March 28, 2004

SPORTS: Juiced - Jose Canseco vs. Mark McGwire + Jason Stark Turns into Sergeant Shultz

by CHRIS LYNCH , @ A Large Regular

"Subtract the steroids and Mark McGwire is nothing more than a Jack Clark or a Dave Kingman."

I'M NOT A PSYCHOLOGIST And I don't play one on TV, but you don't be a shrink to recognize that one of the driving motivations behind Jose Canseco's Juiced was both his jealousy of Mark McGwire, and his feeling of being screwed over by a double standard a sport that has one set of criteria for white players and a second set for players of color.

[Full disclosure - I never thought of Canseco as a 'player of color' until after he "retired" and started complaining that he was being blackballed because he's Cuban.]

I've never been a fan of Canseco. Even when he was with the Red Sox he was more of a sideshow than anything else. I went out of my way not to buy his book. I was brought up old school where a snitches is persona non grata. Instead of buying it, I read his book at my local bookstore that has a cafe. Three sittings and about a dozen coffees later (free refills), I'm more sympathetic to Canseco.

Jose's convincing in his point that there is a double standard in baseball. Certain "white" players become "protected" by baseball and the media, while other players of equal ability are scrutinized for every little deficiency.

If you speak with baseball writers who covered Mark McGwire they will all say that he wasn't the best interview in the world and most will come out and use the word "jerk" to describe him. Many people ascribe the fact that Jim Rice wasn't very good with reporters to the reason he hasn't been elected to the Hall of Fame. Yet many of these same writers would still vote "yes" on McGwire even after the
steroids revelations. Not sure about you but I think Canseco has a point about the double standard.

Think about this - you read stories about Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame all the time but when's the last time you read a story about Jose Canseco and the Hall of Fame? McGwire was a one dimensional player - a player who could hit home runs - and now that one dimension is greatly soiled by steroids and yet baseball writers like Jason Stark are still writing about voting "yes" on McGwire and the Hall of Fame. Someone should ask Jason Stark if he'll also vote "yes" on Canseco because since McGwire's obvious steroid use is not being held against him - wouldn't it be a double standard to hold Jose's steroid use against him?

Canseco and McGwire played close to the exact same number of games - 1,887 for Canseco and 1,874 for McGwire. McGwire was clearly the better fielder, winning a Gold Glove for his work at first base in 1990, while Canseco is best remembered for allowing a ball to bounce off his head in the outfield for a home run. However, Canseco was the better baserunner. Jose had 200 stolen bases to McGwire's 12. Do these two things, fielding and base running, cancel each other out? I'm not sure about that so I'll just focus on the offensive numbers both players put up.

Canseco: .266 BA / .353 OBP / .515 SLG / 131 OPS+
McGwire: .263 BA / .394 OBP / .588 SLG / 163 OPS+

The averages are clearly in McGwire's favor but if you took away the absolutely freakish 70 HR season from McGwire the numbers are fairly close.

In terms of raw numbers:

Canseco: 1877 H / 1186 R / 462 HR / 1407 RBI / 3631 TB
McGwire: 1626 H / 1167 R / 583 HR / 1414 RBI / 3639 TB

If you took away the (steroid induced) home runs - could these numbers be any closer?

In terms of All-Star games - McGwire had twice as many as Canseco (12 to 6) but many consider these fan popularity contests. Jose does have a unanimous MVP Award to his credit and that came when McGwire was his teammate in Oakland. It should be noted that as far as is concerned - the most similar batter in history to Mark McGwire is Jose Canseco.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to make a case for Jose Canseco for the Hall of Fame. What I am saying is that a double standard does exist. I believe neither player belongs but because McGwire was a white home run champion - he'll probably get voted in.

Ask yourself, what did Mark McGwire do to deserve such adulation? Once you get beyond his home runs - what's left? Of the players with 500 HR, Mark McGwire is dead last when you look at hits, runs, RBI and total bases among other categories. He is so far behind most of the other players with 500 HR that he looks like one of those "one of these things is not like the others" from Seasame Street.

McGwire was simply a one trick pony and the sportswriters are willing him to ride that pony into Cooperstown. I think that's disgraceful.

