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Loco en la Canseco
2003-05-08 11:26
by Mike Carminati

Apparently, as Fox Mulder asserted on The X Files, the truth is out there.

But speaking of "out there", Jose Canseco now claims that he was blackballed by the sport that gave Steve Howe, George Steinbrenner, and Darryl Strawberry more chances than a church raffle. Canseco reported the news in an interview that he and Harvey, his invisible six-foot rabbit buddy, gave with ESPN. Let's listen in; shall we?:

"Three years ago, I had a few players come up to me and say that I was being blackballed," Canseco said. "One of the players to tell me that I was being blackballed, to me, is the greatest player in the world, Alex Rodriguez. All the athletes know why I am out of the game, it's an internal thing, it's kept in the family."

Deep Throat, X, The Cigarette Smoking Man, The Lone Gunman, and A-Rod. So what does Mr. Rod have to say about this:

"I don't remember that. I really don't. I don't recall that. I just wish him the best," Rodriguez said before the Rangers' game against Toronto.

When asked if Canseco was blackballed by baseball, Rodriguez responded, "I have no idea. I haven't really thought about it."

Of course! No one is thinking about it, except Canseco who apparently has nothing else to do but sell off his worldly possessions (as well as his personal time) and dream up conspiracy theories.

It must be eating away at Canseco. He hit 34 home runs as a D-Ray All-Star in 1999 (one of two with Roberto Hernandez). On July 4, 1999, he had just turned 35 (on the 2nd), he hit his 30th dinger of the season, and he stood 73 away from 500 for his career. He had hit 76 home runs in the previous year and one-half.

But after that, Canseco collected only four more homers in the (again) injury-plagued year. He continued to get injured and witnessed his power numbers slide in 2000. So Tampa traded him in August to, inexplicably, the Yankees (Canseco's .450 slugging average with the Rays in 2000 was the lowest to that point in his career). The Yankees used him sparingly and he underperformed.

In 2001, he was released in training camp by the Angels and spent a half-season with the independent Newark Bears along with brother and fellow felon Ozzie. He was eventually signed by the White Sox, and he put up decent power number with them (16 HRs in 256 ABs, .773 OPS which was 18% better than the park-adjusted league average).

But in 2002 the Sox were getting younger not older. Besides Frank Thomas was returning from injury. So Jose was in the unemployment line again. Montreal brought him to spring training, which is odd since he had not played more than a handful of games in the field in three seasons. Canseco was bidding to become the 'Spos' everyday left fielder (another great Omar Minaya move). Montreal went the safer route and kept Troy O'Leary instead. Canseco hit .200 but slugged .514 with 3 home runs in 35 spring at-bats. They offered him a job in Triple-A, but Canseco refused the assignment and was released. He signed with Charlotte, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate on April 18, but hit only .179, and retired May 13.

Canseco is now 38 home runs away from 500 for his career.

How had he been blackballed? Since 2000 he had been in five major league organizations (Tampa Bay, the Yankees, the White Sox twice, the Angels, and the Expos). He lost a number of jobs but was (almost) always offered another. And he was the one who terminated the relationship finally.

Besides, he cannot play the field, which he demonstrated in trying out with the Expos, so he would be limited to the 14 AL clubs. He is often injured. He is particular about playing in the majors so that he can get his 500 HRs. He is ungrateful-he called his time in Newark a "nightmare". His age and his low numbers in spring and in the minors in 2002 were enough reason to ignore him.

Could he have still performed reasonably well as a DH for some club? Probably, but, as Rickey Henderson is finding out this season, if you burn all your bridges, you had better give someone a compelling reason to give you a chance. He didn't.

So Jose's trouble are not in the stars but in himself. He was not blackballed. He marginalized himself. If Canseco had hit .350 with a bunch of homers in the Expos 2002 camp, he probably would have been their left fielder and may have hit 500 home runs. But he got injured and didn't perform, plain and simple.

Canseco seems unable to deal with that and has had a personal life that has been a nightmare ever since he retired. I can't wait for his book to come out though-I love fiction.

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