Where have you gone, Jose Canseco?

I miss Jose Canseco, don’t you?

There was Madonna, the ball bouncing off his head into the stands for a homer (for which he received an offer from a soccer team), and that time he pitched against the Red Sox and ended up tearing a tendon in his elbow. Oh, and there were domestic violence charges against him, too.

But don’t deny you were enthralled by the on-field exploits, too, belting 33 taters in his rookie-of-the-year full first season, becoming the first 40-40 man (stealing 40 bases and hitting 40 HRs in the same year) in baseball history, winning the ’88 MVP, playing an integral part of the powerful A’s team of the late ‘80s…

He also wrote a tell-all, in which he candidly admitted to taking steroids and accused a number of other prominent major leaguers (McGuire, Giambi, Palmeiro, I-Rod, and Juan Gon) of juicing. And isn’t it funny after all the trashing of Canseco that he’s the only one left with any integrity over steroids? You can’t say that about, oh, McGuire, Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, or Bud Selig, can you?

The latest hijinks comes from the Golden Baseball League’s All-Star game, in which Canseco pitched (giving up four runs in a third of an inning) and won the game’s home run derby, despite playing only seven games in the league. Oh, and he won the home run derby’s $250 prize. Disneyland? Hardly.

“I’m going to take these guys out and get them drunk,” motioning toward his teammates on the South team. “I’m going to buy about 400 gallons of beer.”

It sounds like he’s having a good time.

Essentially, I agree with Michael Chabon on this one, although I find Canseco more amusing than informative:

Like all showboats, Canseco courts the simpler kind of admiration, starting in the mirror each morning. He is slick, he drives too fast, he is nine feet tall and four feet wide and walks with a roosterish swagger. But there has always been something about him, about his style of play, his sense of self-mocking humor, his way of looking at you looking at him, that goes beyond vanity and self-aggrandizement, or being a world-class jerk.

Canseco…is a rogue, a genuine one, and genuine rogues are rare, inside baseball and out. To be a rogue, it’s not enough to flout the law, break promises, shirk responsibilities, cheat. You must also, at least some of the time, and with the same abandon, do your best, play by the rules, keep faith with your creditors and dependents, obey orders, throw out the runner at home plate with a dead strike from deep right field.

Above all you must do these things, just as you other times neglect to do them, for no particular reason, because you feel like it or do not, because nothing matters, and everything’s a joke, and nobody knows anything, and most of all, as Rhett Butler once codified it for rogues everywhere, because you don’t give a damn. One day you make that breathtaking play at the plate from deep right. On another day you decide, for no good reason, to take the mound during the late innings of a laugher and pitch, retiring the side (despite allowing three earned runs on three walks and a pair of singles) — and ruining, forever, that cannon of an arm.

I’ve never seen a man who seems more comfortable with who he is than Jose Canseco. Not with who we think he is, like our current president, or with his best idea of himself, like our president’s predecessor, but with himself: charmer and snake, clown and thoroughbred.

Above all, I see Canseco as the perfect symbol for the 80s and 90s: irreverent, mischievous, hot-headed, entertaining. And yet he’s a harbinger of what was to follow, just like Ken Starr and his Congressional allies predicted the current mean-spirited and incompetent GOP leadership and its disastrous effect on the world.

I’ll take Canseco over Bonds any day. Just as Paul Simon’s line from “Mrs. Robinson” — Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you… — encapsulated a sentimental longing for simpler times, so did the AP story on Canseco’s recent independent league heroics affect me. Those old days seems so far away, don’t they?

  1. Good post. Conseco was old school for sure, except for the steroids. I just hope he doesn’t die of a heart attack next week or something. I was listening to a sports commentary the other day saying that 13 former Pittsburg Steelers had dies at relatively early age since the year 2000. From steroids probably.

  2. Unfortunately, I think steroids were “old school” — that is if you consider the old days to be the 80s and 90s…

  3. I’ve never been a Canseco fan, but this is a great description of him. Now I like him better.

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