The Shame of Not Giving Up
Channeling Kenny Powers, 47-year-old Jose Canseco joined the Mexican League’s Quintana Roo Tigers this week in an attempt to limp his way back to major-league baseball. “I am addicted to white leather and red stitches,” he said Tuesday. “If I have no bat speed at 47 then why does the ball go so far when I hit it?”
Don’t ask questions to which you don’t want to hear the answers, Jose…
The author of Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big has been a walking anthology of cautionary tales since the Reagan administration, teaching kids that you shouldn’t lead the California Highway Patrol on a 15-mile chase while carrying a loaded semiautomatic pistol in the glove compartment, or beat the shit out of your first wife, or beat the shit out of your second wife, or sucker punch a Miami Beach tourist, or do steroids, or lie about doing steroids, or write a book about lying about doing steroids and rat out dozens of your former teammates in the process, or tweet that you are “hung like a clydesdal [sic],” or smuggle illegal fertility drugs in from Mexico, or be a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice, or bet a 5′ 9″ former NFL player $30,000 that you can kick his ass in a boxing match and then get knocked out in the first round, or bet a kickboxer that you could kick his ass in a UFC fight and then get knocked out in the first round, or bet former child star Danny Bonaduce that you could kick his ass in mixed martial arts and have the fight end in a draw.
That said, Canseco’s latest may very well be his most poignant: don’t mount a major-league comeback via the Quintana Roo Tigers at age 47.
Aging stars’ inability to throw in the towel is hardly unique to baseball—or to sports, for that matter, as evidenced annually in Super Bowl halftime shows. That said, the phenomenon seems to be particularly accentuated on the baseball field, where players spend much of the game either sitting or standing in place. As the greatest basketball player in the world can attest, though, there’s a bit more to baseball than bubble gum and ball grabbing.
Our advice to Canseco, of course, is the same advice we (and everyone else) have given the Brett Favres and the Beach Boyses and, come Sunday’s Academy Awards, Billy Crystal: stop. Just stop. Because you’re not only embarrassing yourselves, you’re embarrassing us for having ever admired you in the first place.
Perhaps Mr. Canseco will find the following images helpful in rounding out his anthology…
Rickey Henderson holds the major-league record for career stolen bases, runs scored, unintentional walks and leadoff home runs, though one wouldn’t have thought so at the start of the 2003 season when, without a team for the first time in his career, he joined the Atlantic League’s Newark Bears.
Wade Boggs justified the overextension of his Hall of Fame career by doing so in Tampa Bay, his hometown. It’s hard to say which was more depressing about his final season in 1999: the green-and-yellow uniform or the paltry 29 RBIs.
Willie Mays, the best all-around baseball player in the history of the game, embarrassed himself on the biggest stage possible in 1973, as his inability to shag routine fly balls cost the New York Mets the 1973 World Series.
At 49, Julio Franco was the oldest active player in the major leagues in 2007—and it showed. Throughout the season, commentators repeatedly pointed out banal records surpassed by Franco (he was the oldest player to ever walk four times in a game, for example). Coincidentally, like Canseco, Franco ended his career unceremoniously with the Quintana Roo Tigers.
Sammy Sosa suffered (what should have been) a career-ending injury in May 2004 when he threw his back out while sneezing during a postgame interview. He slumped for the rest of the season and proved a massive disappointment to Cubs fans, which culminated in his leaving Wrigley Field in the middle of the last game of year.
- — C. Brian Smith