Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Jose Canseco

Claim to Fame: Not long ago, Jose Canseco, a Major League outfielder for 17 seasons, was suspended from the independent AAA Mexican League for refusing a drug test, the latest in a sequence of wacky exploits of a controversial ex-superstar whom no one respects but by whom everyone is intrigued.

Since his last at-bat in Major League Baseball in 2001, Canseco has written two tell-all books, one a New York Times best-seller and the other barely successful enough for a Wikipedia page. He has appeared in reality television next to everyone from Donald Trump to Jenna Jameson. He has fought several E-list celebrities and sent his brother to fight another for him. And he has toiled in baseball’s independent leagues, hitting, pitching and even managing for teams like the San Diego Surf Dawgs, Long Beach Armada, Laredo Broncos, and Yuma Scorpions.

But before all that Canseco was a pretty good major leaguer, a six-time all-star and American League MVP in 1988, when he became the first player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases. His posted a career OPS+ of 132 and belted 462 career long balls, twice leading the league in dingers. That his totals were admittedly chemically-enhanced diminishes their luster, but Canseco’s accomplishments on the diamond should not be overlooked.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Canseco received six votes on the 2006 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, good for 1.1 percent and below the 5 percent threshold necessary to remain on the ballot. With superior players like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro punished by voters for steroid use, it was no surprise that the already marginally-qualified Canseco, who has pronounced himself “godfather of steroids,” fell off the ballot immediately. He will one day be eligible on the Veterans Committee ballot, but given his lack of popularity in all baseball circles, shouldn’t be holding his breath for induction.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Well, no he doesn’t, but statistically it’s closer than you might think.

In fact, Bill James’s Hall of Fame Monitor has him slightly above the level of a likely Hall of Famer, and his career WAR of 41.7 is better than a cast of Cooperstown inductees, two tenths of a win ahead of Jim Rice. Canseco also leads Rice in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS+, which accounts for the offensive climate in which Canseco played. Considering Canseco’s base-stealing ability and the fact that neither he nor Rice was known for defense, a statistical argument can easily be made that the Bash Brother was a better player than the Red Sox outfielder.

This example does more to reinforce the absurdity of Jim Rice’s Hall of Fame candidacy than to add credence to Canseco’s, but the fact that Canseco has better career numbers across the board than someone inducted only a few years ago at a similar position at least demonstrates that, if not for the steroid baggage, Canseco’s resume is not too far from Cooperstown-worthy. Canseco may be amusing off the field, but between the white lines he was nothing to laugh at.

Well, except for when that ball hit off his head and bounced over the fence for a home run. That was worth laughing at.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a regular feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCraig BiggioCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don Newcombe,Dwight EvansGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen CaminitiKevin BrownLarry WalkerManny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon Santo, Sammy SosaSmoky Joe WoodSteve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark

9 Replies to “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Jose Canseco”

  1. You’re right Graham, the comparison of Canseco to Rice does more to make the case that Rice does not deserve a place in the HOF. And issues like this will be hotly debated for years to come. I do wonder how well the likes of Canseco would have done without PED’s.
    I remember going with my best pal Jim to see McGuire play when the 1984 U.S. Olympic team came to play an exhibition at our local minor league park. Even then McGuire looked freakishly massive, especially in comparison to his fellow first basemen Will Clark (who imho was far a more skilled and all-round player and is more deserving of a shot at the HOF than Canseco, McGuire and most of the rest of the steroid boys). My friend said McGuire reminded him of the freakish size of the likes of former weightlifters and steroid users, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva. It wasn’t like looking at Mantle, Killebrew or Howard who’s sheer natural mass was an awesome site up close, but this was like looking at a real life over-drawn, comic book, super hero come to life. It was a terribly unnatural site. We both felt for sure that something was up.
    I would hate to see Canseco in the HOF. He really only had two great seasons in his career in 1988 and 1991. He was a poor outfielder and sad to say hitting 450+ homers in the steroid era is not anywhere near the same thing as it was prior to this time. Also why should players like Canseco be lauded for getting 462 homers while other players who may not have used PED’s like Will Clark may have ended up with lesser stats and be more easily overlooked because of it.
    One sad note is that Canseco is one of the users who has suffered from the effects of his PED use. He is permanently sterile and his body no longer makes testosterone, so he has to get shots each day to replace what his body can no longer produce.
    Only time and an upfront study will tell if and how many other athletes may have been or may be affected by the over use of PED’s.

  2. LOL!! So sorry, Alex and Graham for the mix-up!
    Well, you know how sometimes people confuse two famous actors with one another– this is one time to I’ve confused two excellent writers with one another!

  3. He should be. But not because of his statistics. I believe he blew the whistle on the steroids issue. Yes he is a B listed but at least he stood up and proclaimed the issue.

  4. Mr. 40-40 was there and was real. I saw it live and in person. I saw fans boo him and say things to him at bat that no other player had to endure. Throughout the course of history there have been people we would like to erase and discount but we can’t. We may not like them and we may not want to have a beer with them, but they were part of happened.

    It’s on the MLB and the game to enforce the rules and maintain integrity. But IMO, whatever sneaks in and actually happens is part of history. Yes, let him in.

    Maybe every inductee should get a footnote area where we get some pertinent background information like *thug, *gambler, *coke head, *wife beater, *fudge packer, *baby killer, *infidel, *terrorist, *racists, *cross dresser, *communist, *criminal, *juicer… and *catholic(jk)

  5. I thank the author for pointing out the absurdity of Jim Rice’s induction. Less than 400 home runs and a less than .300 batting average while playing half his games in Fenway does not make a Hall of Famer. (Home = .320 and 208 HR. Road = .277 and 174.) And about 1/4th of his at bats were at DH.

  6. Damn right jose canseco should be in the hall of fame steroids didn’t make him hit tyne ball over the fence but in 88 he didn’t use them and there were others using it but he was hell of a ball player and i know every one will agree don’t ssy you don’t cause your lying

  7. Any using ped..Or any drug at anytime in their career should not be eligible for the H.OF…I have three sons that love baseball.Boy was it terrible thing to tell them about p.e.d..and of course the other street drugs that there baseball heroes were taking. .Yes Jose Conseco is one hell of a player….But wrong is wrong no matter how you slice the pie.

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