With `Juiced' book, sour Canseco squeezes all he can from limelight

February 13, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

IT WAS ABOUT a year ago that news spread through the Grapefruit League that over-the-hill slugger Jose Canseco had been invited to work out for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Of course, I dropped everything I was doing (sleeping in and the breakfast buffet at Shoney's, if I recall correctly) and sped to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., to see if Jose had any game left.

Canseco showed up, agent in tow, to take part in the team's annual public workout, where he joked around with the other 50-or-so major league wannabes and proved that he could no longer throw a baseball more than about 80 feet.

Clearly, there was something wrong with this picture, so I asked a Dodgers official why the club had extended an invitation to Canseco, who had about as much business in a major league training camp that day as I have in a health food store.

Though I don't remember the exact response, the guy basically said that he didn't know who invited Jose and sent me to one of the scouts running the workout, which sparked a brief investigation similar to the one I performed last August when I was trying to determine who was "The Man" in the Ravens' organization.

Everyone I asked referred me to someone else, until a high-ranking front office official finally admitted under intense questioning (which was occasionally interrupted by giggling) that the Dodgers had not invited Canseco at all. He had invited himself.

I thought it was sad, until it became apparent why Jose was really there. That was the first stop on a pre-publication book tour that would eventually lead us to another tawdry juncture in baseball history.

Canseco had been threatening for nearly two years to write a tell-all steroids book that would knock the cover off of Major League Baseball. He didn't name any names at the workout, but he already had admitted in 2002 to using steroids during his 17-year major league career. The only thing left to do was make a few bucks ratting out his friends and former teammates.

So far, all we've read are leaked excerpts and revelations from the book, which is titled Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, but I'm still trying to shake the mental picture of Jose and Mark McGwire playing Anabolic Twister in a bathroom stall at the Oakland Coliseum. That would be way too much information even if it were true.

Jose also reportedly claims that President George W. Bush had to know that his players were using steroids in the Texas Rangers' locker room when he was a part owner of the team. That's hard to argue, since lots of millionaire baseball owners hang around in restroom stalls with their star players.

The book will be released tomorrow, right after Jose appears tonight on 60 Minutes. It wouldn't surprise me if he tells Mike Wallace that he also was with President Bush when he skipped out on his National Guard commitment in the early 1970s. Be sure and tune in.

The truly sad thing about all this is that baseball does have a steroid problem - as evidenced by the 5 to 7 percent of players who tested positive in the first round of steroid screening a couple of years ago. There is little doubt that Canseco used to be right in the middle of it - which will add a ring of truth to even his wildest charges for many disillusioned baseball fans.

Nobody really knows what to believe, and Canseco is taking full advantage of that. It's pretty obvious that he was highly motivated to squeeze every last drop of scandal out of the steroid issue, even a few that stretch the limits of credibility.

He even claims he was known around baseball as "The Chemist." (Yeah, and Paris Hilton is known around the L.A. party scene as "The Church Lady.") Don't know about you, but I just can't envision Canseco holding his own in an intense conversation with Brian Billick about the Periodic Table of Elements.

I will concede that during his career, Canseco was considered a bad chemistry guy in the clubhouse, but that's about as far as it goes.

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