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Candidate Canseco
Tom Verducci
June 28, 1999
Will Jose's homer binge earn him a ticket to Cooperstown?
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June 28, 1999

Candidate Canseco

Will Jose's homer binge earn him a ticket to Cooperstown?

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Jose Canseco is having another monster season, as home run aficionados like to say. With a big-league-best 27 dingers through Sunday, coupled with his 46 homers from '98, the Devil Rays' DH is putting up numbers that should make Hall of Fame voters, me included, do a double take. So I wonder: Is a well-traveled slugger who played lousy defense when he played it at all, who hit 30 homers seven times and ranks among the game's alltime top 25 home run hitters—and top 10 strikeout victims—Cooperstown material? But enough about Dave Kingman. � Kingman and Canseco have their similarities. Kingman retired in '86 with 442 home runs, 1,210 RBIs and 1,816 strikeouts; Canseco had 424,1,275 and 1,700 through Sunday. Kingman hit more homers than any other eligible player who isn't in the Hall. Will Canseco relieve him of that dishonor? To be fair, Jose was once one of the game's best all-around players. In '88, his MVP year, he became the first to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in the same season. But he soon grew more interested in being a great celebrity than a great ballplayer, and he hasn't played the outfield regularly since 1993—the year he let a fly ball bounce off the top of his head and over the fence for a home run.

Canseco's Cooperstown candidacy could be a litmus test for this homer-happy era. Compare him, for instance, with Gil Hodges, a superb defensive first baseman who had more 100-RBI seasons than Jose has (seven to six), nearly identical RBI total (1,274 to 1,275) and a better average (.273 to .268) in an era when the long ball wasn't as cheap as it is now. Hodges isn't in the Hall. What's more, Hodges played in seven World Series, while Canseco's recent monster years haven't helped his teams much. Last year with Toronto he batted .237 and led the American League with 159 strikeouts. This season he is hitting above .300 for the last-place Devil Rays, but he's under .200 with runners in scoring position and again leads the league in punchouts. All this from a guy who contributes nothing on defense.

So is the other Bash Brother a Hall of Famer? Not yet. But unlike Kingman and Hodges Canseco who turns 35 on July 2 isn't done. With the DH rule and today's diluted pitching pool he'll probably wind up with 500 homers—and cap his career with a speech in Cooperstown.

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