Out of tune

The Baltimore Sun

No matter how much truth there might have been in Jose Canseco's prior tell-all, Juiced, or his new book, Vindicated, it's difficult to buy his self-ascribed label of whistle-blower. That's an appellation of honor for a principled person who fights a corporation or a bureaucracy that hinders the public interest.

Canseco would say that's a perfect description of him: a guy who told an unpopular truth that the suits of Major League Baseball would have preferred to have dealt with quietly - if at all. And you do have to give Canseco a little credit, because even if the federal investigations and the subsequent Mitchell Report that was bracketed by congressional hearings were inevitable, Canseco's accounts provided an insider's perspective that resonated with the average fan. His tales of modern baseball needling helped fuel the requisite outrage.

But, for Canseco, whistle-blowing, if it can be called that, is a cottage industry. He's doing interviews these days for Vindicated, and as he does these promos, he has pinned another label on himself - The Godfather of Steroids. He used that term in an interview with the New York Daily News recently, but it has appeared elsewhere. It's hard to tell whether he's resentful or embarrassed or proud that he is seen that way. Being both an instigator and exploiter of scandal should render one ineligible to be called a whistle-blower.

What the continuing scab-picking over baseball's steroid era has allowed Canseco to do is milk his involvement and, indeed, his culpability in order to extend his celebrity far past his playing days. I have gotten to see Canseco using his C-List cache in another area with which I have some familiarity - poker. Canseco enjoys playing; he likes to hang with the stars of that game, and occasionally he's invited to play in tournaments as a "celebrity." When I covered the last World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas, Canseco was there and wore a T-shirt of his sponsor, the Olympic Garden. It's a fancy strip joint.

Last fall, he was noticed - "noticed" being the operative concept - entering an all-women's tournament (along with a handful of other men) at a California card room for what was billed as the California State Championship for women. He did not win, and, in fact, it's unlikely he was skilled enough to even have much of a shot. But a ruling by gaming regulators in California prohibits discrimination, and Canseco was apparently ready to make sure that social justice prevailed.

As anyone can tell from his persistent whistle-blowing, Canseco is that kind of guy.


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