ADVERTISEMENT

Carlos Lee (45) congratulates teammate Jose Canseco at the Metrodome in 2001.

Tom Olmscheid, Associated Press

Souhan: Canseco is no Saint, but it might not be a bad idea

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • February 28, 2013 - 11:34 PM

HARLINGEN, TEXAS - I've got a couple of choice words for Mike Veeck:

You're welcome.

I inadvertently made a scouting trip for Veeck's St. Paul Saints last weekend. While in Texas on other business, I stumbled into Jose Canseco playing in the Winter Baseball League.

Canseco would be perfect for the St. Paul Saints. He'd bring attention whether he played well or not. He'd probably say or do something crazy. And he might occasionally make contact with a fastball.

He's even willing to pitch, so the Saints' biggest worry might be keeping the Twins from signing him.

There were about 100 people in the stands. Between games, Canseco stood by the clubhouse signing autographs.

At 48, he looks as massive and fit as he did in his prime, when he was one of baseball's best sluggers. How does he do it?

"Steroids!'' he yells. Then he laughs.

This is why Canseco is a natural for the Saints. He's at once an oddity and the ultimate baseball anti-establishment bogeyman, and how do the Saints promote themselves? As wacky and anti-establishment.

They've put uniforms on a woman (Ila Borders), a man without legs (Dave Stevens), an elderly man (Minnie Minoso) and a mute (J.D. Drew). Why not add a combination whistleblower/Greek (OK, Cuban) god?

"I stay active,'' he said. "I eat right. I don't drink, I don't smoke, none of that crazy stuff. I love sports. I love baseball. Having good genetics doesn't hurt.''

Canseco has the unique distinction of being unofficially banned from a game for being right. However distasteful he may be to the professional baseball establishment, however irresponsible his accusations seemed initially, he turned out to be right about baseball's problem with performance-enhancing drugs.

I ask if he's been blackballed because of his book, partly entitled "Juiced.'' He places a hand on my shoulder, turns to the autograph-seekers and announces, "We have our winner!

"I don't think affiliated baseball would ever consider me, so I don't have high hopes for that, because I wrote a book against baseball. I'm probably their No. 1 enemy, period.''

Does he stay in touch with former teammates? "They're not supposed to talk to me,'' he said. "I'm unique because I wrote a book blowing the lid off everything.''

Follow him on Twitter or via gossip media, and Canseco's life can seem ridiculous or sad. That's why he's perfect for the Saints. He's become a baseball Kardashian. He's famous for being famous.

That's not as lucrative an endeavor as it used to be for Canseco. He signed with the WBL to play six games, alternating teams, in three days. The one ticket-taker on site charged $5 a head. Canseco's was the only name that drew audible cheers.

He's signed on for a few gigs like this, playing in independent leagues. He says he's working on a couple of movies but that his heart remains in baseball and that he would like to help an independent league market itself.

I ask if he's talked to the St. Paul Saints. Canseco looks at his manager, Jose Melendez, and asks, "What do you say, agent?''

"That's where you should be playing,'' Melendez said. "That's the best. I don't know if they would take us.''

Canseco went 3-for-20 in his weekend in Harlingen, although he did hit a long fly to left that the wind blew foul on Saturday afternoon.

"He's one of the few people who doesn't regret his life,'' Melendez said. "He lived through everything and he said he would do it again, because he had fun doing it.

"Usually people in his situation, who were up there and now are down here, have thoughts of suicide. He doesn't. He's happy-go-lucky. He'll go anywhere to play baseball. He makes so much money doing appearances and reality shows, and here he makes peanuts, but he loves baseball. I don't think Barry Bonds would do this.''

Barry Bonds. Hmm. I've got a couple of choice words for Mike Veeck ...

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

© 2014 Star Tribune