Bret Boone in his book? Really? Players he never played with and whose use he has no first-hand knowledge of? Why, if he has any number of players he knows for certain juiced, would he stake his credibility on naming names like that, and why would he make up his story linking at least one of them to steroids? The most reasonable answer I can come up with goes back to the concept of the "duh" statement behind his HOFer comment. He picked 2 players everyone already believed were on steroids, presumably thinking that would lend him credibility. Sort of like Bud Selig taking credit for attendance going up on weekends. Especially for someone who's not about naming names, naming names with that little evidence doesn't exactly lead me to believe everything else he says.

Canseco's history of speaking on the subject is just one self-serving contradiction after another:

He expressed regret in television interviews for naming names in his first book while he was in the process of pitching a second book called, get this, Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball, during the writing of which he was reported to the FBI for blackmailing a player to keep his name out of the book.

As implied by the title of his second book, Canseco now takes credit for saving baseball from this rampant steroid problem that was hurting the game. In his first book, he writes:
By the time my eight-year-old daughter, Josie, has graduated from high school, a majority of all professional athletes — in all sports — will be taking steroids. And believe it or not, that’s good news...Steroid use will be more common than Botox is now. Every baseball player and pro athlete will be using at least low levels of steroids. As a result, baseball and other sports will be more exciting and entertaining. Human life will be improved, too. We will live longer and better. And maybe we’ll love longer and better, too...Yes, you heard me right: Steroids, used correctly, will not only make you stronger and sexier, they will also make you healthier.
-Juiced, pp 1-3
That does not sound like his intentions were to clean the game of steroids to me, or even that he considered it a problem.

He bemoans his unfair treatment saying that he was singly targeted for his steroid use because he was Latino while white players were given a free pass, and then basically makes a mockery of this potentially engaging discussion point by saying, as noted in the quote above, that he single-handedly introduced steroids to the game and that everyone knew it and failing to link that to why he was such an easy target.

What we see in Canseco is a megalomaniac who consistently distorts reality to put himself in the spotlight. He almost certainly didn't single-handedly introduce steroids to the game (and the knowledge he has disclosed on the subject does nothing to indicate that he is nearly as significant as he claims in this regard). He believes himself in 1988 to be "hands down the best player in the world. No one even came close." (p 78) and complains that no one was willing to recognize him, that only white players were household names (Canseco was awarded the MVP in 1988). He says on the same page, "In 1987 and 1988, who were the great Latino ball players? There was only one; it was just me." Think, for a moment, just how ridiculous a statement that is. He was the only great Latino ball player when he broke into baseball. Forget, for a moment, the all-time greats who had preceded him as Latinos in the game and who actually paved the way for him, and that Canseco seems to have no sense of history here (this passage is about how the game was closed to Latinos until he became great and, apparently, opened the door for them). Forget future Hall of Famer Rod Carew who had just retired. Pedro Guerrero made his 4th of 5 All Star Teams in 1987. Rafael Palmeiro made his first of 4 in 1988. Eight other Latino players born outside the U.S. were All Stars in '87 or '88. George Bell won the MVP in 1987. Benito Santiago was voted Rookie of the in '87. Fernando Valenzuela was coming off a stretch of 6 straight All Star appearances from '81-86 in which he won a Cy Young and a Rookie of the Year award. But Jose Canseco was the only great Latino player.

This is a player, who, as Jeff Maron points out in his Page 2 article, took artistic license in his book in describing a heroic, mammoth home run he launched in Detroit that, it turns out, was actually hit by Mark McGwire.

Canseco is clearly out of touch with reality. The quality of the evidence he has provided on the subject, filled as it is with claims that are already widely believed before he makes them and which he is no more informed to make than you or I am, gives no indication that he is the significant figure he paints himself, and if he is, then he is witholding information that could actually be meaningful and instead giving us random BS on purpose. He has a history of lying about his own steroid use and a pattern of tailoring his accounts to the point that they conflict each other. His interviews are filled with disengenuity. If these sound like ad hominem attacks, forgive me, but when all we are given are unverifiable claims and asked to trust them on the integrity of the speaker alone, what are we to do but point out his past inconsistencies and general lack of regard for truth and integrity?

Sorry Jose. I have nothing to add to those caveats.

*quotes from the book are from free previews available on Google books, except for those from pages 1-3, which are not available in the preview, but are excerpted on MSNBC.com.


Kincaid said...

Another one to add to the list:

When pressed in an MLBNetwork interview to put an estimate on the number of times he and McGwire shot up steroids in a bathroom stall together (he says only that this incident occurred "more times than [he] could count" in his book), he admits that it was maybe only one or two times. His defense was that his statement about "more times than [he] could count" was misinterpreted, and he meant something about playing for 7 different teams in his career or some such explanation that made no sense. Here is the quote from his book:

"...McGwire and I spent a lot of time together. Of course, we didn't talk much. What we did, more times than I can count, was go into a bathroom stall together and shoot up steroids." (pp7-8)

If that was misinterpreted, then Canseco is a sufficiently bad communicator that we should not be taking anything he says as meaningful anyway.

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