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Thomas Boswell

Canseco Is Easy to Read, Hard to Believe

By Thomas Boswell
Tuesday, February 8, 2005; Page D01

Luckily for baseball, nobody has ever believed Jose Canseco's word on steroids. So they probably won't start now.

If any other famous player of recent times were about to publish a tell-all book, the game might be shaking. But Canseco is a special case. The former slugger lied for years about his own steroid use, so why would we suddenly believe he's telling the truth when he smears Mark McGwire, Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez with accusations of being juiced?


Former Athletics and Rangers outfielder Jose Canseco, a former MVP, admittedly used steroids. (Jeff Topping -- Reuters)

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Down on his luck, needing a buck, Canseco has reportedly ratted out old teammates, according to a story in the New York Daily News containing details of the soon-to-be published book. Whether the claims are true or not, Canseco's motives are so tainted that his charges are doubly suspect. In a court of law, his testimony would be wildly inadmissible. But even in our current slipshod court of public opinion, he may find that his scattershot charges may be mocked.

When you sell your baseball memorabilia online, as Canseco has, people have a right to wonder what you'll say to repair your personal balance sheet. When he was under house arrest, Canseco even got fans to pay to Spend a Day With Jose. Thus, in recent years, the former MVP virtually redefined the phrase "consider the source." Otherwise, this might rival BALCO.

According to the Daily News account, Canseco will claim that he personally injected Mark McGwire with steroids. In the buttocks. In a bathroom stall. In Oakland. In the clubhouse. Thanks, Jose. It's the details that make it art.

He's also going to brag that he introduced Rodriguez, Palmeiro and Gonzalez to steroids when they were all Texas Rangers. So, in one book, Canseco could keep five people out of the Hall of Fame, counting himself, because he'll never make it now.

Finally, just to tag every base, something he occasionally forgot as a player, Canseco claims that the owner of the Rangers in those early-90s days "had to have been aware" of the rampant steroid use on his team. That, of course, would be President Bush, who preached against steroids in sports in the 2004 State of the Union address.

This last cheap shot is particularly preposterous, even for Canseco. Few owners a decade ago knew or cared how their players acquired their muscles. Then and now, such things usually fell under the purview of general managers, not owners.

Canseco was always a wild swinger. But this time he may have missed on at least one of his prime targets: Palmeiro, a player with normal musculature but a classic swing whom few in the game think is a steroid user.

"I categorically deny any assertion made by Jose Canseco," said the Orioles' Palmeiro in a statement yesterday. "At no point in my career have I ever used steroids. . . . As I have never had a personal relationship with Canseco, any suggestion that he taught me anything, about steroid use or otherwise, is ludicrous."

In baseball, when it's your word against Canseco's, they invoke the forfeit rule.

In Palmeiro's case, Jose may have gone a bridge too far. When you start accusing 500-home-run hitters, you better be right about all of them or the whole bunch slip through the net. If Canseco's book -- the crisply titled "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big" -- is ever published, don't bet on seeing Raffy's name in it.

Canseco has gotten some rotten breaks in recent years. But he hit the jackpot this time. He's now got Peter Angelos, not a homing device, attached to his ankle. The Orioles owner issued a statement yesterday that he was willing to offer any legal assistance that Palmeiro would need to clear his name. Memo to Regan Books: "Sweetheart, get me rewrite."

The way Canseco's luck has been running, he'll be lucky if the book ever hits the shelves, although Barry Bonds alone ought to constitute a micro-market. Imagine the holiday gift potential in a steroid scandal opus in which he, apparently, isn't mentioned.


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