Subtract the steroids and Mark McGwire is nothing more than a Jack Clark or a Dave Kingman. I wonder if Jason Stark voted for Dave Kingman for the Hall of Fame because I see very little difference between a Mark McGwire with steroids and a Dave Kingman without. If anything it makes Kingman's longevity and accomplishments are more remarkable.

More to the point, if a player who used steroids like McGwire is rewarded with a berth in the Hall of Fame, what message does that send to players who did not use steroids? What about a player like Jim Rice or the recently retired Fred McGriff? When you look at hits, runs, doubles, RBI, batting average, and total bases both Rice and McGriff look much better than McGwire. The only areas where McGwire has an advantage is in on base percentage (which is more a function of the era he played in - McGriff's OBP is very close), slugging percentage and HR. If both Rice and McGriff used steroids and were able to turn half their doubles into HR because of it then they too would have been in the 500 HR club and in the Hall of Fame. They did it the right way though and for their trouble they get to see a player like McGwire talked about as a sure fire Hall of Famer.

Baseball writers like Jason Stark should know better. McGwire cheated. He made millions of dollars doing it. Don't make it worse by putting him in the Hall of Fame.

Stark argues that it wasn't the job of the sportswriters to police the game and that McGwire's numbers are what they are and probably beyond questioning at this point. To this I say - bullshit!

If Stark has a Hall of Fame vote then that means he's been a baseball writer for at least 10 years and that means most of the steroid fueled period happened on his watch, under his very nose.

I wonder if Stark would allow someone to cut him in line when waiting at a restaurant or at a box office. I mean it's not his job to police the line. That job 'belongs to the restaurant or box office' according to the attitude he is trying to palm off as his excuse for voting for McGwire. My gut tells me he would speak up if it was him being cut in line. When it is players like Jim Rice or Fred McGriff though - Stark turns into Freddie Prinz, "not my job man."

If that is Stark's attitude then he abdicates all ability to complain about anything in baseball ever again. Games too long? Sorry Mr. Stark you don't get to criticize. Its baseball's job to police that. World Series Games start too late for East Coast kids? Sorry Mr. Stark - that's really none of your business (even though your business is supposed to be baseball). From now on it doesn't make a difference what the issue is regarding baseball - Stark's got no standing to complain.

I know this column went off on some tangents and I apologize for that. Just like there is no easy answer to steroids in baseball - so too there is no easy way to write about it. Say what you want about Jose Canseco, at least he wrote about what really happened. Most of the baseball writers must have known what was happening but stayed silent. Now they want to say it was none of their business.

This week has been bizarre. I gained respect for Jose Canseco as a writer and lost respect for Jason Stark.


AMERICAN DIGEST SPORTS EDITOR Chris Lynch serves his own brew daily at A Large Regular, and contributes to Lynch can be reached at

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Posted by Vanderleun at March 28, 2004 5:26 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Don't like snitches? I guess you must despise the West Point cadets who swear to never cheat and will not tolerate those who do. The honor system of the military must be a particular thorn in your side.

You don't like snitches because you're a coward. Not because it is wrong to report liars, crooks, and cheats.

Posted by: mark butterworth at March 28, 2005 10:23 PM

Yeah Mark - you got me pegged. Military hating coward. Your ability to see right into my soul is eerie.

Do you have kid's? Because I'm curious if you teach them to rat each other out when they see something the parents told them not to do.

Posted by: chris at March 29, 2005 4:25 AM

I don't think Canseco's motives are the point, and every time they're emphasized, the real crimes are forgiven a little. And that's a shame. Being a rat is a lesser crime than being a cheater, I think.

But you're absolutely right about McGwire. No matter how much he tries to differentiate himself from Canseco, they have both done something to baseball that it will never recover from, in my world. Shame on the whole lot of them.

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at March 29, 2005 6:28 AM

Mikey - you are right that Canseco's motives not being the story. Rampant steroids in baseball and the baseball writers and owners turning a willful blind eye to the problem are what should be more closely examined. Just because these players weren't caught at the time - doesn't mean they should be excused or God forbid rewarded.

Posted by: chris at March 29, 2005 6:56 AM

Wow. So many errors of fact. Let's see now...

McGwire didn't cheat. Steroids were not against the rules until he retired. Don't like the idea of chemically-aided athletes? I don't either. That has nothing to do with whether he broke any rules.

