Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jose Canseco's a Canary but it's true, es verdad

Every time I see or hear Roger Clemens I think Jose Canseco isn't that bad of a guy. Hey, I never thought Barry Bonds was as bad as the media made him out to be and after reading Juiced, I feel the same about Canseco, even if he is a bit of a canary.

I will be using excerpts from Jose's first book (Juiced) as a reference since he is largely recognized as the Godfather of Steroids, used properly, I might add.

When one thinks of William Roger Clemens "Rocket," they may reflect on the 7 Cy Young Awards or the 7 times he lead the league in ERA (six in AL, one in NL) but I remember a guy who was frightened of Oakland A's right-hander, and leader of the pitching staff, Dave Stewart. How during that time it appeared that Clemens' reign on the mound was about to descend. No longer would "Rocket" dominate the way he once had.

As referred to often in Juiced, the mind is a very powerful thing; if you convince yourself that you're a great player, and you have basic ability, you're going to be a great player. Nobody has this power of positive down pat any better than Rocket.

There are some players who are protected by the system, and other players who the system abuses and takes advantage of, hanging them out to dry and turning them into scapegoats. It's disgusting the way baseball really works sometimes. Well, Roger Clemens, who made it a point to let umpires know where the good golf clubs were and and saw to it that the umpires had only the finest conditions taken care of that you might say he was one of the good ole boys in baseball for whom the powers that be protected.

From Jose's perspective, it wasn't all bad when the subject was about Rocket. Jose did say that Roger was one of the few players who never cheated on his wife. Maybe if it wasn't so easy for ballplayers, a large percentage, say 60%, of the ballplayers wouldn't cheat at all. It's just made so easy. Men= egos and libidos and those are a couple of forces hard to combat. So for Clemens to be faithful was all the more impressive.

Even though we think we've been provided with all of the information needed on the subject we must be flexible enough in our understanding of how things seem to be to accept that some reporters make stuff up. It's sort of the Enquirer mindset, where the story lines are a mixture of familiar names tied in with several confabulations that make it all sound right.

Jose claims he was created by the media. Most of them were happy to present Jose as a caricature and a clown, partly because it was what their editors wanted. And it sold papers.

A column written by Thomas Boswell, of the Washington Post, in 1988, never explained why he was singling out Jose and saying nothing about Mark McGwire, even though Mac was bigger... It was twelve (12) years after Boswell called Jose Canseco a steroid user before anyone made any serious claims in print about McGwire and steroids.

Boswell cost Canseco a million dollar endorsement with Pepsi. Others went with it.

Jose learned too late in his career about the importance of the media, not only when it came to endorsements but also when it came to negotiating a long-term contract. When you're working on building a serious long-term commitment with a team, you've got to be extremely careful about how you treat the media.

Per Jose: More reporters need to stop for a minute and keep in mind that baseball players, are just human beings. Different individuals are always going to have different opinions from day to day, or even hour to hour. At some point, you're going to say something you shouldn't have said, and then you get jumped on. I don't think you can really judge an individual on one instance. You have to know them over the course of a few years and watch how they act under different circumstances.

Reporters are always talking about objectivity and fairness, who are they kidding? 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.

Truth is, too many reporters and analysts don't do the homework to know what they are talking about.
(Seeing as how Jose was a player, you could say someone on the inside looking out, how can I not believe him? It's something we all have had to come to grips with because fact is there are people who play favorites and there is no getting around that fact.)

Per Jose continued... The public may assume everything they read but half the time the reporters or journalists don't do their homework. Way too often, they're basically misquoting an athlete or relying too much on opinion and emotion.

This leads me to ask a couple of questions. (1) When was it established that those elected into the Hall of Fame would be elected by writers? and (2) Why was it decided that writers would be the ones to vote?

I looked up on Wikipedia and it really doesn't say why writers were given the privilege of voting players, umpires and broadcasters into the Hall of Fame. Only that the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), or the Veterans Committee could vote someone in. And you had to be a writer who was a member of the BBWAA for at least ten (10) years. I'll do some more digging.

Upon looking at what happened in 1936 only tells me that the BBWAA was given the authority to select 15 individuals from the 20th century and 5 from the 19th century. Voters were given free rein to decide for themselves in which group a candidate belonged, with neither group knowing the outcome of the other election.

So my two questions shall remain a mystery which is the preference of Major League Baseball.

Jose's 17 year major league career had led him to the conclusion that when a reporter/journalist uses his/her own opinion, s/he is slipping into a danger zone. (To Jose) the mark of a good reporter is not confusing one's own emotional feelings toward an athlete-or towards a race, color or creed-with the facts.

If a reporter is a racist and s/he gets free rein, they can destroy an athlete. Why doesn't someone question the ethics of writers based on their consistently prejudiced writing? Some writers don't think enough to protect themselves because that part of them that doesn't care (due to their being racist) that it leaves them exposed to blatant one-sided criticisms.

The media is notorious for misquoting individuals, especially if there's no way they think they need to get interviews because they are of the belief that their imaginations are better than the real thing. (Suppose because they are of questionable ethics they CANNOT get interviews, so they have to have an active imagination?)

Finally, per Jose...the public has to realize that the good guys in baseball aren't as perfect as the media makes them out to be - and that the bad guys aren't as bad, either.

Truth is always somewhere in between. With some writers, what they choose to write about is left to the public to make a choice about what they (the public) believe. Because the writer isn't reporting the facts accurately it's all speculation.

Some of Jose's comparisons are a bit far-fetched but you can see why he makes them.
If you're an editor at a newspaper, and you can get a souped-up computer that's faster, more reliable, and can do things the old one couldn't, of course, you're going to want that upgrade. It's the same thing for an athlete: Upgrading your physical capability is central to success in your chosen field.
The performance enhancement that can come with responsible steroid use is nothing to be dismissed. It's an opportunity, not a danger. And those who are trying to make an issue of it are speaking from ignorance.

A couple more things from the book Juiced I wanted to mention. For any other things you may have wanted to know, you can check out the book at your local library.

In the late 1980s Jose remembers a game when Drew Coble was umpiring behind the plate. On the mound for the visiting Detroit Tiger was veteran lefty, Frank Tanana. While Canseco was batting Tanana let loose with one of those big sweeping breaking balls, and it went completely around the plate. Never touched it. But Coble called it a strike. Canseco couldn't believe it.
"Drew, wasn't that pitch outside?" he asked the ump.
He paused a minute and then looked at Canseco like he should have known better than to ask.
"Son," he said. "That's a Hall of Fame pitch. A Hall of Fame pitch." In other words, he was telling Canseco that Frank Tanana was going to the Hall of Fame, and he was going to get calls like that every time, no matter how obvious it was that Canseco's questioning had validity.

So to review, in a nutshell, per Jose: Every player has been on the wrong end of an umpire's revenge. They're a tight-knit group; They demand respect, and they can make or break you on the field, the same way the media can with the public.

Finally, when I read this I put a notation on the side of my notes simply as C'mon Jose.
Jose believes the Sammy Sosa corked-bat controversy was just another instance of playing favorites. If it had been a different player, he guarantees that the umpire would have covered it up. Because umps cover that sort of thing up all the time, IF they like the player.

If Jose leaves his feelings on Sammy Sosa out of the book his book is 100% accurate and believable. But because he thinks the Sammy "I use my practice bat to hit homers for the fans in batting practice and must've forgot" incident was made into an international story because Sammy wasn't an untouchable, of Cal Ripken proportions, it makes me wonder if Jose Canseco isn't just Jose Canary and the book comes out just like the National Enquirer, with all of its confabulations.

Kevin Marquez