We noted this last month when the Yankees announced that they were retiring a new batch of numbers. Today the New York Times has an article noting that, between all of the retired numbers and having so many players in camp for spring training, options are particularly limited at the moment:
The Yankees’ equipment manager, Rob Cucuzza, keeps a color-coded spreadsheet listing in numerical order which player is assigned to each number. Retired numbers are highlighted in black, and ones that are already taken are in blue. The only numbers currently available are 38, 50, 57 and 69.
As with a lot of things, my thinking has evolved on this stuff in the past few years. I used to think retiring a non-great’s number was kind of silly and I’ll still occasionally make jokes about the number of numbers the Yankees have retired. Such jokes are easy and I LOVE easy jokes. I’m never gonna stop doing that.
But I’ve grown to be quite liberal when it comes to retiring numbers. Rules teams make about the player having to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame or, short of that, having crazy-high standards for number retirement seem silly to me. The more the merrier. A number retirement isn’t some act of God or government. It’s a nice gesture to a player and, really, to the fans who enjoyed that player’s career. Sure, one could say it should only be Mount Rushmore types getting the honor, but it’s not like the only Yankees players fans connected to are Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. You want to retire Jorge Posada’s number? Why not?
If anything, I’d like to see more numbers retired around baseball. It’s a crime that the Tigers haven’t retired Alan Trammell’s 3 and Lou Whitaker’s 1. Maybe public relations concerns keep the Mets from honoring Strawberry and Gooden, but why haven’t they made any gestures towards the 80s teams with which so many fans connect? How about Gary Carter’s 8? How about Keith Hernandez’s 17?
I’m sure fans of any team can point to a couple of players they’d like to see so-honored. A couple of numbers which should be put up on the wall. Maybe not as many as the Yankees have, but a few.