He wasn't a one-dimensional player. He won one gold glove & probably deserved more than that: the all-star voting isn't the only popularity contest in baseball. He drew an enormous number of walks, which is why his OBP is 41 points higher than Canseco's even though his batting average is 3 points lower.

Baseball Reference does list Canseco as the most-comparable player, but there are two points you didn't mention: they are not truly similar (score is 807 - vaguely similar), and they are comps only because they played roughly the same number of games in the same era. The most similar players in terms of skills on the field are Ralph Kiner and Harmon Killebrew - and neither of them is all that similar. Uniqueness as a player is one of the defining characteristics of a Hall of Famer. Labelling McGwire's best season "freakish" so you can ignore it and make their numbers more similar than they actually are is silly. Since they were both on the juice, I don't see how steroid use means you get to ignore the stats that don't match.

Raw stolen base totals are a poor measure of baserunning ability. Canseco was not a good baserunner.

That stuff is relatively minor. The genuinely idiotic statement is this one: "Subtract the steroids and Mark McGwire is nothing more than a Jack Clark or a Dave Kingman."

First of all, Jack Clark was an outstanding ballplayer. He'll never make the Hall because injuries cut his career length, but he was, at worst, one of the three best hitters of his generation. Dave Kingman was a lead-gloved, .220-hitting pain in the ass. There is literally nothing he did as well as McGwire, not even run the bases. Comparing them doesn't make McGwire look bad: it makes anyone uninformed enough to compare them look bad.

Posted by: Al Jackson at March 31, 2005 3:44 PM

Al - let me address your points in order.

1. McGwire not only cheated - he in dealt in felonious actions to do so (yes I'm making an assumption of guilt here). Simple possession of a syringe for the purpose of injecting contolled substances is a felony and was so when McGwire was playing. Plus if he did not cheat why the "I'm here to talk about the future" crap when he was under oath? You may be the lone adult left in the US who believes McGwire didn't use steroids. MLB did not test for cocaine use either but that doesn't mean that players were allowed to snort up before a game.

2. McGwire is under consideration for the HoF for a single dimension of his game - his ability to hit HR. Don Mattingly was 10 times the fielder than McGwire and he played by the rules - that won't help him get any votes though. McGwire is not up for the HoF because he won a Gold Glove or walked alot.

3. Speaking of walks - another reason he walked alot was because he was such a stiff on the basepaths. He was literally a walking double play waiting to happen.

4. "Uniqueness as a player is one of the defining characteristics of a Hall of Famer." No its not. Uniqueness is more a characteristic of a freak - which due to his steroid use - McGwire qualifies as. Look at almost any HoF player and you will probably see a couple of other players who were also great but also similar. McGwire's uniqueness stands out like a sore thumb (or should I say a sore needle injected ass cheek).

5. "First of all, Jack Clark was an outstanding ballplayer. He'll never make the Hall because injuries cut his career length, but he was, at worst, one of the three best hitters of his generation." So you're saying that maybe if Clark took steroids to help prolong his career that he too could have made the HoF? McGwire had injuries too but his steroid use allowed for quicker recover times. McGwire's best seasons came after injuries that might have ended the career of a non-steroids using player. Wasn't that my point in the comparison to Clark?

6. Kingman was a jackass but how do you know what McGwire is like in person? If Kingman took steroids isn't it reasonable to assume he would have gotten another 34 HR and be in the 500 club and the HoF? Again - I point out that the only reason McGwire is under consideration is because of his HR and I again point out that it is reasonable to assume based on the evidence that he would have not been the HR hitter he was without steroids.

Posted by: chris at March 31, 2005 5:33 PM

No, Chris, I got you pegged as a lily livered coward who has no honor or ability to respect a code which demands that people not tolerate wrong doing no matter who does it.

Even your weasel word of not having your children "rat" out each other is pathetic. Your children steal, do drugs, beat someone up, but God help the kid who informs the parents? How utterly stupid and pathetic.

You're even worse a lousy coward than I imagined if you teach your kids to cover up wrong doing. What an effing creep. Stay off my block and away from my kids. Maybe it would have been good if someone had "ratted" out the kids at Columbine or up in Minnesota. But no, that would have been vile snitching.

What a prince you are, Chris.

