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11/29/2005  

BASEBALL OWES CANSECO FOR STEROIDS CRACKDOWN!

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Bud Selig should be grateful for many things this holiday season -- especially a man he wouldn't even think of inviting to Thanksgiving dinner. With that in mind, I wonder who the commissioner of Major League Baseball might deem worthy of a thank you for helping to rid his clubhouses of bulked-up cheaters. After years of ignoring the rampant use of performance- enhancing drugs in his homer happy league, Selig can at long last trumpet a strict steroids policy that mandates expulsion after a third offense. Surely Selig will pass along his appreciation to members of the U.S. Congress, whose blustering and threats forced the most powerful union in professional sports to give in the commissioner's every demand. That's where admitted steroid user Jose Canseco comes in. Selig and the bigwigs at league headquarters are fond of saying that Cal Ripken's chase of Lou Gehrig's consecutive games record and the 1998 home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire saved baseball. Don't bet on it. Canseco, by naming names and urging Congress to take action against steroids, has done more to protect the integrity of baseball than Selig himself. And yet, no one associated with the sport has ever called Canseco to express the league's indebtedness for his pivotal role in the cleanup. Keeping It Quiet ``It would kill them to say thank you for bringing it to light or to acknowledge that Jose did anything right,'' said Rob Saunooke, Canseco's lawyer. ``The reality is that if Jose had not come out and said what he did, no one would have known. Baseball would have done nothing.'' Does anyone dispute that? Would baseball's not-so-little secret have been limited to Balco, a San Francisco area outfit that was at the center of a scandal involving athletes and steroids, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi had Canseco not told the world that he and McGwire injected steroids together and that almost everyone was doing it? Would Rafael Palmeiro, who in March defiantly wagged his finger at a congressional panel while denying that he ever used steroids, have been suspended for testing positive for using performance-enhancing drugs? Would baseball have a new anti-steroid policy that calls for a 50-game suspension for a first positive test, 100 for a second slip-up and a farewell for a third? Schilling's Accusations Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling at the congressional hearing publicly labeled Canseco a liar, accusing him of destroying the reputations of innocent people in an attempt to peddle more books. Perhaps Schilling was angered by Canseco's willingness to disclose locker-room secrets. Among professional athletes, broadcasting the workings of the inner sanctum is just about the worst transgression there is. ``Jose will never admit this, but he is so hurt by the fact that people in baseball look at him so negatively,'' Saunooke says. ``There's definitely resentment that he disclosed the truth.'' So let's get this straight. Bonds, whose 708 home runs are third on the all-time list behind Hank Aaron's 755 and Babe Ruth's 714, can get away with saying that if, ahem, he used steroids he didn't know it. Sosa can get caught using a corked bat, apologize for the so-called mistake, and return with his integrity intact. Palmeiro can test positive for steroids, say he doesn't know how it could've happened, and then point the finger at teammate Miguel Tejada and his vitamin B-12 booster shot. And Canseco is the bad guy. Deserved Thanks Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger doesn't think so. The Maryland Democrat was the only person to publicly thank Canseco for helping to spur the crackdown on doping in baseball. Saunooke was so touched by the congressman's comments that he wrote Ruppersberger a letter of appreciation. ``As you can imagine, my client has endured endless attacks to his person, family, credibility, and others,'' Saunooke's letter reads. ``How refreshing it was to have an objective person put everything into perspective. Your short statement did more to renew my client's faith in the system than you can possibly imagine.'' As a player, Canseco hit 462 home runs, ranking 26th all- time. He was the American League's Most Valuable Player with the Oakland Athletics in 1988, when he became the first player in major league history with at least 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in the same season. As a steroids whistleblower, he was even better. Scott Soshnick bloomberg.net