First Pitch: Reggie was wrong. Or was he?

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
7:00
AM ET
Reggie Jackson is expected to be restored to the good graces of the Yankees -- well, most of them, anyway -- when the team arrives in Oakland for the beginning of a seven-game West Coast trip on Thursday.

The Straw that Stirs the Drink has been duly chastised for his impolitic comments regarding baseball's known steroid users -- including one who was supposedly near and dear to his pinstriped hearts, the one and only Alex Rodriguez -- by being publicly banished and (we assume) forced to issue a humbling and humiliating apology.

The Yankees were, understandably, furious with Jackson -- as one team executive exasperatedly told me, "We cut this guy a nice check every two weeks. The least he can do is keep his (expletive) mouth shut!" -- and his comments were admittedly boneheaded. Unless Reggie has taken a survey of every living Hall of Famer, it was irresponsible, to say the least, for him to suggest that "not a single Hall of Famer" will attend the induction ceremony if any of the steroid cheats is voted in.

So I get where the annoyance, and even outrage come from on the part of A-Rod and the Yankees.

But let's look at the other side of the coin. Assume, for a moment, that you are Reggie Jackson. Or Hank Aaron. Or Frank Robinson. Or Willie Mays. Or the ghosts of Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or Harmon Killebrew.

And you (presumably) accumulated your numbers cleanly and honestly, without help from your local chemist, physician, "personal trainer'' or shady cousin Yuri. And yet, you see your name being leapfrogged, and your numbers being marginalized, by a parade of guys who clearly were cheating. Some of whom, like A-Rod, even admitted it, although not until they were caught with their hands in the medicine chest.

When Reggie Jackson retired in 1987, only five players in major league history had hit more home runs than his final total of 563. The names were Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Robinson and Killebrew.

But over the past 10 years, he has moved steadily down the list, eclipsed by Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Thome -- and A-Rod. Five of those names are suspect, their numbers not to be fully trusted, and their Hall of Fame credentials forever tarnished.

To a guy like Reggie, that has to be incredibly frustrating and endlessly infuriating.

I get that, too.

Which brings us to the Question of the Day: Do you think the Yankees went too far in their anger toward Jackson? Or not far enough? Your answer, I suppose, comes down to whether you believe Reggie was right or wrong, and what makes it even tougher is the very real possibility that you can be like Billy Martin and feel very strongly both ways: That Reggie was right in what he said, but wrong to say it.

Let us know how you feel about this issue in the comments section below.

Up now: Johnette Howard's column on CC Sabathia's successful return to action in last night's 6-1 Yankees win over the Blue Jays.

Coming (very) soon: Today's lineups, followed by the series finale between the Yankees and Blue Jays, with Hiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.67) facing LHP Ricky Romero (8-5, 5.03), first pitch at 1:05 p.m. I'll be there. And I'll be live chatting Yankees at noon today. Check my Twitter feed, @ESPNNYYankees, for the link a little later on.

Question No. 2: With Brett Gardner apparently not returning to action any time soon, do you think the Yankees should pursue an outfielder at the trade deadline? And if so, what would you be willing to give up to obtain, say, Shane Victorino?

Again, let us know below and as always, thanks for reading.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAB. Gardner .283
HRM. Teixeira 18
RBIM. Teixeira 50
RB. Gardner 67
OPSB. Gardner .812
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135