With Daniel Murphy of the Mets metamorphosing into the second coming of Lou Gehrig this postseason, a group of fans began to bestow the "Mr. October" nickname upon Murphy. This seemed to irk a group (but certainly not all) of Yankees fans, who after 19 years of dominance in the New York baseball market, didn't take kindly to the Mets fans serving them a taste of their own medicine.
It might sound strange that fans of the Yankees would take exception to the borrowing of Reggie Jackson's nickname — after all, Jackson appeared in more games as a California Angel than as a Yankee — but since he got the moniker during his epic run in the 1977 World Series, it is at least a little understandable. But what all the arguing back and forth on my Twitter and Facebook timelines got me wondering was if Jackson actually deserves the nickname that he is forever linked to.
As it turns out, he doesn't.
Jackson is for sure a Hall of Famer — that is not in question — but the career .262/.356/.490 hitter didn't magically become a better hitter come October. While that shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone, what might be surprising is that Jackson's postseason numbers align almost perfectly with what his regular season numbers were during corresponding seasons.
From 1971-1982, when Jackson did a majority of his postseason damage (outside of six games as a 40 year old in 1986), he hit .278/.365/.517 with an average of 35 home runs per 162 games. In his 71 games of postseason experience during those years, he hit .286/.369/.553 hitting home runs at a rate of 42 per 162 games. He was slightly better than the regular season, but it was nothing that would definitively declare Jackson as the king of October baseball.
We gave him the nickname because he was a big personality who was really good, especially during that magical 1977 World Series. It is our natural human propensity for narrative building that makes Reggie Jackson "Mr. October" or turns Derek Jeter into an infallible diety. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, either — the human stories of the players are what make sports appealing. We love to hear about the guy who when it matters most digs down and finds a way to become a superhero.
Maybe it's because we want to believe that the reason that Jackson could hit 3 home runs in a game, or Murphy can homer in six straight, or Jeter can make an absurd flip to get a non-sliding Jeremy Giambi out at home, is not because they're naturally talented and have worked hard to cultivate that talent, but because of some superhuman-like quality we can only wish to possess.
Jackson, Jeter and the like were great postseason players because they were great players. Maybe it's not fair to say that they don't deserve recognition for their feats, but we should at least keep this as a reminder to place any postseason feats within their proper context of the player's career. And maybe we shouldn't get defensive over meaningless nicknames.
Joe Vasile is the Assistant General Manager and Voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.