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Archive for the ‘The Season’ Category

Being as surprised as I think most A’s fans are about the team winning the division in a 2012 season that was supposed to be at best a .500 showing, I’m going to celebrate by lining up the ’89 A’s against the ’12 A’s on a few statistical measures. Is there a better way to celebrate, given that this is a blog about the ’89 A’s?

1989: four players with double-digit homer totals: McGwire, 33, Dave Henderson, 15, Parker, 22, Canseco, 17. The A’s ranked sixth in the A.L. in homers, with 127.
2012: eight players with double-digit homer totals: Reddick, 32, Cespedes, 23, Moss, 21, Carter 16, Gomes, 18, Crisp, 11, Smith, 14, Inge, 11. The A’s ranked sixth in the A.L. in homers, with 195.
1989: 157 steals, second in the league. Rickey with 52 and Lansford with 37. The A’s were caught stealing 55 times, fourth in the A.L.: Rickey was caught 6 times, Lansford 15 times, and Phillips 8 times.
2012: 122 steals, fifth in the league. Crisp with 39. The A’s were caught stealing 32 times, tenth in the A.L.: Pennington was caught 6 times to lead the team.

1989: 562 walks, fourth in the league: McGwire with 83, Rickey with 70 (in 85 games), Phillips with 58, Canseco with 23.
2012: 550 walks, fourth in the league: Reddick with 55, no one else with more than 50.
1989: .331 on base percentage, third in the A.L., led by Rickey’s .425 and Lansford’s .398
2012: .310 on base percentage, twelfth in the A.L., led by Cespedes’ .356 and Moss’ .358.

1989: .381 slugging percentage, tenth in the league, led by McGwire’s .467, Canseco’s .542, Rickey’s .438.
2012: .404 slugging percentage, ninth in the league, led by Carter, .514, Cespedes, .505, and Moss, .596.

1989: 712 runs scored, fourth in the league, including Lansford’s 81, Rickey’s 77, Hendu’s 77, and McGwire’s 74.
2012: 698 runs scored, ninth in the league, including Reddick’s 85, Cespedes’ 70, and Crisp’s 68.
The 2012 A’s struck out 1387 times, the most in the A.L., setting a new A’s “record”; the 1989 A’s struck out 855 times, ninth in the A.L.

1989 pitching: Team era of 3.09, first in the A.L. led by Mike Moore’s 2.61, Bob Welch’s 3, Dave Stewart’s 3.32, and, among the relievers, Eckersley’s 1.56, Todd Burns’s 2.24, and Honeycutt’s 2.35.
2012 pitching: Team era of 3.50, second in the A.L., led by A.J. Griffin’s 3.06 and Brandon McCarthy’s 3.24, and, among the relievers, Ryan Cook’s 2.09, Jerry Blevins’ 2.48, and Grant Balfour’s 2.53.

1989: 3 complete game shutouts, all of them Moore’s, to rank first in the A.L. 17 complete games, 8 by Stewart and 6 by Moore.
2012: 0 complete game shutouts, and only one complete game, by Tommy Milone.
1989: Saves: 57 for the team, 33 by Eckersley, 12 by Honeycutt, 8 by Burns
2012: Saves: 47 for the team, 24 by Balfour, 14 by Cook.

1989: 930 team strikeouts, including 172 by Moore, 155 by Stewart, 137 by Welch, and 55 by Eckersley.
2012: 1136 team strikeouts, including Jarrod Parker’s 140 and Tommy Milone’s 137.

The 2012 A’s were shut out 16 times, and shut out the opposition 13 times. The 1989 A’s were shut out 5 times, and shut out the opposition 20 times.

1989 fielding: errors: 129, sixth in the A.L., fielding percentage of .979
2012 fielding: errors: 111, third in the A.L., fielding percentage of .982

Finally, this is the sixth time the Bay Area versions of the Giants and A’s have both been in the postseason: along with ’89, it happened in 1971, 2000, ’02, and ’03. ’89, of course, is the only time both teams have won at least one playoff series.

