"These past few years, all you had to do was turn on a radio or flip to a sports cable channel, and you could count on hearing some blowhard give you his opinion about steroids and baseball and what it says about our society and blah blah blah. Well enough already. I'm tired of hearing such short-sighted crap from people who have no idea what they're talking about. Steroids are here to stay. That's a fact. I guarantee it. Steroids are the future."
Ever since Jose Canseco published his autobiographical blog/steroids promo, Juiced has inevitably compared to Jim Bouton's groundbreaking Ball Four.
Both books exposed Major League Baseball's dark underbelly of drug usageBouton describing widespread amphetamine popping while Canseco poses as the modern day "Timothy Leary" of steroids and names names. Juiced will long stand as a historical marker since it sparked a Congressional hearing, forced MLB to establish a stronger drug-testing policy, corroborated steroid suspicions, and entrenched the Steroids Era label on baseball's recent past. As far as literature, the comparison is ludicrous. Bouton's humorous expose is well-written while Canseco's purposeful prose remains as painfully inept as typical Internet blogs. On the plus side, the gossipy and glib text proves to be a snappy read.
I had avoided reading Canseco's book when it was first published. It was so hyped that I suspected that Canseco was publishing his "tell all" tome to pay off his massive debts. After all, the guy had actually auctioned off "an afternoon with Jose" on eBay! The text does come across as self-serving; however, recent revelations from more credible and objective sources indicate that Canseco isn't just blowing smoke.
"I'm telling the truth about steroids in this book because someone has to do it. We're long overdue for some honesty and, as any ballplayer will tell you, I know the real story of steroids in baseball better than any man alive. I'm also in a position to tell you the truth because I no longer have any ties with Major League Baseball, and I have no interest in the politics and double standards of Major League Baseball. I'm my own man and always have been."
While the main focus aims at Canseco's transformation from an awkward 98 lb teen weakling to a Herculean superstar who became baseball's first 40-40 man (hitting 40 homers and stealing 40 bases in a season), he also gets into other interesting highlights of his lifefrom his well-publicized "relationship" with Madonna to a private moment when his one-year old daughter saved him from committing suicide.
Baseball fans will be far more interested in the numerous steroids revelations and anecdotes since Canseco doesn't shy away from naming major stars that he's personally coached about proper steroids use. Most prominent, of course, are stories about his fellow "Bash Brother" Mark McGwire, whom Canseco claims frequently joined him in the A's restroom stall for injections. He also makes an interesting speculation about why McGwire left a vial of Andro out in the open during his 1998 home-run chase.
Canseco also speculates about other prominent athletes like Roger Clemensone of few former teammates that Canseco never saw cheat on his wife, but also raises questions about exactly why the great Clemens (a well-documented workout fanatic) has enjoyed a resurgence when most have long hung up the spikes. Now humorous in hind-sight is Canseco's description of Vitamin B-12 shots, which are actually a code name for a special mixture of steroids and human growth hormones designed to escape detection. So later when Raffy Palmeiro gets busted for steroids violations and explains it off by saying that it must have come from Miguel Tejada's B-12 shots, it only confirms what Canseco claims in this book (he names both as heavy steroids users).
Despite Canseco's embarrassingly amateurish prose, Juiced is an enjoyable read the same way that people are attracted to car crashes and tune in to simple melodramatic soap operas and Jerry Springer. Steroids is big in baseball now, and Canseco is its biggest gossip source. As such, he's a guy you'd have to hear out eventually since it's never been a big secret that he was a user. As Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci describes:
"Heavily muscled bodies like Canseco's have now become so common that they no longer invite scorn. Players even find dark humor in steroid use. One American League outfielder, for instance, was known to be taking a steroid typically given by veterinarians to injured, ill or overworked horses and readily available in Latin America. An opposing player pointed to him and remarked, 'He takes so much of that horse stuff that one day we're going to look out in the outfield and he's going to be grazing.'"