In an interview to air this Sunday on A&E, Jose Canseco said he regrets writing his controversial book Juiced, because of the hurt he caused to befall his baseball playing contemporaries. After everything that has happened in the realm of steroids in baseball since Juiced was released in 2005, I had to stop and wonder if what Canseco did in writing this book was worth it. Did he accomplish anything, besides making money? To be sure, he was the whistle blower whose stories of bathroom stall injections laid some of the heaviest nails in the coffin of baseball's home run era.
No player was hurt more than his one time Bash-Brother, Mark McGwire. From being known as the power wielding lumberjack of a hitter who, along with Sammy Sosa, saved MLB in the summer of 1998, McGwire made himself out to be a less that worthy witness before a Congressional Committee on steroids. In 2007, less than a decade removed from his greater than Ruthian feat of 70 home runs in the 1998 season, McGwire received only a vote on only 23.5% of ballots for the Baseball Hall of Fame. That same hearing saw Rafael Palmeiro lie under oath to using steriods. Sammy Sosa suddenly lost the ability to speak English. All the while, Canseco acted as if he had nothing to lose. He had already been in the confessional booth, and made his amends. The only difference being, after walking out of the church, he was paid millions to confess his (and others') sins.
Somewhere in the backstories, the controversy and the greed, Canseco saw an opportunity. The Olympics, Tour de France, and other events in athletics had been marred by the use of steroids, and the problem in MLB was quickly coming to a head. Why not write a book detailing some of the biggest names in the game: Clemens, McGwire, Tejada? Use their notoriety, accomplishments and fame to create just the kind of environment that will drive up book sales. He's not the first, nor will he be the last to do so.
In a perfect world, all of our most interesting stories would encapsulate the positive qualities of human life. The Home Run chase of the Summer of '98 seemed to be just that. With one fell swoop, Canseco destroyed this idealized vision of sport, while acting as the driving force to eradicate steroids out of MLB. Sure, the President, Congress and Bud Selig may have made strong statements against steroids, but to the man on the street, scandalous stories from a former star player holds more water than any politician. We know Bud Selig makes decisions for MLB based in large part on money-as he should (within reason). If Canseco came out with these anecdotes, what was to stop other players from doing the same in order to make a quick buck? Follow the logic, and if the public becomes too cynical about baseball, how much would MLB stand to lose financially? This is not to say that the Mitchell Report and other measures were in response only to the money concerns, but they surely had a prominent place in the Commissioner's calculus. For all of the misconceptions that his book may have produced, did Canseco help MLB in any way? Or, was the book just an effort by Jose to make some money and get on VH1 reality shows?