There are not a lot of other points of similarity between ’89 and ’12, but one is that in ’89 the Giants’ Dave Dravecky broke his left arm on the mound in Montreal in August; this year, the A’s Brandon McCarthy had a batted ball come fairly close to killing him on the mound in Oakland on September 5. Two ugly, frightening in-game injuries suffered by Bay Area pitchers. And, of course, the ’89 A’s and the ’12 A’s and Giants have all been tainted by steroids. Bob Melvin was not an ’89 Giant: he left San Francisco after the ’88 season, and was an Oriole in ’89. Some personnel on the ’89 A’s and Giants are now with the 2012 A’s or Giants, namely Gallego and Curt Young as coaches with the A’s.

In ’89, the A’s were 99-63; the Giants were 92-70: in 2012, both teams were 94-68.

In the wake of hearing about the death of Pat Neshek’s infant son as the A’s were celebrating winning the A.L. West, I should add that Dave Dravecky re-broke his left arm at Candlestick as the Giants celebrated beating the Cubs in the NLCS, and, as noted elsewhere on the blog, Jose Uribe’s wife died in May 1988, two days after prematurely delivering a boy.

Also, here are a few other items about the ’89 A’s:
Team salary: $16.3 million

Players you might not remember as ’89 A’s: Storm Davis, Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk, Felix Jose, Billy Beane, Ron Hassey, Glenn Hubbard, Ken Phelps

Average team age: 29.3: oldest regular Parker, 38; youngest regular McGwire, 25
Average age of pitchers: 29.8; oldest pitcher Eckersley, 34; youngest pitcher Burns, 25. The starters were 27 to 32.
Three A’s pitched more than 200 innings, including Stewart’s 257 2/3rd, Moore’s 241 2/3rd, and Welch’s 209 2/3rd innings.
Notable season streaks and stats: the A’s were 10-2 against the Indians, 9-3 against the Yankees, 9-4 against the Mariners, and 5-7 against the Red Sox, their lone losing record against a team. They were 29-18 in one-run games, 5-10 in extra-inning games, 18-8 in April, and 13-14 in June.

The A’s were only 2.5 games ahead of the Royals as late as September 20.
The A’s closed the season on a 26-14 streak, to run away with the West, after being tied for first during three straight days in mid-August. The A’s were 11-13 from the end of May to June 23, the day after Rickey’s first game, when they were 44—29, then were 46-32 on June 30 and 52-36 at the All-Star break.
The A’s were 8-1 in the ’89 playoffs. The A’s had 20 shutouts, and were shutout 5 times. They scored 10-plus runs 8 times.

Player on the ’89 A’s who you don’t remember being so good: Mike Moore. Don’t you remember Mike Moore?
Best players on the ’89 A’s (based on what they did in ’89): Rickey Henderson, Canseco, Lansford, McGwire, Mike Moore, Stewart, Eckersley, Honeycutt, Todd Burns
Tony Phillips might be the most underrated ’89 A: for his career, he scored 1300 runs, had 2023 hits and a career on-base percentage of .374.

Award voting and the 1989 A’s
Cy Young: Stewart 2nd, Moore 3rd, Eckersley tied for 6th
Manager of the Year: LaRussa 3rd
MVP: Eckersley 5th, Henderson 9th, Parker 11th, Stewart 14th, Lansford 17th, Moore 20th, McGwire tied for 25th
All-Stars: Steinbach, Stewart, Moore, McGwire, Canseco
Two of the ’89 A’s, Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley, have joined the Hall of Fame, with Parker, McGwire, Canseco, Welch, and Stewart I think the only other A’s to get HOF votes. Well, Phillips got one vote in 2005.

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In Cleveland, Rickey gets four steals after reaching on walks: two in the
sixth and two in the seventh. Both times he scores on sac flies by Canseco.
I realize it’s easy to go on and on about Henderson’s ability to create runs by himself, but still, four steals within two innings does make an
impression. The A’s beat Cleveland 8-6. Here’s the relevant lines from the
Chronicle:

Oakland’s largest run production since September 5 owed a lot to Rickey
Henderson and Tony Phillips. For the fifth time this year and 40th overall
in his ongoing big-league record, Henderson led off a game with a home run.
He also stole four bases. The first kicked off a five-run sixth inning. The
second, in the seventh inning, provided what seemed a superfluous run. The
A’s would eventually be grateful for it.
“Every time you see what he does, it’s amazing,” said La Russa. “There is
nobody like that in the game today.”

