Canseco spins tall tales about his abilities
Dave Solomon May 09, 2001
I wonder if Jose Canseco can hear himself talk. I bring this up because Canseco, the larger-than-life Newark Bear, was spitting out conspiracies like they were sunflower seeds Tuesday during the Bridgeport Bluefish 9-8 victory over the Newark Bears in their home opener at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard.
Did you know that Major League Baseball has a nefarious plot to prevent him from hitting 50-plus home runs this year, stealing 40 bases and patrolling left field like Barry Bonds? Never mind the fact that major-league owners canít agree on what vowel is used to spell Vanna; yet theyíve bonded like stickem ó supposedly at the urging of the Anaheim Angels ó to make sure that Canseco doesnít reach 500 career home runs.
You ask why? Yours is not to question why.
Jose said so. Thatís why.
I donít know if Canseco, 36, has anything left, nor do I know he does not. But if Canseco was half the player he thinks he still is, heíd be in a major-league lineup every day ó and at a bargain price, relative to what some of the superstars of baseball are making.
Canseco, the 1988 American League Most Valuable Player, who once made as much as $5 million in a season, is playing with the Bears for $6,000 a month ó which includes the $3,000 maximum salary, plus an additional sum pooled together by the rest of the clubs in the league. Because of his star power, Canseco is the first player the league has ever collectively bought.
But Canseco said the money is irrelevant ... heíd play for free. He just wants his dignity back and to expose the hooligans who have stolen his chance at immortality. No Hall of Fame eligible player with at least 500 career home runs has failed to be inducted. Right now, heís stuck on 446.
I love a good mystery, but Holy Hercule Poirot, how do you solve a mystery that exists only in oneís mind?
"The rumors have been spread that Iím damaged, and weíre doing an investigation on that," said Canseco, the six-time All-Star who was 0 for 2 (he also reached on an error and walked twice) ó and is now 2 for 12 in four games with the Bears. "It probably started with the Angels (the team he was with in spring training). If I am being blackballed, Iíd like to know why."
How should we put this? Thereís more evidence of a second shooter from the Grassy Knoll in Dallas than the fact the Angels are telling tales out of school.
"I donít think anyoneís ever questioned my ability ... ever. Not even close," Canseco said. "Iím only 36, a very young 36 with a lot of great years in me. Players nowadays have contracts until theyíre 42-43 years old. Obviously, the 500 home runs ... I have to reach that. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Thatís something that can be grasped easily, but it canít be done from down here."
Canseco said if it takes the whole season with Newark to prove how good he still is, heís ready to do it. But itís inconceivable in his mind that some major-league team wouldnít want "a guy that can hit 50 home runs, who can drive in 130, who can steal 40 bases, who can play outfield for you," he said.
Never mind the fine print that heís never hit 50 home runs (46 in 1998 is his best), never hit 130 RBIs (122 in 1991 is his best), stole 40 bases only once in his career, 1988) and plays outfield like a designated hitter, the point is well taken that he was once a great player.
But since being traded by the Oakland Aís in 1992, Canseco has been with Texas, Boston, back with Oakland, Toronto, Tampa Bay and with the Yankees for 37 games last season. Does that sound like the same franchise player Canseco still envisions of himself?
If he still thinks he can play at the major-league level, thatís fine, and thatís what the Atlantic League is all about. But some of the stuff coming out of the mouth of this 6-foot-4, 240-pound giant made him seem so small. He couldnít possibly have listened to himself when he said he runs a 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, which is faster than Jerry Rice ever did and is in Deion Sandersí league.
"Iím probably the fastest guy my size in the major leagues, and Iíll challenge anyone," Canseco said. "Itís impossible (to be faster at that size). Even guys who are 230 and 220. Even 210. Itís not possible."
Canseco was presented with the growing perception that his bat speed has slowed to the point he canít get around on a fastball like he once did.
"That rumor is just ridiculous and easily disproven," Canseco said. "Letís do a bat-speed test."
I felt like running to my car to get my combination car jack/universal bat-speed tester, but I was concerned that the conversation would take a turn to his former flame Madonna. I stayed to listen.
Now those would have been stories worth the price of exaggeration.
The others were kind of sad.