DUNEDIN, Fla. -- There's nothing like a stern lecture from Mr. October to help a troubled friend focus on the priorities of life and career when enormous distractions are closing in and his reputation is crumbling.
"Hit the baseball, and hit it when it counts," Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson told Alex Rodriguez at dinner Tuesday night. "That's really about all that matters now."
Hit the baseball, and hit it when it counts!
There could be no better advice for Rodriguez if he is going to pick up the pieces and rebuild whatever he has to rebuild.
Matter-of-factly, A-Rod mentioned he had dinner with Jackson on Tuesday night, but didn't elaborate other than to jest, "Reggie was probably one of those guys booing me."
Reggie said he spent time with Yankees general partner Hank Steinbrenner on Tuesday.
"'You deliver this message,' [Steinbrenner] said sternly to me. 'You tell him to hit the damn ball and hit it when it counts,' " Jackson said. "Yes, that's really the most important thing Alex can do at this stage. All the other conversations, they don't matter. The more you talk, the more you have an opportunity to make a mistake or say something stupid or something you can go trace.
"My dad used to say you can control the story as long as you still get a chance to hit. Take the bat away and you start running your mouth, you're going to get in trouble. Edit your own story with the bat, and as long as Alex does that, he's got a chance to change things."
Jackson says it remains to be seen if Rodriguez will be able to block out the distractions.
"It goes day to day," he says. "If things don't change and this is the only battle he has to fight, he'll win that. What you worry about is that he's got an uphill battle with things coming at him. It's not going to be easy.
"If the story unravels cleanly, he'll get through it. He'll have the support of the team. He's got to have an outstanding year. What we saw today is his ability to concentrate, and the fan reaction wasn't that bad -- way more positive than negative."
Reggie says all he has to do is hit the ball when it counts.
This is the sort of thing that makes the Yankees so easy to despise.
Hit the baseball, when it counts. Really? That's the big secret?
I'm reminded of a story (which I told once in a book, but nobody read the book, so I'm sure you'll pardon me) Joe Torre had suffered with cancer, but recovered nicely. Now some other public figure had the same cancer; if memory serves, it was Rudy Giuliani. Anyway, the two conferred, and afterward Torre was on National Public Radio and was asked, "What advice did you give Mayor Giuliani?"
There was a pause across our great land, as a nation held its collective breath while waiting for the Bronx Sage's advice, which was "Listen to your doctor."
Listen to your doctor.
Granted, I'm glad that all this great advice is available to mere mortals like us. Why should stand-up guys like Alex Rodriguez and Rudy Giuliani get all the breaks?