Jose Canseco says he won't be reporting early to camp, but he does have an excuse -- he's a cartoon.
Same goes for Darryl Strawberry, Ozzie Smith, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Scioscia, Steve Sax, Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs. The cartoon part, that is.
The major-leaguers are part of tonight's episode of "The Simpsons" (channels 45, 5 at 8) called "Homer At The Bat." They lent their voices to the show, in which they have been Simpson-ized into cartoon form. (Smith and Strawberry seem to have survived their re-animation the best.)
It's softball season for Homer and the gang at the nuclear plant, and, despite Homer's impressive hitting -- he's fashioned a bat from a lightning-struck tree branch (hmm, that sounds familiar) -- ringers are brought in for a big game.
In one of those meetings that makes you proud to own a television, Homer Simpson introduces himself to Strawberry. Homer, sizing up his chances to retain his starting job in right field, asks Strawberry: "You're better than me, aren't you?" Strawberry replies: "Well, I've never met you, but. . . . Yeah."
The Simpson children, Bart and Lisa, don't let Strawberry off easily when he takes Homer's spot, taunting him with a "Dar-ryl, Dar-ryl" chant.
That's about the only piece of baseball reality that enters the program, unless you count the bit in which Mattingly is forced to get a haircut. Can you imagine something like that really happening?
Actually, Canseco might like life as a cartoon. He maintains a clean driving record throughout the half-hour program, doesn't make a pass at Marge and even helps a woman by rescuing a succession of items from a burning house.
The show ends with a redone version of Terry Cashman's "Talkin' Baseball," with Cashman singing "Talkin' Softball." His song neatly summarizes the plot. Not to give away too much, but here's a sample verse:
We're talkin' softball
From Maine to San Diego.
Mattingly to Canseco.
Ken Griffey's grotesquely swollen jaw,
Steve Sax and his run-ins with the law.
We're talkin' Homer, Ozzie and the Straw.
Hey, it's baseball season; pass the doughnuts.