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May 4, 2012
Canseco's Last Stand
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.