Reggie Jackson becomes Yankees enemy with Jose Altuve defense

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros celebrates after hitting a first inning home run against the New York Yankees during their game at Yankee Stadium on June 26, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros celebrates after hitting a first inning home run against the New York Yankees during their game at Yankee Stadium on June 26, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Pride. Power. Pinstripes. The New York Yankees are a franchise created on a bedrock of Hollywood memories and postseason success. One playoff moment can make a high-priced free agent a permanent king, while October failures can doom Hall of Famers to relative obscurity.

In other words, Reggie Jackson’s No. 44 is retired in Monument Park, thanks to his five exceptional seasons in the Bronx (1977-1981), but more so because of his pair of world championships and three-homer Game 6. Meanwhile, fellow Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, a Yankee from 1981 through the first half of 1990 and an All-Star from ’81-’88, does not have his number retired; he participated in only one World Series during that time, and became George Steinbrenner’s Public Enemy No. 1 during his “crazy guy” era.

Perhaps it’s time to revoke Jackson’s honor, though. After all, how many Astros-related offenses does it take to undo the good he once brought to the borough? Does wearing ‘Stros gear into the ballpark before a hotly-contested four-game set take the cake? What about a full-throated defense of “innocent man” Jose Altuve in an elevator confrontation?

Jackson, now an Astros employee after defecting from the straw the once helped stir his legacy (he was throwing first pitches at Yankee playoff games back in ’09!), was at Yankee Stadium over the weekend, and got into a brief spat with a fan. That fight served as the inciting incident for Jon Heyman’s column asking Yankee fans to get over the whole “Altuve” thing, as if telling them to just forget about Pedro Martinez would’ve been a viable strategy in the early 2000s.

As the story goes:

"Reggie Jackson shared an elevator the other day with Yankees fans, one of whom was telling his buddies how much he despised Jose Altuve.“I hate that little sawed off SOB,” the gentleman proudly told his chums.And that’s where Mr. October, now an Astros executive, entered the convo.“He’s my favorite player,” Jackson told the fellow, before adding one comment. “You should be quiet.”The fellow had one question for Reggie.“You’re Reggie Jackson, aren’t you?”“Yes, I am.”And so, the guy took Reggie’s advice and shut up.Now the rest of the Yankees faithful should follow suit."

Heyman’s story, entitled “It’s past time Yankees fans stop blaming Jose Altuve for Astros’ cheating,” is one thing. Clearly, Altuve wasn’t a sole instigator or in the core group leading the way.

But since when do Yankee fans deserve a lecture on who and who not to hate? Can’t they pick and choose? Isn’t Altuve’s performance against their team reason enough to treat him like a villain? And how can anyone possibly pretend he’s clean as a whistle, just because Reggie Jackson enjoys him?

Yankees fans can hate Jose Altuve all they want, Reggie Jackson

Heyman’s column rehashes the famous Altuve defenses you’ve heard a million times before, but adds Reggie’s flavor.

“He didn’t want the bangs,” goes the famous refrain, and if true, fantastic. Altuve is an exceptional pure hitter who would’ve starred whether or not he had a leg up — which is true of almost all of the 2017 Astros, which makes their actions all the more detestable. But whether or not he bristled at the trash can smacks, Altuve still had his MVP season surrounded by players who were getting on base ahead of him by cheating, knocking him in by cheating, etc. To say he didn’t benefit is asinine.

Also, say what you will, but his insistent jersey grab at the end of the 2019 ALCS will never sit right. Heyman regurgitates the idea that he just didn’t want to disrobe, while throwing in a few digs at Aroldis Chapman (“Is it really impossible to believe he surrendered a dong?”).

But why are Yankee fans supposed to accept one of recent MLB history’s most bizarre moments at face value? And why should Chapman’s struggles in the clutch factor in? They have very little to do with the strange optics presented.

Again, help or no help, Altuve could go deep at any time, and hating him vocally certainly makes him breathe additional fire, it would seem (considering how often he rakes the Yankees, and anyone else in his path).

But booing Altuve in person and chanting for his head when he’s somewhere else entirely are two totally different animals. The Yankees and Astros are the most full-throated rivalry in MLB, at the moment, and will be until the Yanks manage to best them in a playoff series. Whether you hate Altuve because you’re suspicious or you hate him because he’s great, you should be allowed to hate him when he comes to town.

Don’t let Astros executive Reggie Jackson tell you differently.