Back at his old haunts, Canseco loves giving the A's failing grades


OAKLAND, Calif. -- One suspects that no matter how many times Jose Canseco comes to town, whether it be as a Texas Ranger, Cleveland Indian, Montreal Expo or Chunichi Dragon, he will always come back with a mad gaggle of mediots desperate for his vision of Life After Here.

And he will probably always oblige. He cannot help himself, and didn't even try to restrain himself. His new team is four places and six games better than his old one after Monday's 7-4 win over the Athletics, which made Monday the perfect time for him to drop a few more J-bombs on his old employers. The A's are 29-36 since de-Jose-ifying themselves, and as pointless statistics go, this one seems to meet everyone's needs.

It certainly must meet Jose's, since he, in his first visit of the new season to his old stomped-on grounds, took a few more long, looping right hands at the team, the organization and the fans he left behind. Among the highlights of his latest critique were the following, in no particular order of time or vehemence:

* Asked if he thought the A's current on-field struggles were an example of the team getting what it deserved, he gave a Stan Laurel smile and said, "That's very well put."

* Asked about his relationship with his former manager, T. La Russa, he said flatly, "There is no relationship." Asked if he wanted one, he said just as flatly, "No. I'd rather not."

* About the Oakland fans, he hauled out a line he has always enjoyed delivering: "They're French. Boo-yea." And, "It's extremely different now. There were a lot of boos in Oakland, none in Texas. In Texas, they're behind me 100 percent. I never felt that here."

* About the organization, which would presumably mean La Russa and general manager Sandy Alderson, he said, "They think of it like, if the horse has a broken ankle, they'd shoot it, put it out to pasture."

* About his legacy in Oakland, "Whether the fans liked me or not, they came out to watch me play. I put butts in the seats. They want to find out the mystique of Jose Canseco, find out who he is or what he's like. I've always entertained the fans. I've always given them their money's worth."

(Author's note: The game drew 24,559, 169 more than the A's average for their first 13 home games. Canseco's contributions included a well-crushed fly out to the warning track in center in the fifth, an enormously mashed foul ball in the seventh, a gruesome misplay of a Terry Steinbach single in the eighth, and an RBI single in the ninth. Pretty Jose-like in all respects.)

* And finally, about the A's as they are presently constituted, "The difference is, they're not putting out the same caliber of team. They still have some great players, like [Mark] McGwire, Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, but they have a different pitching staff and a few different players."

When asked if he thought the A's still intimidated teams, though, he let his gloating hormones run wild, saying with obvious satisfaction, "Maybe a high school team."

Va, va, va-voom.

This is not a case of Canseco burning his bridges, because that implies that he would ever have come back this way again, a near-impossibility. The shock and hurt of last August's trade has settled into simple resentment, and there it seems likely to remain.

As for his beloved French fans, well, they booed him some and they cheered him some. They loved him when he was parking batting practice fastballs in the left-field bleachers, but they booed him during introductions.

There was no official club response; still, knowing who wields the butter knife for their daily toast, the Coliseum jukebox soldiers waited until Canseco stepped into the cage for batting practice to blat out Linda Ronstadt's version of "When Will I Be Loved?"

One day, we may all weary of the chase, and either ignore him as yesterday's news or ask him to discuss his career since going to Texas. And he may weary of it as well, not because he worries about the boomerang effect of the last laugh, but because he has always known the value of keeping the story fresh, light and airy. Eventually, he will stop being an ex-A.

But until then, we will ask him to speak, and he will. Like any good impromptu speaker or comedian, he understands the necessity of timing. And it may never be better than it was Monday night.

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