The New York Yankees have already let it be known that they will be retiring the numbers worn by catcher Jorge Posada (20), pitcher Andy Pettitte (46), and outfielder Bernie Williams (51) during this upcoming season. Of course, the next number to be withheld from anyone else will the one belonging to newly-retired shortstop Derek Jeter (2). Jeter’s number will be the last remaining single-digit to ever be worn by a Yankee.
Mariano Rivera’s 42 has already been retired, having been the last player to where it since Major League Baseball retired the number in honor of Jackie Robinson. The grand sum for retired numbers previously worn by Yankees’ players will eventually be at 22. The lowest remaining number currently able to be sported is 11, which is currently being worn by outfielder Brett Gardner who signed a four-year extension worth $50 million that also includes a fifth-year club-option.
“It’s my eighth year, and I’m in the 50s,” said Yankees catcher Austin Romine. “If you get in the 50s in New York, that’s saying something” (Billy Witz, NYTimes.com).
The Yankees are far and away at the top in the tally of retired numbers. For reference, per NYTimes.com, the clubs that follow suit are the St. Louis Cardinals (13), Atlanta Braves (11), then the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants (10 each).
When players began reporting to Spring Training just days ago, only four numbers were available to those who had not been previously assigned one (38, 50, 57, and 69). Many have begun to question what the Yankees will do once numbers have become even more scarce.
“They’re going to have to go to triple digits pretty soon,” said infielder Brendan Ryan. “I don’t think they want to have to go to negative numbers” (Witz).
While Posada’s chances of getting into the Hall of Fame are treading water, Williams and Pettitte will very likely not be heading to Cooperstown. The latter two were more than adequate players for the franchise, which succeeded in their numbers being retired, but there does not seem to be a definable threshold that the franchise has in terms of the process.
There have been talks of outfielder Paul O’Neill getting his number (21) retired as well. As of right now, it has been unofficially retired with only infielder Morgan Ensberg and pitcher LaTroy Hawkins last donning the number back in 2008.
Either triple-digits, or possibly adding letters following the last digit of the player’s number (I am joking, at least partially). At what point does the club have to consider un-retiring numbers? That may be more of a down-the-road ponder, if it has to be.