Canseco May Be A Hypocrite, But He’s No Liar

By David Aldridge
Updated: July 8, 2006

“I always wonder why it is, in court, if a woman’s a prostitute, she has to have bad eyesight.”

-Kevin Costner as attorney Jim Garrison in JFK, 1992 PHILADELPHIA — Here comes Jose Canseco again – admitted steroid user, serial abuser of ex-wives and strangers in bars, Surreal Life cast member – gabbing again this week, from someplace called the Golden Baseball League.

Again, the topic is steroids; again, Canseco is hawking a new tell-all book – and, this time, a movie – that promises to name more names.

This time, we’d be fools not to listen.

Not so much to his claims this week that Major League Baseball is akin to the Mafia in how it will protect star players who may test positive for drugs. No, with Canseco, it’s all about the names.

Last year, Canseco named Mark McGwire as a steroid user. McGwire denied the allegations in statement after statement.

Until, when under oath in front of the House Government Reform Committee investigating steroids in sports last year, McGwire tap-danced around every steroid question like a 6-foot-5, 250-pound Fred Astaire.

Canseco named Rafael Palmeiro, who wagged that now-infamous finger at the committee in March 2005, denying he used steroids.

Until he was, um, caught last August using steroids.

Canseco named others who have issued similar denials. They have apparently tested clean since then, which means that either Canseco was lying about them or they’ve moved on to better drugs.

If he was lying, where are the lawsuits – from them, from Palmeiro, from McGwire?

Canseco claimed both in his first book and in a 60 Minutes interview that while in Oakland, he injected then-teammate McGwire in the butt with steroids, in a bathroom stall, in the locker room, on more than one occasion – a twisted version of Clue, if you will.

There’s no gray area here. This either happened, or it didn’t. And if it didn’t, certainly McGwire would be a fool not to sue the pants off his former teammate for slandering his good name on national television and for libel for making false, defamatory claims in print.

It’s been more than a year. We’re drowning in McGwire’s silence.

Canseco is the Elia Kazan of baseball, telling you at the top of his lungs who did what, and when, and how much. Kazan, the acclaimed director of classic movies such as On The Waterfront, admitted in 1952 before the House Un-American Activities Committee that he was a member of the Communist Party, and gave up the names of others that were members of left-leaning political groups in order to save himself.

For that, Kazan was never forgiven by some in the Hollywood community – even more than four decades later, when he received a lifetime achievement Academy Award in 1999, many actors sat on their hands during the ceremony and refused to applaud.

Canseco has gotten much the same treatment from baseball.

But that doesn’t mean he’s a liar.

A self-absorbed money-grubber and a hypocrite? Yes. But not a liar.

“I don’t think Major League Baseball is enthused about finding out the truth,” Canseco said on Monday, before his one-game stint with the San Diego Surf Dawgs; he was traded to the Long Beach Armada on Wednesday so he could be closer to his daughter this summer.

Ratting is distasteful, to be sure, and it violates one of the sacred canons of the locker room: thou shalt not tell on teammates about anything. About drugs, about women, about corked bats, about flatulence jokes.

But this is about breaking the law: Taking unprescribed performance-enhancing drugs didn’t just violate baseball’s rules, it was a crime as of 1990, when the Anabolic Steroid Control Act was enacted by Congress.

In the spring of 2005, when Canseco was hawking Juiced, his first tale of cheating and not getting caught, Major League Baseball was quick to dismiss his tales as those of a disgruntled former employee out for a buck.

But soon after – and in the face of those congressional hearings brought about, in no small part, because of Canseco’s book – baseball finally got serious about toughening its steroids policy. Now baseball has its own Mitchell Committee looking into steroid use (and surely hoping that the committee’s work begins and ends with one Barry Lamar Bonds).

And baseball has since suspended 14 major- and minor-leaguers – including current Phillies pitcher Ryan Franklin, then in Seattle, and former Phillie Jason Grimsley, then in Arizona. Grimsley got 50 games from MLB last month after federal agents searched his home looking for human growth hormone.

But the names still come out in dribs and drabs. While Canseco promises to open up another hydrant full of the guilty.

It may repulse you, but perhaps we should hand the man a wrench, hold our nose and get on with the unpleasant work.