Putting Paul O’Neill’s number in perspective

Early season observation: Hacking away
On Phil Hughes and his velocity

On Saturday, Ed Price took Yankee fans to task for booing LaTroy Hawkins’ decision to wear number 21 this season. Yesterday, Derek Jacques urged Yankee fans to engage in something he’s calling Project 21 in which we all write letters to Hawkins explaining why Paul O’Neill is considered a God among baseball players in New York. I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, we’re all a bit too up in arms over a simple uniform number.

Early season observation: Hacking away
On Phil Hughes and his velocity
  • TurnTwo


  • Haggs

    If Hawkins could have just sucked a lot less, this would have been over and done with.

    Getting people out is the best way to make this go away.

  • Neil

    I guess the main point to me is that Hawkins is terrible. The fact that he thinks he’s good enough to wear Paulie’s number just gave me an additional reason to boo on Friday

  • jsbrendog

    he’s no farnsworth…at least hes not wearing 21

  • mehmattski

    Paul O’Neill was a good baseball player. He was not great, certainly not great enough to have his number retired. Maybe we should retire Scott Brosius’ number too, and El Duque’s, and David Cone’s, and Jeff Nelson’s…. But wait, those players don’t belong in the same hallowed ground occupied by Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, and DiMaggio.

    Times like this make me embarrassed to be associated with Yankee fans like that. I guess the bright side is, with a new whipping boy, maybe they’ll lay off A-Rod. Maybe.

    • Casey

      Don Mattingly’s numbers dont stack up against those all time greats either. Is anyone going to argue against #23 being retired? Probably not. If we’re honoring the best player on some god-awful teams, what’s the sin in honoring one of the best players on a perennial championship contending dynasty? (yes, he was one of the best players on those teams…and if you dont believe me please consult baseball reference to verify that his BA, OBP, OPS, BB:K ratio were all excellent in his 9 years with the Yanks, and then throw in the fact that he was an absolute lock to hit around 20 HRs and anywhere from 25-40 doubles a year while lighting a fire under the asses of everyone on that team and being exactly the type of intense player that differentiates WS winning clubs from what we have now).

      • mehmattski

        First of all, I don’t think it should necessarily be a statistical argument, retiring numbers is clearly an emotional award. Don Mattingly was the face of the Yankees for a decade, and for that he should be honored. He also averaged an OPS+ of 147 from 1984-1990. Paul O’Neill touched that level only once (1994).

        I am not making little of Paul O’Neill’s contribution to all of the world series titles, it was considerable. But I believe that retired numbers should be reserved for life-long Yankees who are the faces of the franchise. If O’Neill’s number were retired, he would be just the third player to not have played the vast majority of his career with the Yankees. And for the record, I think the other two- Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson- shouldn’t have their numbers retired either. For Reggie, it’s because he wasn’t a Yankee long enough; for Billy, it’s partly for his managerial success- his playing career is nothing to write home about. I don’t think managers should have their numbers retired.

        From the 1996-2000 Yankees, the choices are clear:
        2 Derek Jeter
        20 Jorge Posada
        42 Mariano Rivera
        51 Bernie Williams (the most iffy, but on the yes side of the fence)

        Those are the numbers that should be retired, and that’s it.

        • Casey

          If you’re going to say no to Paulie, and you certainly make valid points as to why that’s a reasonable conclusion, then I think you have to say no to Bernie as well. Yes, his offensive contributions were more considerable, but he almost signed with the effin’ Sox one offseason (as duly documented here), always had the type of arm where you were almost embarassed for him, and was a nice guy but completely non-descript personality wise. My argument for O’Neill is largely based on emotions as well, but it’s hard to quantify that in writing, which was why I resorted to stats.

          • steve (different one)

            Yes, his offensive contributions were more considerable, but he almost signed with the effin’ Sox one offseason (as duly documented here)

            rock solid reasoning there.

    • Haggs

      I agree they shouldn’t retire it. But why would they hold onto it to this long then give it to a journeyman reliever on a one-year deal? And I get that Hawkins wants to honor Clemente, but wearing 21 is like putting a bullseye on his back. He saw what happened when Ensberg took the number. This doesn’t make any sense on either side.

      They should have given 21 to a kid who will be here for a while.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    Well Hawkins did say that he had no idea what people were upset about when he was first issued the number. Second, the Yankees issued it, not him. Third, if he sucked less, they’d boo less. Fourth, they don’t only have reasons to boo him, they have a chant to throw at him.

    All this to say is that yes, petitions are stupid and the Yankees are about to run out of numbers, but if you take a deified Yankee’s number, you should not stink it up.

    There should be no stinkers in pinstripes but esp not ones with numbers associated with great Yankees.

    I think the reaction is over the top but Hawkins does not help his case with sucky performances.

  • mustang

    Holy Cow….. I totally agree with Ben K. LOL

  • http://miscreantmind.wordpress.com Lisa

    This whole thing makes me feel like writing letter of support to Hawkins. I love Paulie too, but this is getting ridiculous. However, it doesn’t help that LaTroy doesn’t seem to understand NY fans and why they’re so upset with him.

    However, if Hawkins begins to come through for us when we really need him too, this will be forgotten I think Maybe then he’ll start to get an idea what the loyal New York fans are all about.

