The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, June 22, 2001

 

The Hint of Greatness

Ray Ratto's columns for ESPN have made him one of my favorite writers. His satire tends to be wittier and less ham-fisted than many of the other ESPN writers (Jim Caple, I'm looking in your direction). This piece on Jose Canseco isn't satire, though.

Canseco's ups and downs since his salad days with the Oakland A's have made him an easy target every time he goes on the DL or switches teams. Road rage, 'roids, and that awful haircut are usually the first places to start. But rather than roasting Canseco, Ratto cuts to the heart of his appeal: "[S]ome folks are just naturally gifted enough to convince others that their gifts can still be mined... All he needs is to get untracked, to find the swing that launched a lot of pitchers' next careers. At least that's the theory the White Sox are clinging to..."

There is something incredibly magnetic about Canseco, like Darryl Strawberry before he reached the Last Straw phase. Both were humbled by health difficulties and the consequences of their arrogance. Both went down to the minor leagues to prove that they still had the ability, on a good day, to hit a baseball further than most of us can even dream about. Both have the charisma to make you believe in them again, even when the rational part of your brain tells you otherwise.

It remains to be seen whether Canseco can do for his new team, the Chicago White Sox, what Darryl did while wearing pinstripes (emphasis on wearing, please). For what it's worth, Canseco did manage to get a hell of a lot more out of his talent than the Straw--his failure to get into the Hall of Fame would set a new benchmark for the most homers without enshrinement (he surpassed Dave Kingman's 442 last season, and is holding at 446). And his life is nowhere near as tragic as Darryl's, a lesson I'm sure is not lost on the man after his tour of duty with the Yankees.

So, cheers to Jose Canseco if he can hit a few more big flies without getting a swollen head. And cheers to Ratto for taking a thoughtful high road when the low one would have been so easy.

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