One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small.
And the ones that Mother gives you don't do anything at all.
Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall...
Oh, praise the lard and pass the pee sample: Jose "The Mad Hatter" Canseco was in the news again last week, coming to you live from his own weirdly-colored corner of Wonderland. It seems that former Senator George Mitchell's investigation into steroid use in Baseball has finally gotten around to a sit-down with Canseco, the author of the catalytic book Juiced
. At the rate the Mitchell team is going, they'll be wanting to talk to Jason Grimsley sometime in 2009. Anyway, the meeting was a momentous occasion for the Mad Hatter, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it provided the perfect excuse for him to hold a press conference and regale us with stories from his own special plane of existence... like what it's like to actually be
a cuckoo clock. For another, he's been just dying
to offer his services to the Mitchell team... as an investigator.
Hmm, yeah. If you find that idea to be eerily reminiscent of Elvis Presley asking Tricky Dick Nixon for an appointment as a federal drug agent, good: I'm glad I'm not the only one. You know what I think makes Elvis and Jose seem so similar? All that thick, black hair. And maybe the drugs. And the, uh, has-been-ish status. And, oh, yeah, the, uh, you know... frighteningly tenuous grip on reality.
One big difference between them, though: Elvis is in the Hall of Fame.
Actually, in a way, it would be kind of fitting for Canseco to join the Mitchell investigation. He is, after all, the man most responsible for its existence.And if you go chasing rabbits --and you know you're going to fall--tell 'em all a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call...
Jose, can y'see, is still crabby after all these years over the fact that prodigious amounts of the very best steroids money could buy were only able to enhance his performance to the tune of 462 career home runs. That's 31 fewer 'round-trippers than Lou Gehrig, whose career was cut short by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It's also 50 homers short of Ernie Banks, whose performance was enhanced by little more than a good attitude and a strong, prevailing southwest wind. Far more important to the Mad Hatter, though, is the mathematical fact that 462 is 38 dingers shy of the magic number 500, which traditionally wins you an all-expense-paid trip to Cooperstown. Deep down, Josey is still dreaming the dream to some day pose next to a plaque with his name on it and maybe even take a few questions, blithely unaware that the assembled reporters would be trying to figure out who had the higher I.Q.-- the bronzed, inanimate likeness on the wall, or The Mad Hatter himself. The most underdeveloped muscle in Canseco's entire body, y'see, is that thick, gamy, overcooked one between his ears.
Not that Jose lets that stop him from thinking he's always the smartest guy in the room. (This is the man, after all, who once felt the need to explain
to Mike Wallace that "gluteus maximus" is the technical term for "butt muscle.") Likewise, he has conned himself into thinking that his failure to reach the slugger's Valhalla can't possibly be due to shortcomings of his own, either as a player or as a person. No, the Mad Hatter instead looks upon the vast, rudderless, disjointed, chase-its-own-tail, eat-its-own-young, homer-happy organism that is Major League Baseball and somehow, somehow sees a grand conspiracy to destroy the career of one Jose Canseco Capas, Jr.
And so it was with self-righteousness and indignation and a vengeful heart --and a bank account far smaller than someone with 462 career home runs should ever have, in this day and age-- that the Mad Hatter, microphone protruding from one hand and middle finger protruding from the other, sat down and dictated Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and how Baseball Got BIG.
The ensuing book was part confession, part accusation, part speculation. Names were named. Characters were questioned.
And much like Elvis, Jose's recording struck a chord. America awoke from its Great Steroid Slumber. Voices were raised, phone calls were monitored --er, uh, I mean, made-- emails were sent and a great, public hue and cry demanded that Something Be Done. Congress unerringly checked the temperature of the hot dogs and the apple pies and concluded that there were votes to be had, if hearings were held. Dozens of subpoenas were loudly issued! (And hundreds of ready-to-autograph baseballs were quietly requisitioned.)When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead...
remember the Congressional hearings last year, don't you? Sammy Sosa appeared at the hearings and pretended he no hablo ingles, senors; Mark McGwire appeared at the hearings and pretended he had no idea what they were about; Rafael Palmeiro appeared at the hearings and pretended he had never, ever, ever used steroids; Frank Thomas appeared via satellite and pretended he couldn't make the trip in person; and the Mad Hatter appeared with a smile and a wave and didn't pretend a damn thing, because he actually believes everything he says.
