Book Review: Vindicated by Jose Canseco

VindicatedJust when you thought the conversation about steroid use in baseball was over and done with, Alex Rodriguez continues to break Major League records with every at-bat.  This season, he passed Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list and Barry Bonds for fourth on the all-time RBI list, feats that must have old school baseball fans cringing.  At this point, no self-respecting can watch a baseball travel 450 feet without thinking about the bat who cried wolf.  It’s a mess baseball has yet to clean up.

Looking for some closure, I recently picked up a used copy of Jose Canseco’s Vindicated to see what the former bash brother had to say about his time in the big leagues and his time with the needles.  I had never read his previous, Juiced, which for all intents and purposes blew the lid off baseball’s steroid scandal so now seemed to be as good a time as any.

Vindicated, Juiced’s sequel, if you will, begins with a lot of talk about Roger Clemens.  Canseco had intended to express his thoughts on Clemens in Juiced, which was originally published in 2005 (Vindicated was released in 2008).  Canseco was going to imply that Clemens was, well, juiced, however the author was strongly advised to exclude Clemens’ name from his work.

Canseco flexesHe wondered why.  He wondered why so many athletes got a pass while he continued to be discredited.  While others got away scot-free, Canseco was called the “NotCredible Hulk” and “Monica Lewinsky with a bat.”  After all, he was the Godfather of Steroids.  We didn’t believe Canseco because we didn’t like Canseco.   Meanwhile, he was the only one in baseball telling the truth.

So much of who we believed was guilty had to do with public perception, which players we liked and disliked.  Mark McGwire was the believable one, Canseco the pariah.  Vindicated is Canseco’s exhale, his I told you so, his ultimate middle finger to all those who didn’t believe him.  And it’s a pretty entertaining read because of it.

Rarely do athletes write groundbreaking books but the fact that this, and more appropriately Juiced was compared to Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, should tell us the importance of the work.  Ironically, it came from an athlete we least expected.

Even when he named names in his first book, people called him a liar.  I couldn’t help but think of Ray Liotta as Henry Hill on the witness stand at the end of “Goodfellas.”  Canseco was the rat and clearly portrayed as such.  But he never claimed to be innocent.  He just wanted to set the record straight. Vindicated did just that.

Rafael PalmeiroAnd boy, does he get even.

He blasts McGwire, Palmeiro and Sosa, who all lied before Congress.  See no evil, hear no evil, speak no Spanish.

Canseco calls out the Mitchell Report.  During their entire investigation, he claims they never so much as called him, which he found ironic considering he felt the report essentially stemmed from the book he wrote.

“Overall, I’d have to say I found the reports disappointing, and that’s a gross understatement.  They had spent tens of millions of dollars to tell us something most of us already knew.  How could they ignore such blatant evidence and still call their report comprehensive?”

He delves into why he first took steroids, his overwhelming desire to succeed.  He discusses the dangers of kids taking steroids.  However, he doesn’t think steroids messed up the game, which is not entirely inconsistent with his message or the way he lived his life.

“They made the game more entertaining, and the fans got their money’s worth (and then some). If nothing else, the Steroid Era made it worthwhile for the fans.  The thrill of watching a too big guy with a too big head knocking a 600-foot homer out of the park, who doesn’t enjoy that?  I know I did.  I enjoyed batting those moon shots into the stratosphere.”

Twins  v AthleticsJose Canseco wanted to be the best baseball player ever. He felt steroids could help him achieve that goal.  He also wanted to entertain the fans.  Steroids, he thought, were a small price to pay.

He also had some choice words for A-Rod but then again, who doesn’t?

The farther away we get from the steroid era, the more fascinating the debate becomes.  How will we deal with these athletes ten, twenty or thirty years down the road?

Vindicated left me questioning the future of the game and Jose Canseco’s place in it.  Can baseball still be exciting and entertaining without steroids?  Are ratings higher now or when baseballs were flying out of the ballpark with the greatest of ease?  Major League Baseball opened up Pandora’s Box and is now having a tough time keeping it shut.

Vindicatedis one key figure’s important account of the steroid era.  It is written by a man with no reason to lie.  Who would know better what was going on during the steroid era than the biggest juicer in the game?  For those reasons, it is an enjoyable, honest and worthwhile read.

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28 Replies to “Book Review: Vindicated by Jose Canseco”

  1. “Can baseball still be exciting and entertaining without steroids?”

    Check out Miguel Cabrera’s stats! Watching him hit 450+ yard homers is highly entertaining! If anyone doesn’t enjoy watching him hit & find it entertaining, they should just stop watching baseball!

    & btw – I’m waiting for an article from you about the travesty that the ASG voting has become!

  2. Cabrera’s the best player in baseball, no doubt.

    It’s amazing to me that the Tigers haven’t won a World Series yet with all that talent. I know you’re waiting for it, D.

    All-Stat Game voting, huh?

    I can probably knock something like that out.

  3. You know how I feel about the juice use… You implied “it’s a mess baseball has yet to clean up” that people are still using or did you mean the HOF eligibility? I sincerely hope the juicers are all done now. Last season’s hitting stats seem to bear out that the users aren’t doing it anymore and then up jumps the first third of this season and the hitting numbers are moving back upward.
    Nice book report Chris. I’d have never of read it…

  4. Not a bad read, Dwin. Just picked it up for the hell of it and it turned out to be pretty decent. Finished it in no time.

