Jose Canseco didn't have anything to lose by turning his back on the game.
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The moment has arrived for the hundreds of players who have been nervous ever since Canseco said almost three years ago he intended to write a tell-all book. One player told me two years ago, "He has no friends in baseball, has no use for baseball and feels like he's been blackballed. That's a dangerous combination." Word begins to circulate around the baseball community to a question many feared asking: "Am I in there?" The hit list includes Mark McGwire, Giambi, Bonds, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Tony Saunders, Bret Boone, Dave Martinez, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Brady Anderson and Wilson Alvarez. The A's elephant mascot breathes a trunkful of relief and goes off on an all-weekend peanut bender.
By now the 60 Minutes piece is anticlimactic. The juiciest of Juiced has been out for a week. Neither 60 Minutes nor Regan Books, the publisher, is happy that the content of the book leaked so far in advance. The highlight for 60 Minutes is Canseco estimating the buttocks shots he gave McGwire as "probably twice," a major backtrack from his published "more times than I can count." Otherwise, it's a paint-by-numbers piece. Canseco is not asked about his charge of direct involvement of team trainers. Besides, the pace of the steroid story is so fast that 60 Minutes doesn't even have the biggest news of the day: Bonds' alleged mistress, Kimberly Bell, is writing a book in which she claims Bonds admitted his steroid use to her. (Rejected title: For Whom The Bell Tolls.) Geraldo Rivera scoops Wallace. It's been that kind of weekend.
Nine-thirty a.m. It's Regan Books on the phone. The Canseco one-on-one is off. The book's presence in SI will shrink. Canseco also cancels his booking on Today as well as other media commitments. The book people are not thrilled. This is the first day the book is officially available for sale and the author goes into hiding. Not good. Canseco is no Rushdie. Word spreads that Canseco is retreating on advice of lawyers, though surely they anticipated the flood of denials and counterattacks. A source close to Canseco, however, says he needed to address a personal issue of some urgency and needed to postpone travel and appearances for most of this week. He still intends to start his book promotion tour as scheduled next Tuesday in New York, while continuing to Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and other major markets. In other words, coming soon to a stall near you.
Meanwhile, baseball is praying the Canseco book has no traction, though the Mistress and Mr. Bonds angle is a reminder that the steroid story is a serial drama with endless plot twists. Baseball's official position is that it does not anticipate any followup action to Canseco's book, though -- true story -- the A's did dispatch an employee to the clubhouse bathroom to take visual measurement of the stalls, imagining if two 250-pound men actually could fit in without rupturing a disk or wiping out the plumbing.
I talk to commissioner Bud Selig. He emphasizes that the game already is moving forward with its tougher steroid testing program -- which is true, albeit late in coming. "As far as what's been done in the past, there's not much I can do about that," Selig says. "But Mr. Commissioner," I say, "if someone said that team trainers were running gambling numbers for players, you'd launch an investigation." He agrees. He says he has spoken with Sandy Alderson, the former Oakland GM, who told him he has no knowledge of any involvement by any team trainers with steroids. They plan no investigation. Maybe not officially, anyway. They want to go forward, not backward.
But the story, of course, will not die. The fun has just started, kids. Everyone knows that. We haven't even heard from Jerry Springer yet.