If there is anybody who has the right to take a victory lap amidst all of steroid discussion that’s overtaken baseball, it’s Jose Canseco. Canseco’s first book,Juiced
, was his story of using steroids to make himself a better player. His story of spreading the joys of steroids about major league baseball like some demented Johnny Appleseed. His story of injecting various other major leaguers with steroids: Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro. His story of how a majority of big league players were juicing, and how the owners knew of the juicing and encouraged it because it was good for the game. And inJuiced
, he implied Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens took steroids, and that George W. Bush was aware of the steroid culture of the Texas Rangers.
Canseco was vilified when Juiced was released. Then came the BALCO investigation that nailed Bonds and Giambi. And a visit to Congress where Mark McGwire refused to speak of the past, where Sammy Sosa forgot how to speak English, where Rafael Palmeiro shook his finger and angrily denounced Canseco and stated that he had never taken steroids. And then months later came Palmeiro’s failed drug test, which proved he had, indeed, taken steroids. Then last winter there was the Mitchell Report.
This is the world of Jose Canseco’s latest book, Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball. This should be the book of a man soaking up the acclaim of the world, a man taking a victory lap saying he told us so.
But Vindicated is the work of someone looking to settle scores. It’s the work of a man full of rage. It’s angry. It’s sloppy. And often, it doesn’t make sense.
Canseco spends the first part of the book detailing how nefarious forces ganged up to prevent Roger Clemens from being implicated in Juiced. He talks of Clemens being cut from the book and no one being able to tell him why Clemens was dropped from the book. And he tells us of an interview with Mike Wallace in which he implicated Roger Clemens, only to watch 60 Minutes and see that all discussion of Clemens was edited from the interview (by the way, Canseco implies that Mike Wallace is taking steroids and HGH). This conspiracy about Roger Clemens, Canseco claims, goes all of the way to the White House where the son of Clemens’s good friend George H.W. Bush acted to have the pitcher removed from the book.
There’s just one problem: Roger Clemens is in Juiced. And the implications that Clemens took steroids are in Juiced. I can’t speak to the 60 Minutes interview, but I’ve got a copy of Juiced, and Clemens is in it. Not as prominently as McGwire, but the implications are still there.
So I’m confused. I don’t understand what Canseco is talking about. It’s entirely possible that he had much more on Clemens he wanted in Juiced, but that much of it was cut out. But that’s not how it reads in Vindicated. It reads as if every mention of Clemens was dropped from the book. And that’s just wrong.
But here’s where it gets better. When he’s not talking about the conspirators cutting Clemens from his book, Canseco’s telling us that Clemens used steroids. Until the Mitchell Report comes out. And Roger calls him. And Roger asks for help. And Roger flies him to Houston and picks him up at the airport and they meet with Rusty Hardin and Canseco’s not sure anymore so he signs an affidavit stating that he never saw Clemens take steroids and they never talked about steroids and he’s got no proof that Clemens took steroids.
Does that mean Canseco is now part of the conspiracy to protect Clemens? It must not, because Canseco watches Clemens testify before Congress and suddenly he’s sure that Clemens took steroids.
But there are two other players prominently mentioned in Vindicated: Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. Canseco tells us he kept them from the first book because he didn’t feel compelled to rat out everybody. But since George Mitchell and Major League Baseball have continued to ignore him, all gloves are off. So he’s out for a killing.
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According to Canseco, if Ordonez would have just returned his phone calls, Ordonez would not have been named in this book, even though Canseco did inject Ordonez with steroids. But Canseco thought they were friends. He thought he could confide in Ordonez, and Ordonez blew him off, and because Ordonez blew him off, Canseco no longer feels the need to protect him. (It should also be pointed out that there are claims that Canseco tried to blackmail Ordonez, claims which Canseco denies in the book.)
As for Alex Rodriguez, well, Canseco names him because Rodriguez supposedly had the hots for Canseco’s wife. Never mind that Canseco has no proof that Rodriguez was trying to steal his wife, Canseco thinks he did, so there’s no need to protect him. Now Canseco never injected Rodriguez. And he never got steroids for Rodriguez. He did introduce Rodriguez to a trainer named “Max” and this trainer worked with steroids. Thus, Rodriguez used steroids. (It needs to be noted that a man claiming to be Max has gone public and stated that Canseco is lying about this. Specifically, "Max" claims to be anti-steroids, and he states that Alex Rodriguez never took steroids while they were working together.)
And to convince us he’s telling the truth, Canseco includes the transcripts of various lie detector tests he’s taken. And according to Canseco, these tests prove that he’s telling the truth. Of course, there’s no way to prove these tests are real; there are no test results included; there are no statements from the testers attached to an appendix or anything. There are just these transcripts that Canseco says came from lie detector tests.
But my biggest problem with Vindicated is just that it’s a bad book. Forget the lapses in logic, or the lack of evidence, or the tone of retribution. It’s just a poorly written book with tons of filler. About how he rides motorcycles after appearing on The Surreal Life. Or the reprinting of his Congressional testimony. Or about how he loves baseball. I read the book wondering what happened to the editor, because I’ll take an illogical book with no evidence as long as it’s well-written, tight and to the point. And that, ultimately, is where Vindicated fails. -- John Royal