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May 4, 2012

Wezen-Ball

Canseco's Last Stand

by Larry Granillo

On Wednesday, Jose Canseco took Twitter to ask a special favor of his fans (and haters):

One tweet wasn't going to be enough for Mr. 40/40:

He continued over the next hour or so, telling his 460,000 followers to write him in as the DH for the A's, Red Sox, Rangers, Rays, Blue Jays, White Sox, or Yankees. "Just not a's [sic] an expos or angels."

The movement Canseco envisions is impossible, of course. Even if all of his followers voted 25 times each like he urged (for nearly 12,000,000 write-in votes), there is no chance that Commissioner Selig would ever bend the rules in order to allow the unsigned Canseco to play in the Midsummer Classic. There's more of a chance of Canseco being the best man at Alex Rodriguez's wedding to Madonna than of that happening. But anyone who has followed @JoseCanseco for even one day over the last two years knows, the man cares not for hopeless causes when it comes to himself and baseball. Vacillating between unfounded optimism and deep despair, Canseco reveals himself on Twitter to be a man unhealthily stuck on reliving his glory days on the ballfield, when he could hit a 95 mph fastball over 450 feet and get paid millions of dollars to do it. Whether Canseco's obsession with returning to baseball - an obsession that has seen him play for the Yuma Scorpions, the Mexican League Quintana Roo Tigers, and, now, the Worcester Tornadoes over the last twelve months - is founded on a yearning for adoration or a need for money is not yet clear, but it is almost irrelevant. Jose Canseco is a restless and, quite probably, very sad man who seems to think of nothing else but getting back into baseball.

It's a depressing story (and no less so for Canseco having brought most it upon himself). It got me thinking, though, about how Canseco's career ended. We all know that he was never the player in his late-20s/early-30s that he was in 1988, but he wasn't exactly chickenspit throughout the '90s. In fact, his slash lines for those years are hardly different than his 1986-1991 years on Oakland. In 1998, the year of crazy numbers, Canseco slugged 46 home runs for Toronto. Despite a .237 batting average and a .318 OBP, he still managed an .836 OPS for the Jays. Again, it wasn't exactly earth-shattering, but it was still a nice, positive contribution from a 33-year-old, severely-one-dimensional player. Late career Jose Canseco was of the same mold as today's Adam Dunn or Carlos Pena, it seems.

Canseco's last career home run came in his third-to-last game (and his second-to-last start). It was a solo shot to left-centerfield at the old Yankee Stadium in the top of the second inning off future Hall of Famer Mike Mussina. It was the only run the White Sox scored that day as they lost to Mussina and the Yankees 2-1. The home run was immortalized in the AP's game notes with the line: "Jose Canseco hit a solo homer for the White Sox, who have lost three straight after winning eight of 10."

The final hit of Canseco's career came in his next at-bat. It was a single off Mussina over the second-baseman's head. In the final six plate appearances of his career, Canseco would reach base via walk once and strike out twice. The final at-bat of his career was as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth. With the White Sox down by one against the Twins in Minnesota, Canseco pinch-hit for catcher Mark Johnson with a runner on second. The play is recorded as a flyout to centerfielder Torii Hunter. Ray Durham would end Chicago's season, and Jose's career, with a flyout in the next at-bat.

If you listen to what Jose Canseco has to say now - which anyone with access to Twitter can do to their heart's content (and moreso) these days - it's clear that the former MVP wants to have one more go at the big league level. To get one more at-bat. One more chance to hit a home run. One more chance to wink at the pitcher as he goes into his wind-up. One more chance to buy Alicea a blue hat... Oh, sorry.

But, eleven years ago, a 36-year-old Canseco had proven for the second year in a row that he just didn't have the skills to contribute anymore. If that was true then, it is certainly true now. No matter what 47-year-old Canseco tries, no matter how many late-night Twitter rampages he goes on, no matter how many haters he slaps and hugs, no matter how many independent leagues he doesn't exactly tear down, the Major Leagues aren't coming calling. That home run off Mussina and the flyout in Minnesota will just have to sustain Jose, no matter how much he wishes they didn't.

Related Content:  Jose Canseco

8 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Richard Bergstrom

"But, eleven years ago, a 36-year-old Canseco had proven for the second year in a row that he just didn't have the skills to contribute anymore."

