As Captain Renault famously said in Casablanca: “Round up the usual suspects!”
Well, the part of Renault was recently played by Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.) as he called pitcher Roger Clemens and Clemens’s trainer Brian McNamee before his House Oversight Committee. The committee also took sworn depositions from Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, members of the Yankee championship teams of the late 1990s and 2000.
What emerged was what Yogi Berra famously called “déjà vu all over again,” as the public was drawn back to the congressional hearings of March 2005 when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling and Jose Canseco testified before Congress. What happened then was, indeed, shocking. McGwire didn’t want to talk about the past; Sosa suddenly couldn’t understand English, Palmeiro announced his purity, which would turn out to be a canard later in the summer; and Schilling, it seemed, was the only clean one in the bunch. The name that caught all the attention was Jose Canseco, whose book, Juiced, had focused the initial attention on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Canseco, an admitted steroid user, took heat, but a lot of what he said turned out to be right
Three years later, Canseco is back with his sequel, Vindicated, which Simon Spotlight will publish on April 1. This title is embargoed, and Simon Spotlight is not giving out information until Canseco appears on Nightline on Friday, March 28. Like Canseco’s career and reputation, the book has taken a beating on its way to publication. It was shopped extensively before finally being picked up by Penguin/Berkley in late December 2007. Shortly thereafter, former SI sportswriter Don Yaeger, who had been hired to co-write the book, dropped out of the project, saying, “There’s no meat on the bones.” He was referring specifically, he says, to the allegations about steroid use by Yankee Alex Rodriguez. “I don’t think there’s a book there,” Yaeger told the New York Daily News. “I don’t think he’s got what he claims to have, certainly doesn’t have what he claims to have on A-Rod.”
Less than a month later, Berkley dropped the project, and it was picked up by Simon Spotlight. PW asked Jen Bergstrom, v-p/publisher of Simon Spotlight Entertainment, why she decided to publish Vindicated. “The same reason I decide to publish any book,” she says. “I started reading it, and I couldn’t put it down. I devoured it in one sitting.” Asked if she was troubled that Berkley had dropped the project so quickly, Bergstrom says, “Not at all. They’re a fantastic publisher. Obviously, I wasn’t privy to their reasons for not wanting to move forward, but publishing is a very subjective business.” Yaeger’s comment about there being “no meat on the bones” didn’t bother her either. “Don Yaeger didn’t read what I read,” Bergstrom says.
PW was able to secure a copy of the proposal that was sent around for Vindicated. It seems pretty tame stuff except for the ending, which promises “revelations about Alex Rodriguez,... Mike Piazza and other members of the New York Yankees.” The new ghostwriter, Pablo Fenjves, who wrote If I Did It with O.J. Simpson, recently told Time that Vindicated is “full of rich anecdotes,” adding, “I don’t think anybody is going to be disappointed.”
Simon Spotlight is planning a 250,000-copy first printing and plans to kick off the publicity with the Nightline appearance. Canseco will also be hitting such shows as Letterman, Howard Stern and Hannity & Colmes along with a coast-to-coast six-city tour.
Canseco and McGwire, teammates on the Oakland A’s in the 1990s, are the focus of Bash Brothers: A Legacy Subpoenaed by Dale Tafoya, which Potomac Books is rushing out to stores in May. Kevin Cuddihy, acquisitions editor for Potomac, tell PW, “As a fan, the most startling revelation to me is the amount of acceptance that seemed to come from many of the people that Dale interviewed. 'Yeah, we knew it was going on’ seemed to be a common response.”
“McGwire’s little brother was in the A’s clubhouse regularly,” continues Cuddihy, “and talked openly about steroids. How did this not raise red flags?”
Potomac plans to pay special attention to signings and publicity in the Bay Area, plus Miami and St. Louis. Potomac estimates a first printing of 5,000—10,000-copies.
If there was ever an appropriately named book, it’s Steroid Nation by Shaun Assael, published last October. “The book has been selling very well since December 13,” says Chris Ramond of ESPN Books, “the day Sen. George Mitchell released his report on steroid use in baseball. Hours before Mitchell stepped to the podium, Assael broke the story that Roger Clemens would be named in the report. He spent the whole day on ESPN, Fox and CNN discussing that news.
“The book has lots of juicy stuff—pun intended—about Lyle Alzado and Dan Duchaine, author of the Underground Steroid Handbook, and each maddening setback for the people fighting to stop steroid abuse. It’s a fascinating detective story, really. You discover links to Capitol Hill [read: industry friendly Sen. Orrin Hatch], to Wall Street, to Madison Avenue, to the governor’s mansion in California [read: Arnold Schwarzenegger]. We have this infatuation with youth in this country, and it’s that infatuation that fuels the performance-enhancing drug industry. If you look at the steroid problem in that way, it’s terrifying. Because our kids do what we do, not what we say.”