Phillips pushed a 4-3 A’s lead to 7-3 with a bases-loaded triple that
climaxed the sixth. He hit a 3-2 fastball from ex-A’s farmhand Jeff Kaiser
into the right-field corner. Phillips is having quite a September, hitting
.447 in 16 games.

Dave Henderson has begun calling innings like the seventh, when the other Henderson walked, stole second, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly,
“a Rickey rally.” By whatever name, it came in handy.
An error by shortstop Mike Gallego opened things up for a three-run
Cleveland rally in the bottom of the seventh, and the Indians pulled within
8-6. That inning ended rather dramatically, as Matt Young came in to retire
Pete O’Brien with runners on first and second. Gene Nelson pitched a perfect
eighth and Eckersley did the same in the ninth.
“I wanted to get back out there before we left town,” said Eckersley, who blew a save here Monday night. “I didn’t want that to linger.”

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At the end of the ’89 season David Bush, an S.F. Chronicle writer, wrote up a summary of Mark McGwire’s season. What’s at least somewhat interesting about this story, aside from the picture of one slice of McGwire’s ballplaying days, is how it reflects the current attitude toward sabermetrics-type analysis by McGwire, La Russa, and the Chronicle. Some excerpts:

Mark McGwire finished the year with some very noteworthy statistics. The numbers certainly attract attention, especially all those little numbers to the right of the decimal point.

Among the American League leaders in home runs and RBIs, McGwire spent most of the season apologizing for a batting average that was snoozing in the .220s in September before finishing at .231.

“This is the most difficult year I’ve ever had,” said the 26-year-old slugger. Most players would give a lot to have a year as difficult as McGwire’s. In his third full season he hit more than 30 homers for the third time, he drove in more than 90 runs for the third time and he played in his third All-Star Game.

“Everybody is looking at my batting average, and saying I had a bad year,” said McGwire. “I’m sure I’ve gotten some heat. There is no question that my home runs and RBIs don’t belong with my batting average. But that should tell people that the hits I get are doing something.”

“My stroke has been pretty much the same all year,” he said. “That isn’t the problem. I have just been pulling my head off the ball. When I stay down, I’m all right, but I haven’t been able to do that consistently.”

“If you look at his season overall you would have to say it’s good,” said manager Tony La Russa. “His No. 1 offensive responsibility is to produce runs, and when you get over 30 in homers and in the 90s in RBIs, you are doing that. But he prides himself on being a total hitter, so he’s not satisfied.”

At season’s beginning, McGwire seemed primed for a blockbuster year. He hit .360 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in spring training, and kept it up when the regular season began.

He went 8-for-22 with three homers and eight RBIs in the first six games. This was made even more impressive by the fact that Jose Canseco was out of the lineup with his broken wrist, putting even more burden on McGwire.

“That was probably the hottest I have ever been in my life,” said McGwire. “I was on everything.”

Then, in Anaheim, he felt a twinge in his back and had to leave the game. He went on the disabled list for two weeks with an injured disk.

“When I came back I had a few good games, but all of a sudden I was trying to find something and it just wasn’t there,” said McGwire. That began the battle that he still is fighting.

A declining batting average is usually a symptom of impatience. But if McGwire has changed as a hitter this year, he has become more particular about the pitches he attacks.

“I think I have learned to be more patient in certain situations,” said McGwire. “I don’t chase as many bad balls, and my walks are up. If they are going to walk me, I’ll let them.”

McGwire walked 76 times in 155 games last year. This year he has 83 in 143, which is the reason his on-base percentage is .340. That’s nice, but no substitute for bigger digits in the batting average.

“It would be interesting to see what my season would have been if I hadn’t been on the disabled list for those 15 days,” he said. “But you can’t live on “what ifs.’ If I average 30 homers and 90 RBIs a year for the rest of my career, that’s pretty good. I’d take that.”

