Arrogance on steroids

Published Feb. 27, 2005|Updated Aug. 25, 2005


Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids,

Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big

By Jose Canseco

Regan Books, $25.95, 289 pp

Reviewed by ALLEN BARRA

It is too early to call Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big by Jose Canseco the worst sports book of the year. It can, however, definitely be called the worst sports book so far in three centuries. Canseco was a big, good-looking, talented ballplayer who spent most of his 17 seasons with the Oakland A's, with whom he won the American League's Most Valuable Player Award in 1988. Baseball made him rich and famous; now he wants revenge.

For what, exactly? It's hard to say. He rails against the "white media" for its treatment of Latinos, particularly Cubans. At age 18 it occurred to him, "If there were no Cubans in baseball, there must be a reason." That one of the reasons might be Castro never dawns on him. There is no mention of Juan Marichal, Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Minnie Minoso or any of the first generation of great Latin ballplayers who didn't grow up in a middle-class, English-speaking family like Canseco's.

He wants revenge against the Washington Post's Tom Boswell for a 1988 column that nailed Canseco as a steroids user. Jose, of course, was pumped on steroids _ Juiced is one long self-serving defense of Canseco's steroid use _ but Boswell's column cost him a $1-million endorsement with Pepsi. "I wanted to sue Boswell, but in the end it just didn't seem worth my time." That Boswell was correct goes unnoted. Inexplicably, Canseco also wants revenge against his own union, declaring that if the owners had approached him before the 1994 strike, he'd have recruited players to undermine the Players Association. He doesn't seem to have a clue about his own union's role in bringing about and maintaining the free agency that made him a multimillionaire. This is hypocrisy on steroids.

Canseco claims to be the man who "personally reshaped the game of baseball through my example and my teaching," but none of the players he names who took steroids with him _ Mark McGwire, Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez or Raphael Palmiero _ performed better after the alleged steroid use.

What about the "wild times" promised by the subtitle? According to Canseco, nothing happened between him and Madonna, though he says she told him, "I want you to leave your wife. We can get married." Apparently we can trust him on this because "I wasn't the type of guy to brag about anything."

Canseco was enamored with Madonna because, "When she talks, you want to listen closely, I felt I could learn from her." He should have consulted her on the editing of his own book. Juiced is a shoddy, bush-league effort for which no one except Canseco seems to want to take any credit. Surely the book had a ghostwriter and an editor, but none are singled out in the acknowledgments. There is no evidence of a proofreader. The publication year of Jim Bouton's trailblazing 1970 memoir Ball Four is listed as 1980. Canseco whines that in 2000, "The few times they did get me some at-bats, the Yankees put me in the outfield, even though I hadn't played out there in I don't know how long." Actually, he played five games in the outfield, and 32 as a pinch or designated hitter. Jose recalls that in Game 6 of the Subway Series between the New York Yankees and New York Mets, "I was sitting there on the Yankee bench on a cold night at Shea Stadium." It must have been lonely; the 2000 World Series was over in five games.

A disclaimer from the publisher before the contents page tells us, "This book does not intend to condone or encourage the use of any particular drugs, medicine, or illegal substances." On Page 3, the author claims, "Steroids, used correctly, will not only make you stronger and sexier, they will also make you healthier." Wise readers will certainly consult their physicians about the potential side effects of these steroids. Apparently, they also make you spiteful, delusional, petty, shallow, shortsighted and ungrateful.

Allen Barra is the author of Clearing the Bases: The Greatest Baseball Debates of the Last Century.