|Arizona's Jackson glad to have first base to himself|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 26 February 2008 01:39|
Entering his third major league season, with first base all to himself, Jackson says he's through trying to be something he isn't.
``Everybody's going to have their expectations,'' he said Monday. ``I felt like the last couple of years I tried to please everybody. But the bottom line, at the end of the day, it's what I feel I can do and what I know I can do.''
Because he played first on an Arizona team without a true power threat, and because he played a position that sluggers usually play, Jackson faced criticism from fans for not hitting more balls out of the park.
He's hit 15 homers in each of the past two seasons in 900 at-bats.
``Especially at the big league level, a lot is written about having to have the corner guys hit for power,'' manager Bob Melvin said. ``For me, it's more about driving in runs.''
Jackson has 139 RBIs the past two seasons, and his 55 doubles those two years indicates what type of hitter he is.
``The bottom line is production's production,'' Jackson said, ``whether you're hitting 20 (homers) and driving in 100 or hitting 40 and driving in 100. It's still driving in 100 runs.''
The son of actor John Jackson - a regular on the television series ``JAG'' - he had a standout collegiate career at California, then rapidly rose through the minors.
``Things have come very easily to him, especially in the minor leagues and college,'' Melvin said. ``He realizes at the big league level it's not as easy. The competition is that much better. There's a very small divide between being a starting player and one who's not.''
Still only 25, Jackson is a career .280 hitter in 310 big league games. Far from a free swinger, he had 53 walks and 50 strikeouts last season, with an on-base percentage of .368 for the second year in a row.
``I take my pitches, I take my approach,'' he said. ``I think that discouraged a lot of people, too, because I let a lot of good pitches go by. But I've got a game plan up there. I know what I'm doing.''
The past two seasons Jackson had to share time with veteran Tony Clark, who often was a late-inning replacement for defensive purposes. Clark has left for San Diego, and Jackson says he feels far more comfortable.
``I never knew when I'd be playing with Tony Clark kind of over my shoulder,'' Jackson said. ``It's good to know that you're the guy. It instills a little confidence in you, and I worked hard in the offseason to instill some confidence in the staff and front office.''
Defense has been a struggle for Jackson, who committed 12 errors in 2006 and 11 in 2007. He acknowledges dwelling too long on mistakes he made in the field, and Melvin believes that will change with maturity.
``It was almost like when he did make an error he'd have to fight the thought that `Maybe I'm not as good as what I'm trying to accomplish here,''' Melvin said. ``In the game of baseball, you've got to let those things go, and I think he realizes that. The more experience you get, the thicker skin you get, the more you have to rely on your confidence to just move on.''
For now, there is no one who is even a remote challenge to Jackson at first. That could change when Chad Tracy gets healthy, but Melvin said that is a long way off after Tracy underwent microfracture knee surgery last year.
Meanwhile, Jackson is out to prove he belongs.
``It's 'cowboy-up' time,'' he said. ``It's time to show I belong as an everyday player - to myself and to the front office as well.''