Once upon a time it was thought Jose Canseco would be best remembered for being the first major leaguer to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season.
Now it looks like the former All-Star slugger will actually end up being remembered more for his literary work. Canseco's highly anticipated tell-all book on steroid use in professional baseball, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, is scheduled to hit store bookshelves Monday - a week earlier than originally scheduled.
I haven't been this excited or interested in purchasing a sports-related book since Sam Smith's The Jordan Rules. And I don't expect to be the only one.
After hearing about what may be in Juiced, I believe Canseco's book will offer as much fact as fiction.
The late Ken Caminiti has already confessed as much about his own dabbling with steroids during his playing days, particularly around the time he won the 1996 National League MVP award. This week Jason Giambi basically offered apologies for buffing up on steroids.
While other major league baseball players continue to discredit Canseco's claims about steroid use in baseball, Juiced continues to climb up the best-seller list. Yesterday morning, it ranked No. 20 on the BarnesandNoble.com list based on pre-release sales. Later in the day, Juiced was at No. 15.
Canseco's decision to speak out about his steroid use, as well as that of others, has the potential to destroy baseball. It has the capability to deter fans from showing up at the ballparks. It could lead to fans turning off televised ball games.
Some may even feel the sanctity of the game has been destroyed by what could turn out as an alarming amount of players found to be using performance-enhancing drugs.
Ironically, steroid use may have played a significant part in drawing fans back to the game and to the ballparks after the 1994 strike by the major league players that led to the cancellation of the World Series.
After Cal Ripken Jr. passed Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played in 1995, baseball's biggest draw became the home run. The long ball became the biggest lure to attracting people to the ballparks. People flocked through turnstiles to see Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and others who could hit a baseball a country mile.
The home run races almost became as significant as pennant races. ESPN and other sports networks would lead off broadcasts with home run updates. Often, baseball highlights were made up almost entirely of home run shots.
Television ratings for baseball made strides during this time. Sports-talk radio broadcasters could carry on for hours about the best in baseball, which often meant talking about the best long-ball hitters in the game.
Furthermore, more baseball players were starting to become as popular as their brethren in other, more-popular sports. In some regards, they attracted attention because of their hitting prowess and their Herculean physiques.
Unfortunately, in some instances their heavily muscled bodies may end up serving as a lethal injection to America's pastime.
Then again, maybe not. Professional wrestling remains a popular pay-per-view attraction.
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