Sports Illustrated, in their most recent printed copy, produced a ‘Where are they Now?’ double-issue and Reggie Jackson, who I didn’t realize was lost, was one of the figures covered.
Jackson in my estimation has never left the forefront of the game. For as much as he talked during his playing career, he’s been vocal about all things baseball and life after it.
This is the man who uttered such statements as:
I didn’t come to New York to be a star. I brought my star with me.
After Jackie Robinson the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson, I really mean that.
Plus, of course (quotes courtesy of Baseball Almanac):
I’m the straw that stirs the drink.
Jackson stirred the drink and continues to spin conversation about today’s game back to him. Jackson has never been shy to voice his thoughts and the recent article touches on his disdain for those who used performance enhancing drugs and scarred the record books. He also bangs on some recent Hall of Fame elections, which I won’t touch on, as that discussion takes on its own life.
Jackson’s statements about players who took performance enhancing drugs and altered the record books are justified. There are five players who have passed Jackson on the all-time home run list who are linked to PEDs (Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa) and he makes it known that they may not have a place in the Hall of Fame. He goes out of his way to say that while Rodriguez is a good friend, he thinks that A-Rod’s numbers are tainted.
Al’s a very good friend,” Jackson says. “But I think there are real questions about his numbers. As much as I like him, what he admitted about his usage does cloud some of his records.
A-Rod’s only public statement surrounding a discussion between himself and Jackson yesterday after the story hit the wire was short and pointed. Rodriguez simply said, “We’ll leave [the conversation] in private. With friends like that, who needs enemies?”
I’m not certain Jackson is looking to make enemies. But he will continue to let his voice be heard on this subject to anyone who wants to listen. Some will make a big deal about what Jackson has to say and will imply he is only concerned with himself and his displacement in the record books. But, others have mentioned the same opinions on PEDs and the record books, and it their comments are not discredited. Neither should Jackson’s.
Anyone who played the game during the era which preceded the proliferation of performance enhancing drugs has an absolute right to question the validity of the records established during the time syringes were ever-present in locker rooms. I’m speaking mostly of steroids and human growth hormone, drugs which enhance a player’s strength and the ability to stay on the field or return from injury quicker than without. Amphetamines, which Jackson and others may have a hard time proving they didn’t take, gave the players the ability to play through tough stretches but I’m not sure they can be lumped into the mix of drugs which skewed the records Jackson is trying to defend.
Jackson’s view, one which may be viewed as pumping up his own statistics, is none the less valid. Jackson’s words shouldn’t carry less weight because they may have an ulterior motive. It’s true that he’s never shied away from a story, especially one about Reggie Jackson. But this story is bigger than Jackson, A-Rod and everyone else who cheated the game. It’s about the “cloud” as Jackson put it, that the PED era placed over baseball. It will be talked about forever and Jackson will lead the charge for as long as someone is willing to listen.