I never thought I would ever find anything in common with Reggie Jackson -- one of the most execrable and obnoxious athletes of our time -- but he was exactly right when he claimed that baseball players who are suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs should be banned from the Hall of Fame and their statistics regarded with grave suspicions.
Jackson was focusing his ire on his erstwhile “friend,” Alex Rodriguez, he of the 642 career home runs and $200-million-plus mega contracts who has admitted to using PEDs.
“[Alex is] a very good friend,” Reggie told Sports Illustrated. “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.”
Reggie even said that if steroid-tainted players gets voted into Cooperstown, many enshrined members would boycott the ceremonies.
However, “Mr. October” seemed to make an exception for Andy Pettitte, the Yankees’ left-hander who had crafted a fine career, but also admitted to using human growth hormones.
Jackson appeared to suggest that Pettitte’s pristine image in the game should supersede his HGH usage (Pettitte’s friendship with steroid-tinged Roger Clemens has likely been destroyed by his admissions).
Reggie then went onto slay other dragons – he asserted that a number of major leaguers who have been elected into the Hall of Fame in recent years (and who have not been accused of bulking up on steroids) also did not deserve enshrinement.
He singled out, among others, Jim Rice, Kirby Puckett, Gary Carter, Phil Niekro, Don Surron and Bert Blyleven.
I disagree with him about Carter, but Reggie has a good point about the others.
I have always believed that the Hall of Fame should be restricted to the all-time greats, that is, those players for whom there is not a shadow of a doubt about their credentials. Thus, “borderline” candidates should not even be considered.
For example, Rice, who had a mammoth period of slugging from the late-1970s to the mid-1980s, was otherwise a poor fielder and mediocre ballplayer. He also took advantage of Fenway Park’s cozy confines to “bulk up” his power numbers.
Sutton and Niekro were average pitchers who somehow avoided serious injuries and accumulated big statistics purely due to longevity.
Reggie is wrong about Carter, the dominant catcher in baseball in the post-Johnny Bench era.
Yet, Reggie seemed to omit mentioning someone else whose membership in Cooperstown is rather questionable – himself.
Jackson is in the Hall of Fame largely on the back of his career 563 (untainted) home runs and the fact that he happened to be on five World Series championship teams with the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees. By that, I mean that, through luck and serendipity, he found himself on great ballclubs with superb pitching and crack teammates. (Those three straight home runs on three consecutive pitches in Game 6 of the 1977 series also helped seal the deal).
Aside from these accomplishments (and the fact that playing in New York made him a big-time celebrity), Jackson was a rather blasé ballplayer.
Along with all those home runs, Reggie also struck out 2597 times (the most in Major League History) and had a lifetime batting average of a paltry .262. (He led the league in whiffing four straight seasons from 1968 to 1971, with a surreal 171 Ks in 1968).
Yes, sluggers are prone to striking out a lot but Reggie went way overboard in this department
Despite hitting cleanup most of his career, he was not a prolific run-producer either – chalking up a mere six seasons with 100 RBI or more. Moreover, he hit .300 only once – when he hit exactly at that level in 1980.
In the field, Reggie was adequate to poor.
Thus Reggie is, at best, a borderline Hall of Famer – he probably should have boycotted his own election ceremony.