Curt Shilling appeared at the hearings. Oh, he wasn't subpoenaed --nor even invited, for that matter-- but he showed up anyway because he could just smell all those cameras and microphones. Standing before the committee, he pounded his chest and said, "Do you realize what this means? If steroid use is this
widespread, then I'm an even better
pitcher than you already thought I was!" Later, Shilling held a press conference on the Capitol steps and --staring at a point about six inches above the camera's lens-- delivered a misty-eyed apology to Baseball fans everywhere for having been way too humble for far too long.
Meanwhile, back in the hot gas chambers of Congress, two traditional adversaries sat side by side under the white-hot glare of holier-than-thou Congressmen. One of them, Bud "Don't Know My [Donkey] From The Hole In The Sand Where I've Been Burying My Head" Selig, ran his fingers through his tangled locks, shifted uncomfortably in his wrinkled suit and pretended to be shocked, shocked to learn that there were steroids in Baseball. Sitting next to him was the head of the players' union, Donald Fehr, looking for all the world like that kid who knows he's about to be expelled from school for shoving a cherry bomb up the principal's tailpipe. Yea, though the Congressional hearings were a sudden, spring tempest that shrieked madly for a few days and then just as quickly blew itself out, the landscape was forever changed. Government agencies stepped up their investigations into illegal steroid distribution and Congress leaned hard on Selig and Fehr to institute more thorough testing and tougher penalties within the grand old game. Can I get an "Amen," brothers and sisters?
At least Selig had the good grace not
to pretend that he had channeled the ghost of Kenesaw Landis, single-handedly shoving the new rules down Fehr's throat. Instead, he wiped his brow and told us that everything was going to be alright, now. And then he had a hot dog and prayed that everything would be alright, now.
It wasn't. The investigations and the testing only proved what everyone, including Selig, had suspected all along but didn't want to think about: 'Roids were indeed rampant in Baseball. About that, at least, Canseco was right. Selig reacted to the bad news in his customary, screen-all-my-calls fashion. He delegated duties, kept a low profile, shied away from the media, ate lots of hot dogs and hoped it would all blow over.
It didn't. So, finally, this past spring, Bud had a revelation: Hey... maybe we ought to look into this whole steroids thing!
He announced the creation of a new commission: An investigative body independent of Baseball, independent of the Commissioner's office, independent of Congress and headed by a highly respected individual blah, blah, blah. Seligese. The "highly respected individual" who was "independent of Congress" was a guy most people had never heard of before, former Senator George Mitchell. "Independent of Baseball and the Commissioner's office" meant, of course, "A guy I hired who is a minority shareholder in the Boston Red Sox." The "investigative body" was a panel of mid-level bozos charged with the duty of visiting ballparks, poking around a little, asking a few obvious questions and, hopefully, thinking up a good excuse to suspend Barry Bonds before he surpassed (a) Babe Ruth's career home run mark or (b) Hank Aaron's career home run record.And the white knight is talking backwards,and the red queen's lost her head...
Of course, if you're going to "investigate" steroid use in Baseball, what better place to start than with the author of the aforementionedly catalytic Juiced
, right? Apparently not, because it has taken George Mitchell four long months to finally meet with Jose Canseco. Maybe Mitchell felt that simply reading Juiced
was enough: According to Canseco, Mitchell told him that he believes the book is 100% true.
Now, don't get me wrong: I'm glad Canseco wrote that book, and I think there's probably a great deal of truth in it. I also believe, however, that the Mad Hatter is about one-third functionally insane-- which is a technical term, Jose, for "bat-shit bonkers." So, I find it difficult to swallow the notion that George Mitchell thinks Juiced
is the be-all, end-all gospel on steroids in Baseball and everything else under the sun, okay?
Ah, but I don't really blame him for saying so, under the circumstances. Let's face it: If you were trapped in a room with a 462-pound gorilla who is clearly, clearly insane, you'd probably tell him exactly
what he wanted to hear, too. You might even dig up a little toy sheriff's star, pin it on his left pectoral, smile your politician's smile, put your arm around his shoulders and gently guide him to the door. Heck, you might even give him a playful little pat on the fanny. Through a supreme exercise of will, you'd resist the urge to roll your eyes until he was safely outside, striding Conanesque and tilty-eyed toward the waiting cameras and tape recorders, filling his lungs in preparation of pontification...
------------------------------Remember what the dormouse said...*
Bud "Shhh... Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet... I'm Hunting Wabbits" Selig must go.
* I'm really not looking to insult anyone's intelligence with the following details, but form demands that I go through the motions of giving credit. The bold text in the above post represents excerpted lyrics from the song "White Rabbit." It was written by Grace Slick and recorded by Jefferson Airplane, with Slick handling the vocals, in 1967. It was released both as a single and as the next-to-last track on the LP Surrealistic Pillow