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 Beltre, Al Oliver, Alan Trammell, Albert Belle, Albert Pujols, Allie Reynolds, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Bill King, Billy Martin, Bobby Grich, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Craig Biggio, Curt Flood, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly,Don Newcombe,Dwight Evans, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Gus Greenlee, Harold Baines, Harry Dalton, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Kevin Brown, Larry Walker, Manny Ramirez, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning,Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito,Roger Maris, Ron Cey, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Sammy Sosa, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey,Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Tony Oliva, Vince Coleman, Will Clark