Kettmann and Canseco – Bash Brothers, 2005

Writer Steve Kettmann joins Jose Canseco down in the steroid scandal dirt and amazingly adds no credibility.

News item: "The New Yorker" magazine fingers former San Francisco Chronicle writer Steve Kettmann as the ghost writer for Jose Canseco's best-selling book "Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big" in its March 7 issue.

So what, you say? It's not that surprising that Canseco needed bigtime help in translating his vivid recollections to print. After all, no one has ever confused Jose for any best-selling author other than Pete Rose, perhaps.

Well, some, myself included, had previously listed Kettmann as an important, seemingly-independent and credible character reference for Canseco's claims. I based my comments on an article penned by Kettmann that ran in "Salon" magazine just a few months ago, in December, 2004.

Here is what Kettmann said: "I covered the Oakland A's for the San Francisco Chronicle in the '90s and can say that people in the A's organization will tell you behind closed doors that Mark McGwire used to stand around in the weight room, making jokes, rather than lifting weights. That's because the injections he was getting in the ass were taking care of all the bulking up he needed."

Salon link

Kettmann's credibility was established by the fact that he covered the Oakland A's during the period when Canseco and allegedly others used steroids. Unfortunately, it was unknown back in December, 2004 that Kettmann was in bed with Canseco. Of course, Kettmann didn't point that out.

As a result, there was no way at that time that anyone other than Kettmann and Canseco knew they were writing a kiss-and-tell book together. Would that maybe, just slightly slant Kettmann's objectivity?

Does anyone think that Kettmann's role as Canseco's mouthpiece does not mean more cash in his pocket? As a result, wouldn't more controversy and notoriety be a good thing to sell more books?

OK, you might ask what is so wrong with that, other than slamming McGwire, that is? Kettmann was just helping to create buzz for the upcoming book, right?

Well, it's not so simple.

It turns out that Mr. Kettmann has his own checkered past that puts every word he writes about this matter into serious question.

In 1999, during Mark McGwire's Cardinals days, this same writer penned a glowing piece in "Wired" magazine about McGwire's training regimen. "McGwire: Athlete of the Future" was its title.

Only androstenedione was mentioned, with no hint of the more serious claims that Kettmann and Canseco so vividly remembered five years later.

Said Kettmann in "Wired": "The years of weight lifting, controlled diet, and cardiovascular training have helped McGwire craft his swing… McGwire intensified his workouts during the early '90s when he was injured several years in a row and had extra time to use the Oakland Athletics' weight room. Some in the press even blamed the injuries on his weight-lifter physique. But McGwire got smarter about lifting and did more cardiovascular to keep his weight constant as he added strength… McGwire brings a single-mindedness to his workouts few understand."

Wired link

How can that be that in 1999, Kettmann praises the man, Mark McGwire, who in 2004, he bashes for regularly blowing off workouts and having used steroids years before.

Which way is it, Steve? Should we trust your 1999 recollections of the early ‘90s or your 2004 recollection of the same period? Or did buddying up with Canseco improve your memory?

In all fairness, I approached Kettmann for comment back on February 10. Here's what I asked:

"I read your piece in "Salon" with great interest as you recounted common knowledge among A's insiders in the '90's that Mark McGwire was shooting up and did not need to train as a result.

"The current furor over Jose Canseco's new book brought me back to your comments as a potentially-important collaboration to Canseco, who has almost zero credibility.

"Yet, in researching your body of work further, I also encountered a story you wrote for "Wired" in 1999 that is highly complimentary of Mac's training regimen. While andro is mentioned, there is no implication of any alleged steroid use. Yet, you would have had to know that at the time, based on your statement in the "Salon" article.

"Can you explain the apparent inconsistency?"

Not surprisingly, I did not receive a response. After all, Kettmann got what he wanted. The book has been published, his name is now in lights and he will get his share of the spoils, generated by trashing McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and many others.

In my book, Steve Kettmann has the same level of credibility as Jose Canseco. In fact, in all reality, it is difficult to distinguish the difference between the two. Kettmann was there in the A's clubhouse back in those days, it seems, but seemingly everyone other than he and Canseco remembers a different version of the story.

In the process, Kettmann became Canseco's new Bash Brother, getting there by slamming his predecessor, Mark McGwire.

Brian Walton can be reached via email

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