Canseco playing in All-Star Game no laughing matter
Posted: Monday July 24, 2006 2:33PM; Updated: Monday July 24, 2006 5:01PM
The Golden Baseball League didn't help its credibility by giving Jose Canseco an honorary spot in its All-Star Game.
When you visit Jose Canseco's official website, you'll see that the news section hasn't been updated since last November. Which is unfortunate, because I really wanted the following entry:
"7/24: A steroid-free Jose was shelled while pitching in the Golden Baseball League's All-Star Game, making a great case for the use of steroids."
Canseco gave up four runs in 1/3 of an inning for the losing South team. It was not his first foray into crappy pitching -- years ago he gave up three runs in an inning for the Texas Rangers. (In fairness, it was the best pitching performance the Rangers had all decade.)
I can understand that Canseco can pitch better than most people reading this column. I can also understand that his appearance at the game was a publicity stunt (a stunt that I am, in a way, falling for by covering it). But I can't understand what it must be like for the kids on his team who didn't get to win their first (and perhaps only) All-Star Game because Canseco's giant head was in the way.
The Golden Baseball League is not the majors. Heck -- it's barely the minors. The league is only in its second year, and it consists of just six clubs.
The league, however, has already produced some real ballplayers. Alumni Jeff Heaverlo, Adam Pettyjohn and Graham Koonce are playing Triple A, and a number of others have been signed. Thirty-six players in the last two years have gone from the Golden League to a possible golden ticket.
So was the Golden Baseball League's All-Star Game a chance to showcase some of its best talent? Or was it a chance for Canseco to sell a few more books?
Canseco is hitting .280 with two home runs for the Long Beach Armada. Not bad for 42-year-old who has been making more appearances in bookstores than at the plate. And it was probably fun for the guys who got to hit off him -- as Reno catcher Marcus Jensen's ball sailed into the outfield, getting smaller and smaller, Canseco was overheard to say, "Hey, that one looks like mine."
Bringing a former big league MVP to the All-Star Game was probably a good move on the league's part. He did win the Home Run Derby, after all, and netted thousands of headlines. But letting him pitch makes almost as big a mockery of the concept of an All-Star Game as Bud Selig did when he let one end in a tie.
An All-Star Game is supposed to be fun -- but it's also supposed to be baseball. And while the fans may have enjoyed seeing a designated hitter pitch, I can't imagine it was enjoyable for Chico Outlaw Desi Wilson to be the one out Canseco recorded, even if it was on a sacrifice. That's like a high school basketball prospect playing one-on-one against an eight-year-old. Sure, he'll probably win. But what if he loses? Try to live that one down in the locker room.
I'm not sure what Canseco is trying to prove by playing for the Golden Baseball League, other than how he's the same old big-headed Jose. Right after the All-Star Game, police were called to a hotel room, only to find Jose arguing with a woman outside of the damaged room. That's my Canseco!
The reason I love minor league baseball, especially the independent leagues, is because it's pure. Minor league baseball is real baseball -- baseball played for the sake of the game. But that's not what's happening here. The league even "coincidentally" added a designated hitter to rosters just before Canseco's comeback. Great -- now we get to see an aging malcontent with a bad back and no knees in the minors, too.
Whatever your opinions on Canseco's book helping to force Selig's hand on the steroids issue, I didn't need to see Canseco suit up again, and I especially didn't need to see him medically-enhanced-muscle his way into an All-Star Game. Or onto a roster. The only thing designated in the minor leagues should be the drivers after dollar beer night. If Canseco wants a spot on that roster, he should earn it. No special treatment -- just like it was when he was just a rookie taking steroids.
I'm not encouraging Canseco to give up baseball entirely -- just to not take an All-Star spot from a kid trying to make it. Maybe if this comeback doesn't work out, Canseco and Vince McMahon can start the XLB. I can see the new "He Hate Me" jerseys now.
Steve Hofstetter is a nationally touring comedian whose column appears every Monday on SI.com. Catch him this week at the M-Bar in Los Angeles or send him hate mail at email@example.com.