Posted by: mark at April 1, 2005 12:35 AM

Mark - yes I teach my kids not to be "tattletales". I must assume from your tone that you teach your kids the opposite. I teach them to work things out themselves - what do you teach them to do - inform on their peers? Ah - informants! There's some role models for kids. You dare bring up Columbine into the discussion. How low will you stoop? Should I return the volley and ask you about the Hitler Youth taught to inform on their parents?

Canseco is villified in baseball probably more for breaking the lockerroom code and telling tales out of school. I fault him for this - yes. What he had to say needed to be said - yes. Is he the most trustworthy of sources - no.

I fault the clean baseball players in this too. They could have taken things into their own hands and demanded stronger testing or they could have confronted guys like Canseco and McGwire.

I fault the baseball writers who saw what was happening to the HR records and said nothing.

I also fault the owners because they "protected" players like McGwire by building them up at the expense of clean players. They built them up both in PR and in salary.

There is plenty of blame to go around.

And Mark - you call me a prince? Based upon the bile in your posts I guess I am....

... compared to you.

Posted by: chris at April 1, 2005 6:33 AM


Your responses and justifications are just plain weak. Bile? You bet. I'm sick of weaklings looking the other way at wrong doing, teaching others to do the same, and labeling those who have a sense of honor as rats and snitches.

As I said, you ever hear of the military code of honor? You want Serpico not to report on other cops who are on the take? Or how about in the college class when half the class is cheating on a test that you actually studied for?

It's the coward who won't stand up for what's right because someone like you will call them a snitch, a rat, and informer.

You think we're talking tattletales here? That's pukeably pathetic. You mean you don't teach your kids that there are rules and if any of them break them, you want to know about it and covering up for a brother of sister won't fly?

You don't teach your kids that the eldest is a role model and if they don't provide a good model for the others, you don't want to know about it 'cause that would be snitching?

Or when your kid is smoking pot, cutting class, and sneaking out when you're asleep, you don't want to know about it?

You don't like snitches? Canseco's a tattletale? Of course, he is 'cause he wants more money and notoriety, but the fact is that he's got something to tattle that should have been done decades ago, but wasn't because so many of folks like you, " (were) brought up old school where a snitch is persona non grata."

That is, where cowardice is preferred to being ostracized by other cowards. Reghardless of motives, give Canseco a medal for at least blowing the lid off the stinking, corrupt, and sick mess of professional sports. The shame is that no one will tell the truth out of any sense of decency or honor -- because you and others like you will call them a rat. (If you ever find someone whose motives aren't mixed, that'll be the day.)

Hitler Youth informed on parents and others because they were taught to and rewarded for it, just as kids are now taught to never tell on anyone because they will be punished for it by both other kids and adults.

And if you can't handle your kids running in and and complaining, "He called me a poopy head again!", then you need a parenting skills class. In fact, if your kids are calling each other poopy heads all the time, who taught them to be nasty little cretins?)

Posted by: mark at April 1, 2005 12:59 PM

On third thought, I have been intemperate and I apologize for the offence I have given. I can't apologize for having a passionate love of truth and a belief in honor at the risk of disapproval from peers and contemporaries.

What has been done to baseball and other things by the gross sins of omission by those who were witness to corruption of the sport is inexcuseable.

The idea that people who tell the truth are snitches or rats or break the code is what helps to make it possible for the immoral and corrupt to thrive.

How many young people or college students are now willing to complain of other students who cheat, even though those who get away with it diminish the value of everyone else's honest score?

Do you want professions half full of people who didn't do the work for their credentials? What's the remedy? Why having others tell on them. There's no other way.

I have known men with the incredible courage of going to war and enduring battle, and yet they lacked the strength to stand up for their morals or principles against their fellows' willingness to overlook sin, crime, or incompetence.

If someone has a family full of "tattletales" then that family has a problem and it isn't because the kids are constantly complaining of the others. It's because the parents don't know how to do their job very well.

Posted by: mark at April 1, 2005 8:37 PM

Passion is a thing I admire. I just like to keep things civil.

I apologize if I have offended in any way.

Posted by: chris at April 4, 2005 5:48 PM

Everyone does steroids 'cept the redsox

Posted by: Allen at April 7, 2005 5:37 AM
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