    But that’s the thing. We hope drugs are out of the game but we still can’t help but wonder. Are they or are players just that far ahead of the testing?

  5. Again, not applicable to roids but my kid played for a coach (good guy) at 15 yo who got a Dx to prescribe HGH in order to help his son This stuff is real

  6. Chris

    If you really want to understand the joke baseball has become consider the Orioles’ Chris Davis and the year he hit fifty home runs and the fact since he reached that total has steadily declined. Never mind the fact he fan afoul of baseball’s steroid policy in spite of his claims has never taken a prohibitive substance. Over the past ten years how many times has the fifty home runs in a season been passed ? Never mind 230 plus hits in a season ? And when was the last time you heard of a starting pitcher pitching a complete game, much less more than 7 2/3 of an innings ?

    All of these doubters about Jose Canseco , where are they now ? No doubt they either have their heads buried in the sand or elsewhere . Canseco may well feel he’s been blackballed , but he had to have known what the consequences were likely to be.

    Tophatal ……..

  7. “Chris Humpherys on June 15, 2015 at 2:11 pm said:
    Cabrera’s the best player in baseball, no doubt.”

    Of course you are entitled to your opinion, but you can omit the “no doubt.”
    Stats and metrics spit out New Jersey’s favorite son………..Mike Trout. Plus, his defense is no contest.

  8. Jose banged Madonna while under the influence of steroids.

    …Anyone need any further proof that these drugs are bad for your health?

  9. Not to contradict D about watching home runs fly out (which is fun too), but I just as much enjoy watching a batter battle through an at-bat fouling off pitches and then find a way to drive in runs by hitting an opposite field gapper for a double. Or watch a pitcher like Scherzer or Price or Kershaw mow down guys making them look lost at the plate. Guess it’s all the way you look at it.

  10. You’d like the book, Al. You’d get a kick out of it.

    He keeps it real and it’s a quick read.

    For me the most glaring example of roids gone mad in Major League Baseball was the year Brady Anderson hit fifty.

    He went from hitting 16 one year to 50 the next. Let me guess, he was seeing the ball better.

  11. Good call, Bets.

    I stand corrected. Trout it is.

    I’ve been in total basketball and hockey mode.

    After some time to decompress, I’ll get myself into baseball soon enough.

  12. Al…

    I don’t know that the Lightning fizzled.

    They were banged up, didn’t take advantage of opportunities and ended up getting beat by what looked like, in the final two games of that series, the better team.

  13. I love a good pitchers duel, Moose.

    Plus you’re out of the ballpark in like 2:30 flat.

    Who needs to see a 8-2 ball game when runs just don’t matter?

  14. Yep – HGH to a 13 yo. Coach had Dx friend and his kid was a little small although a decent player in big boy travel baseball. Speaking of which, youth travel baseball is nuts! You talk about parent (fan) obsession. You should take a weekend off once and go check out one of the big tourneys and just watch / listen.

  15. Did he get to choose the color of his kid too, Moose?

    Yeah, I know youth athletics gets pretty wild.

    I’ve always thought about checking it out, you know, get down to the grass roots of competition, what we all remember as kids.

    Then you just realize, it’s as kooky as professional sports.

    I weep for the future.

  16. Chris,
    When my kid was 9 or 10 I enrolled him in a City-wide Football Youth League. His team consisted mostly of ‘brothers’ including the coaches. Figured it would be a good life lesson. Integration, teamwork, etc. Went well as he played primarily offensive line. Made holes you could drive trucks through all sans glory. My problem was the coaches. Ran the game like the guards in “The Longest Yard”. Insulted and bullied young referees. I guess they were playing vicariously through their kids.

  17. Summertime in full swing weather wise and when it gets hot out my mind wanders back to that insane summer Sosa and McGuire put on their roid rage fireworks that captivated the baseball world. I have long been vocal about not caring who did or does what. My analogy has always been an aspirin is performance enhancing because it gets rid of distracting aches and pains. Whatever one thinks of the height of the steroid period (and is it really ever going to be a clean sport…is any sport for that matter?), baseball in the modern era was rarely more exciting on a nightly basis as balls rocketed out of ballparks with extraordinary regularity.

  18. I coached youth basketball for a year, Moose.

    Fortunately all my kids’ parents had their shit together.

    But then of course they were dealing with Coach of the Year so why wouldn’t they?

  19. It’s like a Shakespearean play, Burnsy.

    The history, the character development, the buildup, the climax, the denouement and the aftermath.

    Or I guess that’s pretty much any play. I just wanted to say Shakespearean.

  20. Nice piece on coaching. Really enjoyed it. Maybe the FCC should go back and reinstitute the ban on lawyers advertising. I don’t blame Coach Lefler for quitting. A lawsuit for a kid sliding into home and breaking his leg? This frivolous crap has to stop. As defense attorney I’d stress the boy ‘ran the stop sign’. LOL

  21. at this stage in the game it is evident that management and perhaps even ownership is involved. selig put a band aid on the problem. most people don’t care. they just want to close their eyes and pretend. i would rather watch george scott hit 18 home runs than big poppi hit 38.what people are viewing isn’t real. bryant gumbel should hop a plane to the dominican republic and dig up some dirt. the dominican is driving the whole nightmare. you don’t leave the island unless you take the juice. something very sacred is being murdered.

  22. Mike…

    I think as baseball fans, we’re going to have to go through a guilty until proven innocent phase before we believe anything substantial.

    They brought it on themselves so they have no one else to blame.

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