February 10, 2005

Jose: An Untrusted Source

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Merriam-Webster’s definition of a whistle-blower is, “one who reveals something covert or who informs against another,” — much like what Jose Canseco did when he wrote in his book that he knew of numerous former and current major leaguers who used steroids. He even went so far as to say that he saw Mark McGwire injected with the drug when the two were teammates in Oakland.

But honestly, Canseco’s act is not all that surprising to me. The guy is one of my mother’s least favorite people in the world because he missed so many charity events which he promised to attend. So already, he’s not doing too hot. But the icing on the cake for me is that he once charged people upwards of $1500 per day just to hang out with him. So accusing prominent figures in baseball of taking steroids doesn’t seem so out of whack for Canseco.

That’s not to say I don’t completely believe what he is saying. I just think he has made many accusations without much proof, other than his own supposed memories. Remember, this is from a guy who’s been nothing short of a bum, and has been arrested on numerous occasions.

So when I heard that Canseco’s book was drawing comparisons to Jim Bouton’s book, Ball Four, I had to — well, write a column about it.

Over winter break, I read Bouton’s chronicle of the 1969 season, in which he describes the day-to-day activities of ballplayers. Because Bouton bounced from the Yankees, to the minors, to the Seattle Pilots (currently the Milwaukee Brewers), and then was traded to the Houston Astros, he came across plenty of players in his time — including names like Mantle, Morgan, Maris, and other household names. Yet, all these prominent players had an image to uphold, and didn’t want that image to be destroyed by an average middle reliever with a pen and notepad in the pocket of his baseball pants.

But Bouton took no regard for feelings. He told things the way they were with his unique sense of humor, which makes the book highly entertaining and extremely funny. In its day, the book was widely criticized because it told of the immoral things the players did, such as taking “greenies” before games (which are pills that help players focus and are still used to this day), cheating on their wives, drinking all night, and his personal favorite, “beaver shooting.” Beaver shooting is when the guys in the bullpen used a device made of a long stick and a mirror to look up girls’ skirts in the stands.

Okay, maybe that was more than you needed to know.

The point to all this is that yes, Bouton blew the whistle on them, but he told the world exactly who they were — 20-30 year old men who had a ton of money, liked to drink and enjoyed mingling with women. Not once did Bouton accuse somebody of taking an illegal substance which has changed the whole landscape of the game.

Of course, baseball’s image took a shot after Bouton’s book came out in 1970, but the issues were not as serious as steroid use. Besides, baseball already has a black cloud over its head now that both Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds — two prolific home run hitters — have admitted that they took steroids — even if they did so unknowingly, which I highly doubt.

The fact of the matter is that, if a player took steroids, it should be up to Major League Baseball and any other proper authorities to find out. The responsibility should not fall on a player who once had a ball bounce off of his head and into the stands for a home run. So don’t believe Canseco’s book, even if it is truthful. And let Ball Four live on as a classic. Okay, before I run out of space, here are a few more things to think about: first, if I were to have either Carlos Beltran or Jim Edmonds to play for my team for just next season, for the exact same amount of money, I’m taking Edmonds no questions asked. Second, the Duke-UNC rivalry is the best rivalry in sports except for Yankees-Red Sox. Third, Norm Chow will win a Super Bowl one day. Lastly, Princeton’s complete collapse Tuesday night against Penn could have cost Cornell a shot at the NCAA tourney. But I’ll rant about that one more in my next column.

Chris Mascaro is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. He May be Tall appears ever other Thursday.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro