Jackson hopes dust settles for Rocket
Mr. October counts Clemens, along with A-Rod, as friend
NEW YORK -- Reggie Jackson had a front-row seat for Alex Rodriguez's transition from admitted steroid user to World Series champion, and the Hall of Fame slugger is holding out hope that Roger Clemens will eventually find the same peace.
In a radio interview on WFAN 660 AM in New York, Jackson called both Rodriguez and Clemens friends and said on Tuesday that he is not pleased with the situation surrounding the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, who continues to deny taking performance-enhancing substances.
"I don't like it," Jackson said. "He's still my friend. I hope that goes away in a positive fashion. I don't like it, the way it stands. I'd love to see Rocket just say something that would make us all more comfortable, because he's a great pitcher and we all still love him."
Clemens' name was mentioned in the 2007 Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball, with former trainer Brian McNamee stating that he injected Clemens, and the two met in front of Congress in Feb. 2008, where Clemens swore under oath that he had never used steroids.
Jackson said that he spoke to Clemens approximately two weeks ago, when the former hurler was playing golf in Mexico.
"I've always liked Rocket and he's really a funny guy with a tremendous sense of humor," Jackson said. "He makes me laugh and roll on the ground when I'm with him, so I do not hold it against him what he did. It is a scar that has certainly healed for me and I'm going to continue to be his friend."
Jackson chafed this spring after Rodriguez held an awkward press conference outside George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., to admit his own use of performance-enhancing drugs, wondering aloud how Rodriguez's home run total should compare to the 563 round-trippers Jackson clubbed from 1967 through 1987.
"I am bothered by what happened with steroids and all the other enhancement drugs, but I know that players did it," Jackson said. "I do say to myself, 'Well, he's not quite the same,' but Alex Rodriguez is a friend of mine, to use him as an example, and so is Roger Clemens. I admire these guys and I love them."
However, if Jackson had a say in Hall of Fame voting, he said steroid users would not be admitted through the doors of Cooperstown. But Jackson allowed that as the years pass, that line may be blurred.
"I think time is probably going to have us forget a lot of that stuff," Jackson said. "I don't know what I'd do at this particular point. Probably not, but I think time may heal some of that stuff."
Jackson said that had steroid use been prevalent during his playing career, he would not have been tempted. Jackson recalled a Spring Training game where his father, Martinez, sat in right field next to Steinbrenner to discuss the slugger having been found with an open beer container in his vehicle.
Recalling his father's cold stare that spring day in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., leads Jackson to believe he would not have done anything to offend his father or embarrass the game.
"I absolutely would have said no, because of what I was taught as a young kid," Jackson said. "I always felt that I had superior talent, I had superior strength. I felt like I was stronger than most and I could wait until 110, 115 games and then be successful toward the end of the season."
After Rodriguez's confession to the media this spring, Jackson sat with the superstar over dinner in Tampa, Fla., and discussed the responsibilities of being a marquee athlete with the Yankees. With lowered expectations, Rodriguez responded with an impressive season, hitting .286 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs before answering his critics with a healthy round of postseason success.
"Al is a great guy," Jackson said. "He's stuck his foot in his mouth a couple of times, but certainly watching him have the success he had, I think that Al in 2009 was a different person and everybody could see it.
"It came through on the field and the way he handled himself, and of course the way that he performed is something that we had hoped for a long time. You get to expect it from the skill level that he has. It was enjoyable to see him happy and have the success at the same time."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.