It's nice to retire the numbers of great athletes, and to place plaques and monuments in or around stadiums. But the Yankees are taking it too far.
The Steinbrenners were probably hoping to sell more tickets with the
announcement of honoring Rich Gossage, Tino Martinez, and Paul O'Neill with
plaques in Monument Park. But do they really deserve it? Well if they do, so do
many other former Yankees.
Yes, Martinez and O'Neill were important parts of 4 world championship
teams, but so were many other role players. Sparky Lyle was just as valuable,
if not more so, a relief pitcher than Gossage was. Willie Randolph and Roy
White were vital contributors to the 1976-78 championship teams, so why not
give them plaques?
I can understand giving Joe Torre a plaque (although I'm surprised they are
doing it, given the bad press the Steinbrenners and others in Yankee front
office received from Torre's book The Yankee Years). But retiring his
number? That's a bit much. I can see not giving out his number for a long time,
like 20 years. But retiring it? Come on.
Retired numbers as of today? OK: 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. That would
be Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bill Dickey and Yogi
Berra, Thurman Munson, Whitey Ford, Don Mattingly, Mariano Rivera. Even if
number 42 hadn't been retired by everyone because it was Jackie Robinson's,
Rivera's 42 still would have deserved it. Numbers to be retired now and next
year? That would be 2 and 51. Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams. Not coincidentally,
these would be the best 12 players in Yankee history.
Numbers to not give out for at least 20-25 years? Torre's 6, Roger Maris'
and Graig Nettles' 9, Jorge Posada's 20, Elston Howard's 32, Casey Stengel's
37, Ron Guidry's 49, and Andy Petitte's 46.
I'd give all of guys with the retired numbers plaques in Monument Park,
along with the eight men above.
Nothing against Roger Maris, but I could argue that Nettles was more
important to his teams than Maris was to his.
I'm not sure why Billy Martin, Phil Rizzuto, and Reggie Jackson had their
numbers retired. Probably because Steinbrenner wanted to sell some extra
tickets. I could see maybe giving Rizzuto a plaque in Monument Park since he
also had a long career as a Yankee broadcaster.
Should any Yankee who has made the Hall of Fame have a plaque? Maybe, but
then you'd have to include Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield along with
Jackson and Gossage.
Retired numbers and plaques ought to be awarded to the very special, not
just the special.