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It happened on September 27, 1989. The Chronicle reported:

The Bay Area’s baseball dream – a World Series between San Francisco and Oakland – moved a huge step closer to reality last night when both the Giants and the A’s clinched the championship of their divisions. The A’s won the American League’s Western Division title at the Oakland Coliseum by beating the Texas Rangers, 5-0. Hours later, the Giants won the National League West when the second place San Diego Padres were mathematically eliminated by losing to the Cincinnati Reds, 2-1, in the 13th inning. The Giants actually backed into the title, because they lost their own game to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 1-0 – but they made baseball history anyway. It was the first time that two teams from the same region clinched division titles on the same night.

The A’s struck early with an enormous two-run homer by Jose Canseco in the first inning of their game at the Coliseum. The ball went up into the second deck, and for all intents and purposes, the game was over right then. “When Jose hit that homer,” said starting pitcher Mike Moore, “I just went out and told myself that might be all I get tonight.”

Moore then went on and threw a one-hitter until he was relieved in the seventh inning. The outcome was never really in doubt, but the fans stood for the entire ninth inning anyway. When the last man was out, the players mobbed first baseman Mark McGwire, who made the putout, and pitcher Gene Nelson, who had relieved Moore. The crowd roared, and the players took baseballs and tossed them in the stands for souvenirs.

“This is great,” said Susan Nelson of Pittsburg. “It’s even sweeter than last year.” “Yeah, this is fun,” McGwire said in the clubhouse later, as the players sprayed champagne over each other, sports reporters and TV people. “It was a tough road, so it’s better than last year. I think a lot of people wrote us off early. . . . But through it all, we never gave up on ourselves.”

Walter J. Haas Sr., the team’s owner, was soaked with champagne. He didn’t mind. “I’m just so proud,” he said. “They say no team ever repeats, and we did.”

For the Giants, the drama was dragged out until it was almost agony. They needed only one win or a San Diego loss to clinch, but they lost their third straight at Dodger Stadium. It was the only time they had been swept in a series all season. Now their fate was in the hands of the Reds, playing at San Diego. The Reds led most of the game, but the Padres came back to tie it up in the ninth inning.

The Padres, who had been red-hot all month, had the bases loaded in the 11th inning with one out, but they failed to score. In the 13th, they had the tying run on third base when Garry Templeton struck out. All this time, the Giants sat in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger stadium, drenched in gloom, but still hopeful, listening to a broadcast of the drama in San Diego. When the Padre game was over, the Giants broke out the champagne. “You’ve got to love it,” Clark yelled. “We wanted to win it on the field, but . . . we’ll take it any way we can get it,” Clark said before the end of the Padres game. “It’s suspended animation.”

Both the Giants and the A’s will probably be favored to win their league championship series. The Giants face the Chicago Cubs, a team that has failed to win the big games so often that being a Cubs fan has become an American cult. The Cubs have only appeared in the league playoffs once – in 1984. They have not played in the World Series since 1945 and last won the series in 1908, when Teddy Roosevelt was president. But this year’s incarnation of the Cubs is a scrappy young team led by Don Zimmer, a canny veteran manager who once was a coach with the Giants. Their most colorful player is relief pitcher Mitch Williams, who once said, “I pitch like my hair’s on fire.” Fans call him “The Wild Thing.”

“We should have folded,” said McGwire, “”but we didn’t. That’s what makes this year a lot more special.” A Bay Area World Series? “”It would be the ultimate baseball experience of a lifetime,” said Bobby London, who has season tickets to both the A’s and the Giants. “You cannot ask for anything more.”

[By the way, the 5-0 win was the A’s last shutout of the year:  Three double plays helped the A’s register their 20th shutout of 1989, a fairly astonishing number that shows how important pitching was in getting the A’s through this championship year. Jamie Moyer would have many days ahead of him, most better than this one: he got through just the first inning and two batters in the second, giving up six hits and three runs, and closed the season at 4-9.]

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Rickey said this about being traded from the Yankees to the A’s on June 22: “It was in my best interest to approve the deal. Oakland was the only place I would accept a trade. My wife wanted to be in Oakland, but I wanted to stay in New York.

”I felt it was time. There were rumors that I’d be traded, and then they came to me and asked if I would take a trade. Oakland was the only place I knew I’d like to go.

