Work in Sports
Canseco shows why he's of no help to Yankees
Updated: Thursday October 26, 2000 8:09 AM
By Jamal Greene, Sports Illustrated
NEW YORK -- It's sad, really, to see the 6'4, 240-pound frame crammed into a uniform that suddenly looks like it once belonged to Andy Stankiewicz.
It's not Jose Canseco's fault he was an accident. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman claimed him off waivers on Aug. 7 to block competitors like the Indians and Red Sox from picking up an extra bat for the pennant chase.
The Devil Rays let the Yankees have him, igniting a public dispute between Cashman and manager Joe Torre, who already had Glenallen Hill as his designated hitter and who has never been a fan of players with no defensive value.
Stuck in the middle was a man who came to New York with 440 home runs, was still only 36 years old -- younger than Paul O'Neill -- and hit 46 homers two years ago.
Canseco is an all-or-nothing hitter, but he could have helped a team like Minnesota draw Midwesterners to the Metrodome and could have provided a righty bat for an anemic offensive team with a short left-field porch (read: Boston). With the Yankees, he's relegated to sitting, pathetically, on the bench. He was left off the team's roster in the American League Championship Series due, more than anything else, to uselessness.
Earlier this postseason, Canseco had called himself "the worst pinch hitter of all time," and he did nothing to besmirch that reputation against Rusch. The at-bat went like this: Ball, called strike, ball, abysmal half swing, called strike three.
The third strike was the same pitch -- an inside fastball -- that had tied Canseco's enormous arms into a feeble bow the pitch before. Canseco is the type of player whose powerful swing needs reps if it is ever to connect and he has admitted as much, saying he has no idea how to prepare for a pinch-hit at-bat.
In a disjointed season in which he missed three months to a heel injury, he finished second in the league to Cleveland's Jim Thome in percentage of swings missed.
There's a lot more to like about Canseco than there was back when he was, well, wanted. Brushes with the law, a well-publicized divorce and a personal investment firm seem to have mellowed him in his baseball twilight.
Numerous back injuries and an up-and-down career seem to have given him some perspective on baseball and on life.
"I've been the best player in the world and I've been a bum, washed up, 'he's done,'" he has said. "I've gone through divorces and everything. You can never expect anything. I've been around a long time and I know that."
The Yankees hold an option on Canseco's contract for next season. They will not exercise it. That should give him a chance to pursue his goal of 500 home runs -- which would probably lock up a spot in Cooperstown -- with a team looking for right-handed wood.
In the meantime, he'll sit back and bide his time as a pinch hitter, a 76-inch Smith & Wesson with no bullets.