Retired Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell would like to lay claim to the 1988 American League Most Valuable Player Award, one he lost to admitted steroid user Jose Canseco.
“Where’s my MVP?” said Greenwell, now a Fort Myers real estate developer and a volunteer assistant coach for the Riverdale High School baseball team. Greenwell graduated from North Fort Myers High in 1982.
“He’s an admitted steroid user,” Greenwell said of Canseco. “I was clean. If they’re going to start putting asterisks by things, let’s put one by the MVP.
“I do have a problem with losing the MVP to an admitted steroids user.”
Greenwell said missing the award ” he finished second in the ’88 voting ” probably cost him millions of dollars over the rest of his career.
“Every time you renegotiate a contract, if you’re an MVP, you have a different level of bargaining power,” he said. “But in honesty, I don’t care about the money.”
Canseco, notorious for striking out, often talked to Greenwell about hitting. Greenwell was known for being patient at the plate, and he rarely struck out.
Canseco, a career .266 hitter, compiled 462 home runs and 1,942 strikeouts in 17 seasons. Greenwell, a career .303 hitter, slugged 130 home runs and struck out just 365 times over 12 seasons.
“He said, ‘You probably can’t teach me to hit like you, but I can show you how to get power like me,’ ” Greenwell said.
According to Greenwell, Canseco suggested that he start using steroids as well. Greenwell declined.
Not that burden of cleaning up baseball should fall on Tony La Russa and Mike Greenwell, but how is their trashing of Canseco appreciably different than what he’s doing to his fellow teammates (other than the fact he’s getting paid)? If it was common knowledge around the game that Canseco was a user, where’s the criticism of managers, coaches and players (not to mention owners) who’ve admitted nothing until this week?
Rob Neyer has a very funny review of “Juiced” in today’s New York Observer. Suffice to say that Neyer is even less charitable towards Jose & his uncredited ghostwriter than Tom Verducci.
If you™re looking for inside information about the game on the field in the 1980™s and 90™s, you™ll have to go elsewhere. Mr. Canseco devotes slightly less than two pages to players he™s not accusing of steroid use. And even those pages are less about the players than about Mr. Canseco™s obsession with appearance. For example:
Rickey Henderson had “such incredible legs and arms that even past his fortieth birthday he looked like a mini-bodybuilder.”
“Dennis Eckersley was one of the pretty boys of baseball ¦. With his long hair flapping in the wind, he always looked good. He had always been out tanning, and he was manicured, too.”
Mr. Canseco was impressed by Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen, but the short passage about Mr. Saberhagen is really an excuse to mention that “Later, in 1998, we were both up for American League Comeback Player of the Year, along with Eric Davis. As Sports Illustrated put it, I deserved credit for ˜resurrecting™ myself ˜from the cartoon-superhero junk heap.™”
We learn that Blue Jays reliever Duane Ward threw a “heavy sinker” and a “slider from hell.” So”the historians will have that, at least.
Historians shouldn™t put a lot of stock in Mr. Canseco™s claims of discrimination, though. In one of many passages devoted to the rough road he™s traveled, he writes: “I remember as a Cuban kid on the A™s farm system at that time [in 1982, his first season in the minor leagues], I was very aware that baseball was closed to a young Latino like me. That was only twenty-three years ago, but for baseball it was a completely different era.”
The last thing I™d want to do, writing in a New York newspaper, is to downplay the barriers faced in this country by those whose ancestors don™t hail from northern Europe. But by 1982, Major League Baseball™s rich history was already studded with great Latino players like Roberto Clemente, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Minnie Minoso. And that season there were roughly 100 Latino players in the major leagues. What™s more, the toughest things about making it as a Latino ballplayer are the language barrier and abject poverty. Mr. Canseco grew up speaking English in Florida, in a solidly middle-class family.
Basically, whenever Mr. Canseco strays into charted territory, he gets lost. Which of course brings us back to that word: credibility. If we can™t believe the stuff we can check, why should we believe the stuff we can™t?