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May 14, 2002

The Daily Prospectus

Jose Canseco

by Joe Sheehan

Apparently unwilling to continue being away from his family for the greater glory of the Charlotte Knights, Jose Canseco has announced his retirement from baseball. It certainly didn't help that he was hitting .172/.280/.422 for the White Sox' Triple-A affiliate, and Canseco may have realized that he had no chance to be called up to a team already filled to the rafters with right-handed power hitters.

Canseco is walking away despite still possessing skills that would make him an asset to many teams. He was in Expos' camp, but Canseco's inability to play the field and desire to play every day left Montreal little recourse but to release him. He couldn't find work as a DH with any American League team, which is strange in light of the production some teams are getting from that spot (AVG/OBP/SLG and the person most responsible):

Angels: .246/.315/.440 (Brad Fullmer)
Orioles: .259/.323/.388 (David Segui)
Royals: .267/.326/.362 (Raul Ibanez)

Over the last three years, Canseco has hit .265/.371/.502, and .284/.386/.629 against lefties. No, he can't play the field, but look at that list above. Could none of those teams use a DH who will slug .480 and absolutely slap around lefties?

In recent years, Canseco has been regarded as something of a clown, primarily for a couple of high-profile incidents. In 1993, he allowed a fly ball to bounce off of his head and over the fence for a home run. Less than a week later, he injured his elbow while pitching mop-up relief, and had to undergo surgery that kept him out for four months. These things, along with his insistence that he could still play the outfield and some leftover question marks about his character and seriousness from his days as a superstar, have combined to leave him with no offers.

I think it's a shame, because not only is Canseco still a ballplayer capable of helping a team win, but there was a time when he had a case as the best player in the game. When he notched 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases in 1988--his MVP season--it was a huge accomplishment. We've been spoiled since then by a number of players who combine great power and great speed, but when Canseco came along, he was something new, something terrific. That his feats have been forgotten during the decline phase of his career is disappointing.

The question that everyone will now ask is whether Canseco belongs in the Hall of Fame. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Canseco is at 38.1 on the Hall of Fame Standards Test, a Bill James tool that tests Hall worthiness and on which 50 represents an average Hall of Famer. Canseco scores 103.0 on the Hall of Fame Monitor, and players above 100 are likely Hall of Famers. If you run him through the Keltner List of questions, you get enough "yes" answers to consider Canseco a legitimate candidate.

I believe Canseco will eventually get in, although it will take a long time for him to do so. His body of work compares reasonably well with those already inducted (back to b-r.com...three HoFers on his top-ten comps list, two locks when they retire, a couple of maybes...) and once some time has passed, people will forget his foibles and remember his 462 home runs.

I hope I'm right about this, because Canseco was one hell of a baseball player, and deserves to be remembered as such.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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