“I knew that if we didn’t come to an agreement by the All-Star break I’d be a free agent anyway, and we had the opportunity to do it now, so I decided to go back home.”

A’s General Manager Sandy Alderson: “We expect great things from him, both for the rest of the season and in the future. He’s extremely excited. We did not make the trade with the short term in mind. We have somebody who is enthusiastic about coming back to Oakland.

He agreed to come to the A’s without agreeing to anything, without talking to me, without talking to Tony (La Russa), without talking to anyone.”

La Russa: “The reaction I’m getting from the clubhouse is that he is a force that is going to help us win ballgames.”

Rickey had been in a slump with the Yankees. He said: “It’s just a matter of time before I started to hit better. I’ve been hitting the ball hard, but right at people. I got off to a slow start but I knew it would get better.”

Yankee Manager Dallas Green: “I hated to give up Rickey. He played very hard and busted his tail. But this trade was for the betterment of the Yankees. We desperately needed pitching. It’s been our Achilles heel.”

Dave Righetti, the San Jose native and Yankees pitcher: “Before he got here, we were a good team. When he got here in ’85, we became a damn good team right away. He had that try-to-get-me-out arrogance. Our whole lineup was like that last year. I hope he doesn’t come back and beat us. But you know he will someday.”

The Yankees were actually trying to trade Rickey to the Giants, but Syd Thrift, their senior vice president, said Henderson didn’t approve the deal. Thrift: “I met with Rickey last week, and it was obvious then that he was interested in going to only one other team. I had put it out of my mind that he would go anywhere. Then Monday morning, they called.”

Here’s the front page of the S.F. Chronicle on June 23, ‘89, with a picture of Rickey saying goodbye to ex-Yankees teammate Mike Pagliarulo.

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You can also read Mike’s thoughts on Rickey, the trade, the A’s, and the Giants. And here’s the S.F. Chronicle Sporting Green front page announcing the trade for Rickey.
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Mitch wasn’t quite a one-year wonder, but at this point it seems like he was, and yes, it was a wonderful 1989 season. Read some of the Chronicle’s game story for a 7-6 win over the Braves in Fulton County Stadium on June 2:

Kevin Mitchell hit the longest ball of the evening, but the biggest run of the Giants’ 7-6 win over Atlanta last night came off a walk.

On a night when balls and fielders were pounding the outfield walls of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, it was Ernest Riles’ bases-loaded walk in the top of the ninth that ended up scoring the deciding run in a game that Mitchell seemed to have guaranteed and the Giant bullpen seemed hellbent to return.

Mitchell hit two homers – one coming within 10 feet of being only the 10th ball ever to clear the first deck of the stadium – to steal the show from Rick Reuschel, who won his 10th game of the year; Robby Thompson, who homered and doubled to improve his average to .282, and Riles.

Mitchell doesn’t mess with ground balls. He aims for the stratosphere, sometimes pushing the envelope a bit. His second homer, which followed [Robby] Thompson’s sixth homer of the season and fourth in 11 games, was an enormous thing, one which bounced off the bottom of the auxiliary scoreboard in left and soberly was estimated at 440 feet.

“”That wasn’t my longest,” Mitchell said. “”Nothing was as long as the one I hit against Fernando (Valenzuela on April 12). His (pitch) was a fastball. This was a changeup.”

He did allow, though, that it might have been the longest home run he ever hit off a changeup. The victim was Tom Glavine, who was pounded for six runs in four-plus innings.

“”I love hitting here,” Mitchell raved. “”The ball really carries here. You don’t have to be a strong man to hit a ball out of this yard. If you don’t get out of here with 20 homers a year, you’re not going to hit 20 in any park.”

Mitchell’s season total currently stands at 17, with 51 RBIs.

When Mitchell caught a foul ball bare-handed in late April in St. Louis, it provided what wound up being the enduring highlight of his season, but the Chronicle noted that Willie Mays had done the same in a game against the Pirates: he couldn’t reach across with his glove to snag a hooking line drive, so he reached out and caught the ball with his bare hand.
In the dugout, Mays asked manager Leo Durocher, “Leo, didn’t you see what I did out there?”

“No,” Durocher retorted. “And you’re going to have to do it again before I believe it.”

