COOPERSTOWN, NY – To get inducted into this town’s National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, you have to get by the Baseball Writers of America. This select group produces arguments lasting as long as the Seven Years War – the backdrop of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last of The Mohicans. (Note: This small upstate town is named for Cooper’s father). Anyway, succinct biographical plaques representing the games “greatest” players adorn its hallowed walls, including that of Reggie Jackson and someday… Alex Rodriguez.
That same Reggie Jackson proved in Phil Taylor’s Sports Illustrated article, that speaking for the majority is sometimes easier than doing the same for the minority. “Mr. October” – who has Native American blood – sounds much The Last of The Mohicans’ villain chief Magua, who is disowned by his tribe for disgracing them and punished by captors before becoming a traitor and joining them. So Reggie, when you are asked to celebrate the most recently elected baseball class, or carry the honor of membership, a certain decorum is warranted. Otherwise you’re a disgraced traitor… Chief.
Unsophisticated is the man who questions the worthiness of two decedent’s careers – Kirby Puckett and Gary Carter – and stabs in the back, a previous steroid user he calls “Al” who’s part of the tribe Reggie is paid to counsel. Maybe the former are enshrined because of the latter’s beliefs in modern chemistry, leaving lesser options for the BBWA. Or maybe, like Jackson minus the controversy, the pair was “good copy” to fill the pages of their respective columns; talkative about baseball and charismatic enough to stay relevant… The politics of players helping a writer/voter do his job is paid in spades when the names appear on ballot forms.
Surely Reggie knows a thing or two about fielding questions from reporters. But the former Yankee’s actual fielding ability was no where near to Carter’s or Puckett’s – whose litany of Gold Glove Awards speak loudest and enhances a body of work for induction. Jackson is on point with his assessment of accused and documented cheaters and their place in baseball history. But statistical debates and career comparisons are for fans to drink over and sift through, and the enshrined just need to let their career numbers breathe.
Speaking on behalf of baseball royalty Reggie said,“If any of those guys get in, no Hall of Famer will attend.” But if that’s the case with the juicers being inducted, what about disqualifying Sutton, Niekro, Blyleven and Rice?
For a one-dimensional player like Reggie, a player The Hall hasn’t seen the likes of before or since, his home run total and post-season legend made his place in the HOF. For a guy whose career strikeout total is the most prolific in MLB history and outnumbers his base hits, shouldn’t be throwing stones since he’d probably miss… just like that can of corn at Fenway Park in ’78.
West Coast Craig, tomorrow.