Recently I wrote an article asking a very interesting question: “Did Jose Canseco save baseball?” 

I had numerous comments and appreciate everyone who took part in the discussion. I found there were more than two sides to this complex issue. From my point of view, the chain of events that led up to that fateful day in Congress deserves to be looked at more closely. 

Canseco obviously played a big role in the steroid fiasco. He penned a tell-all book claiming that steroid use was rampant in baseball dating back to his glory years with the Oakland Athletics during the mid-to-late 1980s.  And when Canseco was subpoenaed to testify, he was one of the first to comply. 

Bash Brother No. 2 Mark McGwire was once the golden-boy of baseball along with Sammy Sosa and several other superstars that helped return baseball to the “America’s Pastime” status that it had desired for so long.  Unfortunately for baseball (and McGwire), a bottle of Andro was seen in his locker during one of his interviews.  The rest is history. 

As I stated in my previous piece, 2005 was a monumental year for Bash Brother No. 1 and a devastating year for the game in general. 

By the time the book came out, everyone was aware that something was indeed wrong with the game.  Statistics between 1998 and 2004 resembled something out of a video game and their biggest stars were under unrelenting scrutiny—Barry Bonds and BALCO and Jason Giambi’s damnation after his 2003 admission of steroid use to a federal grand jury. 

Why was Congress investigating baseball in the first place?   

According to a 2005 article from the Washington Post, “Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, said the main motivation for the investigation is the rising use of steroids among the country’s children.”

Thomas M. Davis III was also quoted, claiming the game’s integrity was on the line, and here was its opportunity to clear its name:

“There’s a cloud over baseball, and perhaps a public discussion of the issues, with witnesses testifying under oath, can provide a glimpse of sunlight.” 

It was time for the game’s biggest names to set the record straight, end the rumours, and prove that Canseco, who was facing unrelenting heat for the “outrageous” claims in his book, was lying. 

The congressional hearings turned out to do the exact opposite. 

Mark McGwire did not want to speak about the past. With his historic 1998 campaign several years removed, perhaps he misremembered?  I’m not quite sure. 

The Rafael Palmeiro denial, “I have never used steroids. Period.” was obviously not the case, and Sammy Sosa, who proclaimed that he did not break any rules of the United States or the Dominican Republic, was out of the game less than two years later, becoming a shell of his former self. 

If the hearings were meant to clean up the game, they failed miserably, inflicting irrefutable damage that has yet to wear off. 

Turns out that Canseco told the truth.  The question remains: Did he save baseball? 

I think a little bit from column A and a little bit from column B would suffice.  What Canseco did while playing was inexcusable however, his book and willingness to testify did provide some resemblance of sanity during a whirlwind of confusion. 

The game had been tarnished and the congressional hearings solidified that the 1998 MLB season was “magical”, unfortunately for the game to move forward, talking about the past is something that couldn’t be pushed aside.

Devon is the founder of The GM’s Perspective

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