One of my favorite writers, the well-respected Scott Pitoniak, just posted an article to the Rochester Business Journal website today regarding this same topic. To read his piece, follow the link here: The Yankees have made a mockery of jersey retirements
Now, here’s my take on it. This is the opinion coming from someone who didn’t grow up witnessing some of the greats, like Mickey Mantle or even Thurman Munson. This is the opinion of someone who has only known the Yankees during the times of Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Mo Rivera.
In the past month, the Yankees have certainly made headlines. With the return of A-Rod and their unusually quiet off-season, no headline stuck to me like that of the Yankees retiring three more numbers.
2013 was the year of Mariano. 2014 was the year of Jeter. And 2015 is the year of…everyone?
I agree with Pitoniak, but from a different perspective and generation. I only have known the Yankees since 1992. While that may give me less experience, I know these people don’t deserve the honor of having their numbers retired, especially so early on after they’ve left the game.
Jorge Posada was always a personal favorite of mine, a strong presence behind the plate and at it. Pettite had a good reputation…until the whole PED investigation emerge. Bernie was just…Bernie. Quiet, humble and a strong player. But in the terms of retired numbers, none of the above deserve that.
Even though I grew up watching these players and are partial to their style of play, Pitoniak is right…this is RIDICULOUS! Jeter, I understand. Arguably the best leader in the game and one of the most dedicated players, Jeter’s number getting retired was only a matter of time. Not only did his own teammates love him, but players around the league constantly gave him praise. Mo, I understand too. All-time leader in saves, a player with the most ridiculous cutter any player has ever seen…Mariano helped deliver those five rings in the ’90s and ’00s to the Yankees by his domination on the mound.
This does feel overdone. I know that even as a younger fan, these three new Yankees aren’t quite the caliber of previous Yankees to have their numbers retired. It’s a tradition, as Pitoniak points out, but its a tradition that has turned into a completely bogus way to honor players who have had excellent, but not exceptional, performances in their careers.
Posada finished with a strong .273 batting average in his 17 Yankee seasons as a catcher and switch-hitter. Pettite always was a workhorse, going 256-153 in his 18 seasons, the majority of which were with the Yanks. Bernie proved to be stellar asset in center field, snagging 4 Gold Gloves and compiling a .297 batting average.
But these players were the epitome of the New York Yankees in my time. I may not be as shocked as some, but it certainly hits me that this isn’t right nor acceptable. Looking at retired numbers, like Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio…those are big name players. While Pettite, Posada and Williams may be relevant now, will people remember them when they list off their best Yankees players in the future? Will I be listing their names alongside the likes of Berra and Mantle? The answer: probably not.
Posada, Pettite and Bernie have given me so many memories, as a young fan of a very old franchise. But looking at the franchise as a whole, giving these three retired numbers away will diminish the history and importance of the past. Will they just let anyone who has ever been a Yankee their whole career as a retired number? Does that mean Brett Gardner is the next DiMaggio? Maybe he could be, but right now, no. Just because someone is a life-long Yankee shouldn’t automatically give them entrance into the baseball history.
Five retired numbers in three years? That is overkill. Doing so kind of makes the idea of a retired number not such a big deal. So after this? Let’s just wait until there is a player worthy of Mantle-caliber recognition and then give him the recognition he so rightfully deserves. And then? The Yankees franchise will once again be respected for their long-standing reputation of honoring tradition.