by Steve Adubato, PhD
You would think that at age 66, baseball great Reggie Jackson—who has had over 40 years of experience dealing with the media and communicating in a variety of high-pressured situations—would know better. But think again. Back in 1977, at 31, it was understandable that Reggie came to the New York Yankees as a brash home run hitter looking to make a name for himself and loudly pronounced that he was the “straw that stirred the drink” on the Yankees.
Even though that caused lots of controversy, particularly for then Yankee captain, the late Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson’s most recent communication faux pas is simply inexcusable and inexplicable.
In an article in Sports Illustrated, Reggie Jackson couldn’t resist himself. Even though Jackson holds an official position with the New York Yankees as a special advisor reportedly making $750,000 per year, when asked about the prospects of Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez making the Hall of fame, given A-Rod’s admission that he used performance enhancing drugs, Jackson said; “Al is a very good friend, but I think there are real questions about his numbers (of home runs). As much as I like him, what he admitted about his usage does cloud some of his records.”
But Jackson’s communication miscues didn’t stop there. He was quoted in Sports Illustrated saying that such Hall of Famers as Gary Carter, Jim Rice and Kirby Puckett, didn’t belong in the Hall. What is especially outrageous and insensitive about Jackson’s comments involving Gary Carter is that in February of this year, the former NY Met died of brain cancer at age 57. Carter’s family and many of his ex-teammates were outraged upon hearing Jackson’s comments. Later, Jackson backtracked and predictably made an excuse for his sloppy public communication saying, “I am very disappointed [the Carter comments are] out there and I am embarrassed. I have a number for his wife [Sandy] and I want to talk to her and the family. That needs to be noted. I am calling to apologize for inappropriate comments while I was talking to friends.”
Where do I start? First, immediately upon Jackson’s comments going public, the Yankees brass made it clear to him that he was not welcome around the clubhouse, even though he will continue to collect his salary. Alex Rodriguez, when asked about Jackson’s statement about him and the Hall of Fame, has been quoted as saying; “With friends like that who needs enemies?”
What Jackson doesn’t seem to understand is that he works for and gets paid by the New York Yankees. It is not his place to publicly communicate his opinion about such a high-profile player as Alex Rodriguez, knowing that it would cause nothing but problems for both the player and the team. It caused an unnecessary distraction, which one suspects is not part of his job description as a “special advisor”. Once Jackson agreed to take that salary from the Yankees, it precluded him from engaging in such controversial communication about any Yankee player.
As for Jackson saying his comments about Gary Carter were made while he was “talking to friends”, think again. Reggie Jackson knows there is no such thing as a reporter who is a “friend”, especially when he never clarified what was on or off the record.
Clearly, Reggie Jackson wants to be relevant, needs to be quoted and feel important. He has a right to those feelings, but as an executive representing the Yankees and professional baseball, he has a responsibility to not comment publicly about those feelings.