Exactly how did he prove that he didn't have the skills? In 2000 and 2001, he had TAvs of .283 and .285 respectively and was worth a win above replacement in each year. He had an OBP of greater than .360 from 1999 to 2001 and his OPS+ in 2001 was 117 which, last I checked, was better than the league average of 100. He was outperforming DHs such as David Justice, Tony Batista, and David Ortiz in his Twins days.

Superstar? Nope. But yes, I feel he had the skills to contribute.

May 03, 2012 22:31 PM
rating: 0
 
SGreenwell

Well, except that if his post-baseball career is any indication, he's not exactly a positive influence in the clubhouse, which is normally what marginal hit-only DHs need to be. Even overlooking all the steroids stuff, Canseco has done his best to become the baseball version of Mike Tyson. Deadspin had a pretty good takedown of him in 2008: http://deadspin.com/372409/chasing-jose-by-pat-jordan (warning, NSFW language)

You also left out his GP totals from those last three years: 37, 61 and 76, plus 18 at AAA in 2002. In 2002, he hit .172 in AAA in 18 games, and then began his hinterlands career.

May 04, 2012 03:28 AM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

Well, except that if his post-baseball career is any indication, he's not exactly a positive influence in the clubhouse, which is normally what marginal hit-only DHs need to be. Even overlooking all the steroids stuff, Canseco has done his best to become the baseball version of Mike Tyson. Deadspin had a pretty good takedown of him in 2008: http://deadspin.com/372409/chasing-jose-by-pat-jordan (warning, NSFW language)

You're kidding, right? Manny Ramirez kept getting a job after getting suspended (twice!), putting a lackadasical effort on the field and pushing clubhouse attendants. Darryl Strawberry was given tons of chances though he was behind in child support and often drank and did "real" drugs.

And you looked at the wrong GP totals from those last three years: 113 (in 1999), 98 in 2000 (37 with the Yankees and 61 with the Rays), and 76 in 2001.

Also, note that in 2001, he played 41 games for the Newark Bears, which would imply he wasn't injured in 2001 and bring his games played in 2001 up to 117.

But hey, 18 games in AAA is a great sample size indicating he is done, right?

May 04, 2012 09:27 AM
rating: 0
 
Shkspr

It cannot be denied that he was one of those players that made those around him better. All Stars like Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmiero, A-Rod, and Jason Giambi became twice the men they would otherwise have been because of Canseco, by his reckoning. (Even if he was kind of a pain in their rear.)

May 04, 2012 10:08 AM
rating: 7
 
Richard Bergstrom

+1, I liked that one.

May 04, 2012 21:20 PM
rating: 0
 
SGreenwell

Sorry - Must have looked at the wrong games played numbers for him on BR, my bad.

However, I don't think bringing up those other players helps Canseco's cause. Strawberry and Ramirez had / have a litany of issues... and they still got more chances than Canseco. I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that Canseco comes off as such an insufferable prick that that is probably why his career ended early, even more so than everyone but (off the top of my head) Barry Bonds and Albert Belle. It's also probably not a coincidence that he jumped from team to team while he was a player, and not in the humorous-in-reflection way like Rickey Henderson.

May 04, 2012 12:16 PM
rating: 0
 
jmanig

Rickey didn't start bouncing around from team to team until late in his career when he started a similar "will play ball for food" campaign. If you forget his cup of coffee with the 1993 Blue Jays, he only played for two teams for the first 17 years of his career. Man, I forgot the man got to play until he was 44.

It's not quite fair to throw in Strawberry and Ramirez as comparables because while they had issues --- well, Strawberry had issues; Manny was just a bit weird --- they were (as far as I know) pretty easy to deal with as teammates. Canseco managed to throw an entire industry under the bus for fun and profit, and just gives the overall impression that he was capable to screwing anyone over if he had something to gain from it.

I second that that's the kind of player teams tend to avoid, unless they can contribute at a superstar level.

May 04, 2012 20:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

There are a bunch of good character guys who were inexplicably let go such as Kenny Lofton. There have also been worse character guys than Canseco such as Milton Bradley and Elijah Dukes who got multiple chances. The main thrust of my argument was to refute that "Canseco had proven for the second year in a row that he just didn't have the skills to contribute anymore." Could he contribute at a superstar level? No. But even for that era, he would've been an above average DH.

May 04, 2012 21:23 PM
rating: 0
 
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