The A's position was more complicated. They face a laborious off-season, with 14 players—including Mark McGwire, Terry Steinbach and Dave Stewart—eligible to become free agents. Sierra and Russell also will be in the free-agent group. Was this a first move toward fiscal stability, dumping Canseco's future contract with no intention of re-signing either Sierra or Russell?
Canseco had clearly fallen into disfavor in Oakland. He has been hurt this season, troubled by both a bad back and a sore shoulder. He was hitting .246 with 22 home runs and 72 runs batted in. He said he has lost 15 pounds and 40% of his power. Did the A's think he was on an irrevocable slide? Or had they simply tired of his superstar act?
"I'm hurt," Canseco said. "I'm not a robot. I was playing in Oakland every day because the thinking was that 75 percent of Jose Canseco is better than 100 percent of some rookie. Now I will have a chance to get my health back. I'll work hard in the off-season. I'll come back 100 percent."
Canseco has enough major league service to demand a trade from Texas after this season, but playing for the Rangers will most likely be his best option. "I'm not thinking about any of that right now," he said. "I'm selling a house in California, buying a house in Texas, and my house in Miami was flooded by the hurricane. I'm learning a lot about real estate."
On Friday evening at Yankee Stadium, early-arriving fans stirred as Canseco stepped in for batting practice. He knocked only two balls into the seats—both pulled down the leftfield line—but the fans reacted enthusiastically. When a later group took the cage, Texas outfielder Juan Gonzalez, the American League home run leader, banged ball after ball over the fence. No reaction. None.
"Jose brings a lot of attention, a lot of media," said Ranker first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, a boyhood friend of Canseco's from Miami. "You guys wouldn't be here if he weren't here. Our job is to make him feel comfortable. To make him happy. We want to show him that he doesn't have to carry the whole team."
Palmeiro batted third in the lineup, Canseco fourth. Canseco instructed Palmeiro in the intricacies of the forearm bash, the celebratory greeting he and McGwire had used in Oakland to much notice. Palmeiro agreed to use it. Jose went 0 for 4 in his debut, striking out twice. The only Ranger highlight in a 6-3 loss was a solo home run by Palmeiro, who came around the bases, touched home plate and....
"Jose almost took my head off," Palmeiro said. "I'd forgotten."
Oakland fans, meanwhile, had not forgotten their departed slugger. The A's continued a stumble on the West Coast that had begun with the trade. They lost their fifth straight Canseco-less game, to the Red Sox, on Saturday, and their lead in the AL West had shrunk to 4� games. Canseco professed not to feel any satisfaction in their fall. He was moving ahead.
"Maybe I wore out my welcome in Oakland," he said. "I fell into a trap. The shoes people put out there for me are very difficult to fill. And if I fill them, the shoes just get bigger. It's sad, but I don't think I'll ever be able to fulfill the expectations that people have for me."