Finding Things Not That Hard to Believe - 2/8/05
by Asher B. Chancey,

In his much anticipated new book, Jose Canseco has apparently announced that he juiced up with Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and Jason Giambi, amongst others.

The real question here is - with Giambi having been busted on steroids, and Canseco willingly having admitted using steroids - is it really so hard to believe that these other players have used them as well?

Mark McGwire, of course, was Canseco's "Bash Brother" in the late 1980's, and morphed from a tall, slender player into the largest bohemoth the game has ever known in the mid-to-late 1990's. Is it really that much of a stretch to say that Mark McGwire was on the juice?

For that matter, with Juan Gonzalez's talents for both incredible power and nagging, debilitating injury, is it that much of a stretch to think that he has used the juice once or twice? For what it's worth, Juan was 19 in his 1990 Topps baseball card, and was already a physical specimen. But Canseco's story makes sense timeline wise - he joined the Rangers in 1992, Juan-Gone's second full season in the league. Not hard to believe at all.

Speaking of not hard to believe, in Palmeiro's first five full seasons, his homerun totals were 8, 8, 14, 26, and 22. He became a teammate of Canseco's in 1992, and in 1993 he hit 37 home runs and would hit at least that many in every non-strike year for the next ten years. His durability and physique make his association with steroids questionable, but not unbelievable.

As far as Ivan Rodriguez is concerned, I have been convinced for many years now that he juices. Remember the manical look on his face as he did his "I am the holder of the ball" routine after the Marlins won their playoff series against the Giants a couple of years ago?

The really telling part of this new-born controversy is the various reactions of the parties involved. Palmeiro, for his part, was unequivocal in his denial, stating that he had never used steroids or any other banned substance. Gonzalez also issued an unequivocal statement - "Juan has never used steroids and has never been in favor of their use. And, in fact, in 2000, when Major League Baseball did its survey, Juan was in favor of testing and was one of only two players that volunteered to be tested at that time." From there, however, it gets foggy.

McGwire simply stated that, "I have always told the truth and I am saddened I continue to face this line of questioning."

Yeah, Mark, that's great. But, we're going to need you to say that you didn't do it. Just one more time.

The most interesting reaction of all, and perhaps the most telling, came from the Texas Rangers' organization:

"Neither our current owner, general manager and manager were with the Rangers then," Texas spokesman Gregg Elkin said. "The Rangers continue to support baseball's initiative to get steroids out of the game."

The statement speaks for itself. As a relatively uninvolved party, the organization is essentially saying that the current Rangers' front office is not responsible for what went on before its arrival. The implication is that something did go on.

Although I have candidly explored that possibility that Jeff Bagwell is at the center of the steroid conspiracy, it has always been clear that this is more of a ring than several isolated incidents. It is not difficult to believe that it would have started with Canseco. Jose was the first superstar of the modern era, the first era after the days of Dale Murphy, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, and George Brett. Canseco's MVP and 40/40 season in 1988 marked the beginning of a new era, and for the time Canseco was the reigning king of baseball, the name at the top of baseball's A-list. As Schmidt and Jackson, the great power hitters of the seventies and eighties, reached the ends of their careers, and players like Bonds and Canseco and McGwire and Palmeiro embarked upon theirs, it is not difficult to believe that the first big superstar of the new era was also the first player to use steroids, and that the whole steroid mess began with him.

Not hard to believe at all.