Baseball deserves better than this. With spring training beginning this week, coming off perhaps the greatest playoffs in the sport?s history, all the talk is about a former player and his allegations of steroid use. Jose Canseco was a circus freak during his playing days, a man so bulky that it was always surprising when he could extend his arms far enough to get the bat head over the plate. There?s no denying his incredible talent ? during his early days with Oakland, he was the best player in the game. But he became more famous for his idiotic antics ? bouncing a fly ball off his head and over the fence for a home run, for example ? than for his batting accomplishments.
But Canseco?s latest antics are no joke. According to press accounts about his new book, ?Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ?Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big,? Canseco alleges that he personally injected former home run king and teammate Mark McGwire with steroids, and states that he used steroids with Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, and Juan Gonzalez. Palmeiro and Rodriguez are surefire Hall-of-Famers for their statistics. Canseco also mentions Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada, and Bret Boone.
The question on everyone?s lips: is Canseco believable? In a word, yes. Anyone who doesn?t believe that McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds were on the juice is living on a different planet. Just look at old pictures of these players. Bonds used to be a string-bean ? now he looks like he could play linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. His head has changed shape and size dramatically. Sosa, too, went from beanpole to bulky behemoth. McGwire was always large, but he played with Canseco early in his career.
It isn?t just the major players, either. Remember Brady Anderson, formerly of the Baltimore Orioles? In 1996, he hit 50 home runs while looking like a mini-Schwarzenegger. The year before, he hit 16 home runs. The year after, he hit 18. Is that a coincidence?