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Kansas City Blues

Canseco, Sox and Shame

Guy Bacci

The White Sox were lucky enough to escape Jose Canseco’s long-promised, tell-all book, despite Canseco’s stint in the Sox system at the end of his career. While it certainly would have been interesting to hear a few comments about the inner-workings of the Chicago clubhouse in 2001, Sox fans can be thankful that their team was spared. Had Canseco implicated any Southsiders, there’d be no end to the questioning and speculation.

Instead, the stories out of Tucson will focus on the new rotation, the Japanese personalities, the wheels of Podsednik, and the ankle of Frank Thomas. But there won’t be much steroid talk. After all, this is the team that threatened to boycott steroid testing in 2002 in an effort to force mandatory tests in future seasons. Not surprisingly, Canseco ignored the ’02 Sox in his book. He was too busy trying to convince his readers that steroids have a positive place in sports and society.

The introduction to his book was distributed as an excerpt to media across the country, and its premise is astonishing. Canseco says, “Steroids are the future … 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.”

Oh wait, there’s more.

Canseco chides the people who question him, implying they’re short-sighted cowards. “All these people crying about steroids in baseball now will look as foolish in a few years as the people who said John F. Kennedy was crazy to say the United States would put a man on the moon. People who see the future earlier than others are always feared and misunderstood.”

So Canseco can see the future, while the rest of the world is ignorant to the incredible advantages of steroids? If steroids are supposed to make people live longer and healthier, as Canseco claims, then why do steroids kill people? Canseco’s retort would be that steroids must be taken wisely and under supervision. “If you’re going to work with steroids, you have to get used to clean living, smart eating, and taking care of yourself by getting plenty of rest and not overtaxing your body.”

Hang on a second. If you still have to live clean, eat smart, get plenty of rest and not overtax your body, then what exactly is the advantage of steroids? Canseco’s claim might start to intrigue the general public if steroids could replace a healthy diet and eight hours of sleep. Inject yourself in the rump, sleep four hours a night and eat nothing but Taco Bell, and live to be 120. Now that would be a deal worth investigating.

But that’s not what Canseco is offering. Canseco is offering a farce. Sure, you can cheat your way to stardom, only to see your legend eventually be tarnished and your organs go sour at age 50. Or you can be like the 2002 White Sox and demand that baseball return to a level playing field.

As idiotic and preposterous as most of Canseco’s comments are, it’s hard not to believe some of his claims. Rafael Palmeiro strongly denied Canseco’s allegations, saying he never used steroids, but how are we to make sense of his sudden 37-homerun season in 1993 (as a teammate of Canseco’s) when his previous high was 26? From ’94 to ‘03, Palmeiro averaged around 40 homers a year. And how about the tiny 5’9” Bret Boone, who arrived in Seattle in 2001 looking like Popeye, and proceeded to mash 37 dingers?

The problem is, often times Canseco is speculating, much like everyone else. He claims to have asked Boone how he got so big, and Boone replied, “Shhh.” That sounds like a laughable story. Canseco and his editors were wise enough not to directly accuse the President, saying only that President Bush “must have known” the Texas Rangers were using steroids when he owned the team. Again, pure speculation.

There’s a lot that needs to be revealed, but Canseco is the wrong messenger. He’s in debt, he’s lazy, and he’s unlikable. Unfortunately, we may never know the truth. If a stand-up guy like Tony LaRussa can shamelessly defend Mark McGwire on 60 Minutes, then the baseball fraternity is too strong to penetrate.

But if there’s a positive to come from Canseco’s book, maybe it’s that some players will start to feel embarrassment about their illegal behavior. Maybe Canseco has inadvertently reversed the effect he had years ago, when he made steroids a popular drug in baseball clubhouses. Now he’s made steroids a curse. He’s brought shame to using a drug that he certainly has no shame discussing.

“If I had it all to do over again, would I live a steroid-enriched life? Yes, I would,” Canseco says. “Do I have any regrets or qualms about relying on chemicals to help me hit a baseball so far? To be honest, no, I don’t.”

And that, baseball fans, is the biggest shame of all.

Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back. He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player. His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay). Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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