The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Canseco and Minor League Stats

In his new book "Juiced", Jose Canseco speaks of himself in very flattering and almost reverent tones. He not only speaks highly of his accomplishments, but in the book – and in interviews – he regularly speaks of being “the greatest” baseball player for a time during the late 80s and early 90s.

It’s an interesting perspective, and one could certainly argue that it was true – even if it was for a briefer period of time than Jose would care to admit. What’s also interesting, and somewhat contradictory at the same time, is that Jose regularly acknowledges that he was not the best athlete in the world as a youngster and that he wasn’t all that impressive at times coming up through the minors. What changed all of that, according to Jose, was his use of steroids.

In the book, Jose points to his 1985 season as the turning point that put him on the map as a superstar major leaguer. He speaks of his accomplishments as if they have never been duplicated, even by others who came after him using steroids. The sad truth of it for Jose is that many others have duplicated and even bettered Jose’s numbers. Here’s one example:

In 1985, Jose split his time between the A’s AA and AAA clubs. He played in 118 minor league games, hit .333, launched 36 homers, and drove in 127 runs. On top of that he scored 88 times and stole 11 bases (apparently his speed came later). All in all it was a remarkable year, and was good enough to get him a late-season call up to the big club, where he appeared in 29 games with the A’s.

While his season was certainly outstanding, it was far from the greatest minor league season ever – as Jose would like you to believe it was. Only three years prior, in 1982, future White Sox slugger Ron Kittle would put up even bigger numbers in AAA with the Edmonton Trappers. Kittle hit 50 homers and drove in 144 runs, while hitting a robust .345 (and yes, those stats were good enough to win the AAA Triple Crown). He also scored 121 runs and hit 10 triples. Kittle’s 50 homers represented the first time that a minor leaguer amassed that total since Steve Bilko in 1957.

What’s the point here? Well, Kittle wasn’t on steroids at the time like Canseco was. Instead, Kittle had built up his physique as an ironworker while he rehabbed from broken vertebrae and a cracked spinal cord.

As everyone knows, there’s a lot of interesting information and gossip in Jose’s new book, “Juiced”, but it’s also important to keep in mind that some of the things that you’re probably apt to take as fact – such as his statistics and accomplishments – also need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, the book is worth buying – especially if you buy it through my link.


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