Rafael Palmeiro yesterday denied ever taking steroids, calling those claims in Jose Canseco's pending book "ludicrous," and Orioles owner Peter Angelos rushed to Palmeiro's defense.
In a combined statement released by the Orioles, Palmeiro and Angelos questioned Canseco's credibility, one day after the New York Daily News reported on the contents of his coming book, Juiced.
In the book, which is scheduled for a Feb. 21 release, Canseco reportedly said he injected steroids into several of his former All-Star teammates, including Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Mark McGwire.
"I categorically deny any assertion made by Jose Canseco that I used steroids," Palmeiro said in his statement. "At no point in my career have I ever used steroids, let alone any substance banned by Major League Baseball."
Canseco said he introduced steroids to McGwire in Oakland and then introduced them to Palmeiro, Rodriguez and Gonzalez after getting traded to the Texas Rangers in 1992.
Palmeiro had never hit more than 26 home runs in a season until 1993, when he hit 37 in his final year with Canseco as a teammate.
Palmeiro went on to slug at least 38 homers a season from 1995 to 2003. He has long attributed his power surge to a change in hitting philosophy: He began focusing on pulling the ball to right field instead of spraying the ball for base hits.
"As I have never had a personal relationship with Canseco, any suggestion that he taught me anything, about steroid use or otherwise, is ludicrous," Palmeiro said in the statement. "We were teammates, and that was the extent of our relationship. I am saddened that he felt it necessary to attempt to tarnish my image and that of the game that I love."
Palmeiro, 40, who was at his offseason home in Texas, and his agents did not return messages from The Sun yesterday.
In October, the Orioles re-signed Palmeiro to a one-year, $3 million contract with plans to make him their full-time designated hitter. He hit .258 last season, pushing his career home run total to 551 and his career hit total to 2,922.
"The Orioles are solidly behind Rafael Palmeiro and have absolute confidence in him and in his denial of the Canseco story," Angelos said in his statement. "The Orioles will do everything we can to be of assistance to Raffy in meeting these allegations that have no foundation.
"We know him well and the kind of athlete he has been and the vigorous manner in which he has trained. He is a highly professional athlete."
Angelos went on to suggest his law firm might have just gained a new client - if Palmeiro wants the services.
"Russell Smouse, general counsel of the club, and I will be pleased to provide any representation which is appropriate in meeting these wholly unfounded charges," Angelos said.
Reaction to Canseco's book has been harsh and swift. According to the Daily News, he maintained his claim that 80 percent of the players in baseball take steroids and even defended their use.
He said President Bush must have known about his players' steroid use when he was managing partner of the Rangers in the early 1990s. Canseco said the owners and the players union actually condoned steroid use because home runs help sell the game.
This winter, baseball adopted a stiffer drug-testing program, after reports surfaced that Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi had admitted to steroid use in grand jury testimony in the federal BALCO case.
"No purpose is served in giving audience to these type of claims in view of Major League Baseball having stepped to the plate with the encouragement of President Bush in addressing the steroids issue," Angelos said in his statement. "To suggest, as Canseco allegedly does, that President Bush, as the Texas Rangers managing partner in the early 1990s, 'must have known about the steroid use on that team' is a desperate ploy to sell a book. What credibility does such a person deserve?"
Yesterday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said if there was steroid abuse with the Rangers under Bush, the president was not aware of it.
"He has recognized, for some time now, that steroids is a growing problem in professional sports, particularly Major League Baseball," McClellan said. "That's why the president has made addressing the issue a priority in his administration."
Canseco is withholding further comment until Feb. 20, when he is scheduled to appear on 60 Minutes as a prelude to his book release.
Tom Grieve, who served as Rangers general manager from 1984 to 1994, lashed out at Canseco yesterday in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"Jose Canseco is an embarrassment to baseball and an embarrassment to his family," Grieve said. "He's become nothing more than a caricature, and he's just giving a better example of it by bringing the president into this and by trying to expose well-respected players who don't deserve this.
" ... You've got a guy who has squandered a fortune, his personal life is an embarrassment and he probably has no way to earn an honest living. He's a joke."
In the book, Canseco describes injecting a hypodermic needle into McGwire's behind in a bathroom stall at the Oakland Coliseum. Canseco said the Oakland clubhouse was a steroid-user's paradise.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who managed Canseco and McGwire with the Athletics, defended McGwire in an interview with The New York Times.
"I am absolutely certain that Mark earned his size and strength from hard work and a disciplined lifestyle," La Russa said. "... As opposed to the other guy, Jose, who would play around in the gym for 10 minutes, and all of a sudden he's bigger than anybody."