By the All-Star break, Mitchell had 31 home runs and 81 RBIs through 87 games. That pace didn’t last, but he and Clark were the two star hitters on a Giants team that wasn’t stacked with the level of talent the A’s had.

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I don’t know how many people remember 1-900-234-JOSE, but it’s obvious now that Jose Canseco was probably the first pioneer in the effort by pro sports players to forget the media and talk directly to fans with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. The difference is that Canseco actually made money from his communications: it cost $2 for the first minute and $1 for each minute thereafter to hear Jose talk, and you got daily updates from Canseco. It’s as though somewhere deep inside he knew he’d need the extra income someday.The hotline started about a month before the Loma Prieta quake. On September 21, 1989, the S.F. Chronicle reported:

Jeff Borris, Canseco’s Beverly Hills agent, said public response has been “overwhelming” since Monday, when the Oakland A’s star started filing daily reports on a 900 number. Callers pay $2 for the first minute and $1 for each minute thereafter.
Yesterday, fans learned what kind of pitch Canseco hit in the first inning of Monday night’s game (a curve ball down and away that he lined past the third baseman) and what he had for lunch (Italian food at the mall). They also learned that their hero feared for his safety when a bat – the live version – circled above him in the outfield in Cleveland and that he faced the prospect of going hungry because there was no room service in his hotel after 10 p.m.
It was “basically kind of a boring game,” he mentions twice in the recorded message, even though the A’s won in extra innings. The pennant race notwithstanding, it also was a “boring” day on the road with a first-place team, Canseco says in a recorded five-minute message.
Borris said Canseco is the first sports figure to make a personalized phone message work to his financial gain, although he did not want to talk about how much the slugger stands to make.
“The telephone company says they’ve never seen a 900 number with the “hang time’ Jose is getting,” Borris said. “Most of the callers are on for five minutes or longer.”
Frustrated by baseball writers who refuse to see and write the truth as he sees it, Canseco decided that the 900 number was the best way to speak directly to the fans.
“How it originally came out was, the media stuff was happening with the speeding and the guns, and people weren’t getting the story from the horse’s mouth,” Canseco said. “I just wanted to tell my side of the story.”

He put out ads on ESPN, MTV and USA, leaning against his white Porsche 930 Cabriolet turbo on the track of the Malibu Grand Prix next to the Oakland Coliseum and saying: “Hi, I’m Jose Canseco. I want to speak to you, so call 1-900-234-JOSE . . . I’ll give you the latest scoop on baseball and what’s happening in my personal life. If you want to know if I take steroids, how fast I drive, or why I was carrying that gun, call me at 1-900-234-JOSE.”

Here’s what he had to say about a day in Cleveland: “It was boring, I guess, because there were only about 400 fans (actually 5,931) in the stands, sort of like one of those Triple A (minor league) games where no one shows up. I like it when there are 40,000 or more. The most exciting thing for me was, I looked up once and saw a bat that must have been three or four feet long flying over my head. I kept looking up because I thought it might come down and bite me on the neck.
“My personal life was kind of boring. I woke up late again – like I say, I like to sleep late – and went to a mall with my friend and ate Italian food. Then I came back and watched TV for a while. It was one of those boring days.
“But I guess the worst thing is happening now. This hotel where I’m staying doesn’t have room service after 10 p.m., and I could starve to death. I guess I’ll call out for a pizza.”

A lot of people made fun of Canseco for his 1-900 number, so it’s interesting to take a look at what ballplayers are putting out on Twitter now for comparison’s sake. Here are a few recent tweets from Barry Zito:
“Sitting on the plane about to fly to Seattle. We’ll be turning it around up North..”
“The bay area’s weather is more perfect than SoCal right now, call your friends and gloat.”
“I mean, we’ve heard all the theories but what’s really the cure to a hangover? Some say grease, I say B vitamins.”

And here’s Tony La Russa’s response to 1-900-234-JOSE: “I saw the commercial when we were in Boston, and I thought, ‘This is ridiculous.’ I once heard him say he was going to be very careful about the types of commercials and endorsements he does. In my opinion, I wouldn’t have done this.”

Canseco also tried to sell his dirty socks at about this time.

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