his first book --- JUICED: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids, Smash
Hits, and How Baseball Got Big --- was published in 2005, Jose
Canseco received the same enmity as Jim Bouton a generation
Bouton, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots and
Houston Astros (with a brief comeback attempt for the Atlanta
Braves) in the ’60s and ’70s, wrote BALL FOUR, which
ushered in a new era of sports book. Out was the “heroes on a
white horse” paean; in was the tell-all, behind-the-scenes
Canseco, a powerfully built slugger for the Oakland Athletics and
several other teams, proudly came forward to admit that he had used
steroids to help further his career. Not that he condoned such
activity, mind you, even though he said repeatedly how much he
loved what they did for him physically and psychologically and how
he instructed others in their usage. In fact, Canseco spends a good
deal of print contradicting himself. Of course, he should be
excused because everything he did, he did to make good on a promise
to his poor old mother to “be the best.”
He portrayed himself as the voice of truth and reason, and bemoaned
the fact that no one would believe him and that his noble
intentions got him blackballed from the game. It couldn’t
possibly be that the fact his skills had eroded was the reason he
could no longer find employment. But, as the saying goes, just
because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not
trying to get you.
Although JUICED was considered just a cut above The National
Enquirer for integrity and reliability, it actually did open
the consciousness about performance-enhancing drugs, and for that
he deserves some credit, as much as readers, fellow players, sports
journalists and baseball executives are loathe to admit it.
Unfortunately, Canseco wasn’t content to leave it at
In VINDICATED: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save
Baseball, he feels compelled to give his critics a great big
“I told you so,” taking the credit for blowing the
whistle on an issue that the owners and Players Association ignored
in order to bring in more fans, appreciative of the mammoth home
runs hit by such musclemen as Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. But
even a stopped watch is right twice a day. Canseco wants thanks for
following his conscience and taking on the Herculean (or is it
Cassandran) task of single-handedly trying to “save
baseball,” as he indicates in his subtitle.
The book was put together hastily following the December 2007
Mitchell Report that named scores of players suspected of
“using,” names Canseco said he didn’t need to
reveal in his first go-around, although he claimed that 80 percent
of players were imbibing.
In some cases, Canseco (most likely at his lawyers’ urgings)
does not actually come out and accuse players. Rather he lists
their statistics “before and after,” implying that
drugs were the reason. As further “evidence,” he
includes a photo gallery of several players early in their careers
and more recently. See the changes in their bodies? How else can
you explain their new buff looks? How could they not be
One name he does mention, with particular venom, is New York
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Canseco devotes several pages
to explaining why he didn’t name “A-Rod” in
JUICED, despite stating that the perennial all-star was constantly
pestering him with questions and asking to be put in touch with the
proper people. The reason? Because Canseco hated him for trying to
steal his wife. It seems to me that if he hated him that much, he
would have pointed the finger as soon as he had the chance. This is
just another example of the inconsistencies in VINDICATED.
Many critics have accused Canseco of not having anything new to
say, that he was just trying to make some additional coin off the
Mitchell Report and subsequent Congressional hearings in March. The
construction of the book seems to concur. To flesh it out, he
includes the lengthy statistical appendix as well as partial
transcripts from his hearing testimony and lie detector tests,
which, as anyone who has ever watched an episode of “Law
& Order” will tell you, proves nothing conclusively. He
finishes up with a chapter revealing a typical “day in the
life” now that he is out of baseball.
Canseco had a difficult time bringing his latest project to press.
First there was trouble finding a publisher, then his original
ghostwriter dropped out. Pablo Fenjves, who took on the assignment
at the last minute, is nowhere to be found on the cover, blurb, or
title or copyright pages; he is mentioned in the acknowledgments,
though without explanation of his participation --- just another
name in a list.
Canseco claims that everything he did was for the love of the game.
Maybe he really believes that. It’s hard to tell because he
comes across as so phony.
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan (RonKaplanNJ@comcast.net) on January 24, 2011