By Steve Silverman
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New York, NY (WFAN) - Reggie Jackson finds himself in the middle of a controversy for speaking his mind.
That was a position that he often found himself throughout his career and he was nearly as well-known for his interesting and well-thought-out answers as he was for his prodigious home runs.
He was a Hall of Famer with an outsized ego, but he also had a firm grip on reality.
Jackson recently told Sports Illustrated that he thinks there are a number of baseball players who are in the Cooperstown shrine who were good-to-excellent players but not quite Hall of Famers. Included in the group were stars like Jim Rice of Red Sox, Kirby Puckett of the Twins, Don Sutton of the Dodgers and yes, Gary Carter of the Mets and Expos as players who didn’t deserve to be enshrined in the Hall.
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Jackson is primarily taking heat for his stance on Carter, who tragically died from brain cancer in February and he has felt embarrassed about his stance.
He shouldn’t. Jackson’s statement was merely from a baseball perspective. He may not be right about Carter, who was probably the second-best catcher in the National League behind Johnny Bench. That type of ranking should be good enough to earn a spot in the Hall.
But Jackson said nothing personal about Carter, nor did he attack any of the other Hall of Famers who are in on that kind of level. That’s why he is to be applauded.
Rice was one of Jackson’s peers and he was probably a better all-around hitter than Jackson during the majority of his career. Jackson likes and respects Rice; yet he had the integrity to say that he wasn’t a bona fide Hall of Famer. He didn’t kiss Rice’s butt just because they were peers and friends.
That’s what made Jackson’s statement unique. Too many times, it’s go along to get along. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t do anything to wreck that gravy train that dispenses money and other benefits to the privileged few.
Jackson also raises questions about the Hall-worthiness of Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte, two Yankees whom he calls friends. He also has withdrawn his support from Barry Bonds and he never backed Mark McGwire.
Like many of the Hall of Fame voters, Jackson is turned off by the stench on those that used performance-enhancing drugs. He’s not saying anything that many of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who vote for the Hall of Fame haven’t said before; but when those remarks come from a Hall of Famer they have a different ring to them.
For many average and ordinary players, making the choice to use PEDs was often a decision to keep a struggling career going. The thought process was that a high percentage of their competitors were using and that if they didn’t use they would fall behind and likely lose their career. That kind of explanation seems more reasonable than when the game’s biggest stars chose to have greater production through better chemistry.
Barry Bonds probably would have been a top-50 player in the Hall of Fame without chemical enhancement. However, when he decided to increase his cap size so dramatically, he did it out of jealousy. His numbers say he is the greatest home run hitter of all-time, but few think he deserves that title over Hank Aaron.
Certainly Jackson doesn’t. Jackson has found himself in a controversial position because he wants the Hall of Fame to have standards. He is not about injuring former players, including a great player who died before his time.
But he cares about the game and wants the Hall of Fame to have integrity. Once again, Reggie has shown why he is truly one of a kind and the straw that stirs the drink.