BOSTON -- Alex Rodriguez might be separated from Reggie Jackson by a couple of generations in Yankees lore, but the "Lightning Rod" got a taste of what it was like to be Jackson's teammate in the mid-1970s and didn't much like it, judging from his reaction Friday at Fenway Park. A team official said Jackson has apologized and is working to make things right within the organization and with others he may have offended.
Jackson proclaimed himself "the straw that stirs the drink" when he joined the Yankees in 1977, and he stirred up some controversy with some remarks published Thursday by Sports Illustrated, suggesting that A-Rod's admission of performance-enhancing drug use might preclude him from Hall of Fame membership despite his current 642 home runs.
Meeting briefly with the media before the opener of a four-game series with the Red Sox, Rodriguez said of Jackson: "That's funny. With friends like that, who needs enemies?"
Jackson, 66, still works for the Yankees as a special adviser and has enjoyed a friendly relationship with Rodriguez since A-Rod came to New York in 2004. But the Hall of Fame slugger with 563 career homers, when questioned about Rodriguez's future candidacy, told SI: "I think there are real questions about his numbers. As much as I like him, what he admitted about his usage does cloud some of his records."
Jackson didn't confine his criticism to A-Rod. He said Andy Pettitte is "so respected" that he might get in despite admitting using HGH while recovering from an elbow injury but would lose support from other Hall members. Jackson also questioned the credentials of several current Hall of Fame members, including the late Gary Carter.
A-Rod said Jackson contacted him to discuss it but said the content of their talk will remain private. He sidestepped when asked if he was surprised to be blindsided by someone he thought was a friend. "We're really excited and focused on these four games here," he said. "Our team has a focus, I have a focus, and that's winning games. Anything that gets in our way is not part of that equation."
The timing of Jackson's remarks was especially uncomfortable for Rodriguez, who failed to make the All-Star team and came into the series with only 13 homers and 36 RBIs.
Asked if he still considers Jackson a friend, Rodriguez laughed and said: "Again, what we said to each other, I'm going to keep that private. My focus is on playing baseball. Anything that comes in the way of us winning games is white noise."
That's a far cry from spring training, when A-Rod was dragged into a controversy by Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who made a joking reference to Jason Varitek "beating up" Rodriguez in a 2004 altercation. At the time, A-Rod said he would let his "press secretary," Jackson, field those queries.
A-Rod laughed when asked if he still wants Jackson as his media mouthpiece. "Ummmm," he said, "I'm thinking about that one."With Erik Boland