Touted as a Ball Four
for the new millennium, Jose Canseco's Juiced
promises to expose not only the rampant use of performance-enhancing substances in baseball (with steroids replacing the amphetamines of Bouton's day), but the painfully human flaws of its heroes as well. A steroid devotee since the age of 20, Canseco goes beyond admitting his own usage to claim that with the tacit approval of the league's powers-that-be he acted as baseball's ambassador of steroids and is therefore indirectly responsible for "saving" the game.
Chief among his claims is that he introduced Mark McGwire to steroids in 1988 and that he often injected McGwire while they were teammates. According to Canseco, steroids and human growth hormones gave McGwire and Sammy Sosa (whose own usage was "so obvious, it was a joke") the strength, stamina, regenerative ability, and confidence they needed for a record-setting home run duel often credited with restoring baseball's popularity after the 1994 strike. Although he devotes a lot of ink to McGwire, Canseco envisions himself as a kind of Johnny Steroidseed, spreading the gospel of performance enhancement, naming a number of players that he either personally introduced to steroids or is relatively certain he can identify as fellow users. Because Canseco plays fast and loose with some of the facts of his own career he provides fodder for those looking to damage his credibility, but in many ways questions of public and personal perception are what raise the book beyond mere vitriolic tell-all. Those willing to heed his request and truly listen to what he has to say will find Juiced to be an occasionally insightful meditation on the workings of public perception and a consistently interesting character study. --Shane Farmer
From Publishers Weekly
In this poorly written, controversial memoir, Canseco, a one-time American League MVP, reveals himself to be an unapologetic user of performance-enhancing drugs. Canseco readily admits that he was never the most talented of athletes, and that he never really had the drive to be a star until he made a promise of greatness to his dying mother. After a year of playing some uninspired minor league ball, Canseco packed on a superhuman 25 pounds of muscle in one off-season with the help of steroids and a human growth hormone. A string of tainted baseball achievements followed-including an all-star invitation as a rookie, an MVP award and a World Series title with the Oakland A's-before his life and career unraveled. Judging from the recent BALCO case, baseball certainly does have a steroid problem. But despite the headline-grabbing claims in this book, whether Canseco really knows anything about the problem beyond his own use is questionable. Rather, what emerges is a portrait of a bitter, disgraced ex-player who so desperately wants respect that he casts his own extraordinary recklessness as perfectly commonplace, a scorched-earth attempt to raise his own legend by bringing the game-and some of its great players-down to his level. Most shocking is that Canseco remains an unabashed booster of steroids, claiming they'll one day be used safely under medical supervision to propel humans to better health and great feats. Doctors disagree, and it should be noted that doctors did not administer Canseco's steroid use. "Is it cheating," Canseco asks in a revealing moment of moral relativism, "to do what everyone wants you to do?" If that very question were asked by a little leaguer, its answer could not be more obvious.
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