Commentary

Reggie Jackson gave Captain a pep talk

Mr. October reminded a struggling Mr. November he has every reason to be confident

Updated: May 17, 2011, 7:54 PM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Mr. October thought Mr. November's confidence might be waning, as Derek Jeter continued to just crawl toward 3,000 with weak infield hit after weak infield hit.

Reggie Jackson studied Jeter and felt maybe he could help, so No. 44 pulled No. 2 to the side.

[+] EnlargeJeter/Jackson
Paul Spinelli/Getty ImagesReggie Jackson felt Derek Jeter just needed a reminder of how great a player he is.

Jackson said he wanted to pay "homage" to Jeter's greatness, and remind the Captain of his past success as one of baseball's best players.

"A few weeks ago, I thought he needed to hear that," Jackson told ESPNNewYork.com. "So I put that in his mind, which is a true thing, a fact about who he is."

Jackson has been a guidance counselor for Alex Rodriguez for years and has always had a relationship with Jeter, but Jeter has never really needed any words of wisdom from No. 44. While A-Rod has often been more like Reggie with the off-the-field drama to go along with on-field heroics, Jeter has played the part of a modern-day Joe DiMaggio, respectful but reserved.

On Tuesday, both Jeter and A-Rod were in the middle of the New York Yankees' offense. Jeter added two more hits, moving him 38 shy of No. 3,000, while A-Rod -- who has been struggling mightily -- found a way to grind out a two-run, fifth-inning single that brought home Jeter and gave the Yankees a 3-1 advantage, which ended up being the final result over the Kansas City Royals.

Afterward, Jeter waved off questions about his new-found old form and Jackson's role in keeping his confidence up. At worst, hearing encouraging words from Jackson couldn't hurt. At best, it may have helped springboard Jeter to his current zone.

Jackson did talk, which he has always been good at doing. Jackson will turn 65 in a week and these days is sort of the sage for the great Yankees players. He tries to instill confidence in the current Yankees in a way only a Hall of Famer who has been there and done that can.

In the past, Jeter hasn't needed such guidance. With a close family behind him, he has always known the right thing to say and the right thing to do. That is why Jackson believes that Jeter is the right Yankee to become Mr. 3,000.

"I think Jeter deserves it," Jackson said. "He's a special person the way he has handled himself on the field and, of course, off the field. I had a conversation with Derek the other day and I want to pay homage to him and tell him the respect I had for him.

"Here you are, you are one of the greatest players in the game. For four or five years, you are the best player in the game and never did anything better than anyone else. He didn't have the best arm, the best average, the most power. For four or five years he was the best player in the game."

In the first month of the season, Jeter just looked old as he couldn't muscle a ball over an outfielder's head and his hits didn't consistently travel 90 feet. Now, after collecting two more solid singles Tuesday and an RBI, he has three-straight multi-hit games, his best streak of the season. His average is up to .283.

At the moment, Jeter, 36, looks like the old Jeter instead of just old.

The man who has moved into the cross-hairs is Rodriguez. He still hasn't homered since April 23 and looks off-balance at the plate, but Tuesday he found a way to drive in the go-ahead runs.

"He's still not perfect, but RBI guys find a way to drive in runs," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of A-Rod's two-run single in the fifth.

Jackson has helped with A-Rod's transition from his October disappearing acts to a man the Yankees -- and the team's fans --- want to see at the plate in clutch moments almost as much as they once prayed the game would come down to No. 44.

It seems like A-Rod might be the closest thing to Reggie since the real thing was battling with Billy Martin and The Boss.

"At times when he's a mess, I think then he is close to being Reggie Jackson," said Jackson, poking a little fun at himself. "With the skill level that Alex has, he's always going to be a great player and he is always going to wind up coming out on top because of his skill level is so high."

Jackson even thinks A-Rod might have another MVP in him.

To hear Jackson talk about Jeter and A-Rod, you understand why he thought his pep talk for Jeter was warranted. Jeter has never been the best at anything in the game, except for one aspect that can't be seen or measured -- Jeter may believe in himself more than any player in the game.

Jackson wanted to remind Jeter of that fact and now the old sage of the Yankees, No. 44, sits back as the march to 3,000 is suddenly a sprint, not a crawl.

"It is a well-deserved honor," Jackson said. "If anyone is going to be the first guy, I'm very proud to see Derek Jeter be that person."

Mr. October may have helped Mr. November get to 3,000 in June.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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