    We’re fickle. :)

    • JCP

      fickle=uneducated and embarrassing to be associated with. I want to take a poll of the people booing – how many of you can name the team Roberto Clemente played for and the approximate years he played in? The fact is that the booing of a man trying to honor Roberto Clemente is the epitome of why at times it is very easy to be turned off from ever going to Yankee Stadium.

  • Pedro

    If he starts getting some outs, givinp up less hits, less runs and stops sucking they will stop booing. The problem is, he isn’t gonna do any of those, because he really sucks.

    • steve (different one)

      please, they booed him before he threw a single pitch.

      it was disgraceful.

  • Adrian-Retire21

    The problem is most Yankees fans think LaTroy Hawkins isn’t good enough to wear 21.

    The problem is Paul O’Neil is good enough and wasn’t compared to Roberto Clemente.Actually all of the Yankees don’t deserve to wear 21.Few people in baseball or sports history has done as many stuff on and off the field to be compared to Roberto Clemente.Thats why LaTroy wore that number.When Cano who is named after Jackie Robinson wore 42 on the 60th anniversery he was wearing it to represent a once in a lifetime player.

    I love O’Neil but he is not even close a better ball player then Clemente.

  • stefan

    Number 21 doesn’t need to “remain fallow” before it is retired. People need to remember that it isn’t retired YET. There is no rule anywhere that says that a number needs to remain unused JUST IN CASE it is retired. There is also no rule that says that if that number is used by anyone else, then it CAN’T be retired.

    There have been plenty of players that used numbers prior to the original number-bearer’s retirement. So everyone needs to relax a bit.

    Booing Hawkins for wearing number 21 does O’Neill no justice. Booing him for his performance is different, of course.

  • stefan

    I also find it ironic that so many fans that are so staunchly defending Paul O’Neill can’t even spell his last name correctly. You’d think that a few World Series titles would make that double-L a distinctive and memorable feature. But apparently not.

  • zack

    People, Hawkins has appeared in two games so far. Calling him terrible is a bit of an overstatement. I’m not saying he’ll be anything write home about, but give him at least a month.

    As others have hinted about, this all ties back into the hero worship afforded to the 1996-2001 Yankees, who in the eyes of many fans, can do no wrong. Hopefully Hawkins rides out his time as a Yankee wearing #21 and its over and done with.

  • http://davidmnugent.com Dan

    First off, Most people I know do not think O’Neills number should be retired. It should just saved for someone who has a future with the organization, not a journeyman reliever. They gave Tino’s number to Cano, and noone has a problem with it because he is an integral part of our future. Once Austin jackson or Tabata get up here and prove they belong, they should have the opportunity to wear that number. My other point is to the guy mentioning Clemente. Yes, Clemente was a great player, but he did not play for the Yankees. You and Horribe Hawkins must be the only guy who thinks of Clemente when you see a 21 on the back of a yankee uniform

  • Tripp

    Hey if Hawkins keeps going the route he is then the glitch will fix itself. You see there was a glitch in the payroll where he just started getting paychecks and showing up for work with the Yankees. So all the Yankees have to do is fix the glitch and the problem will work itself out. Which I imagine will happen probably by June 1st.

  • E-ROC

    It is not that damn serious for Latroy Hawkins to a number. This isn’t Jose Canseco trying to wear the number.

  • Bo

    Get over it and start supporting Hawkins. A pretty good RP and a really good guy.

  • bkight13

    I watched 61* last night and was embarrassed to be a Yankee fan after watching how they booed Maris for not being Mickey. I feel the same about the O’Neill situation. You don’t boo an important part of your team because you loved a former player. Paulie was steady and fun to watch, but does not come close to warranting having his number retired. I say only #2 and #42 should get the nod, maybe #6.

  • http://davidmnugent.com Dano

    Hawkins a pretty good relief pitcher? You must be a Minn fan stuck in 2003. He was a halfway decent pitcher last year in the NL, but look at his numbers the last time he pitched in the AL East. 60 Inning pitched, 73 hits with an ERA of 4.48. He is a darker version of Kyle Farnsworth…Can throw the ball through a barn, but no movement on the ball. Give me Alebandejo and Patterson over these two any day of the week.

  • ceciguante


    i understand that a lot of fans think paulie is worthy of his # on the wall, and the clearest way to express it is to yell at hawkins when he shows up in a game. but i don’t like fans booing their own guy like that. i hope the collective fan base has made its displeasure known, and can go back to supporting their guy. IPK was horrible on friday, too, but he didn’t get half the boos hawkins got. how is hawkins supposed to succeed coming to the bronx — more than enough pressure on its own — if he’s getting booed by his own fans??

  • Joe

    Not a Yankee fan, (although not a hater by any means, either) so can someone enlighten me as to why NY loves Paul O’neill? Me and my friends seriously had no idea he was so loved in NY until the last couple years. When he was playing, we all viewed him as an average player that threw little kid tantrums and whined about pitches all the time. This is a serious question, too. I really might be missing something.

    • steve (different one)

      what you are missing is the fact that Paul O’Neill was not an “average” player.

      he was a very good to great player during his peak with the Yankees.

  • Joe

    Checked the numbers…he did have a couple good years with the Yankees. Hitting near .360 one year, usually around 20 home runs, could steal a couple bases and usaully hit in the .280 to .310 range. Good player, wouldn’t stretch to great and CERTAINALY can’t see a team retiring his number. It is AMAZING what winning world series does to people’s perception of players. I’m not a Yankees fan, but I want them to win a couple world series so Arod will get the recognition in NY that he has always gotten everywhere else (not including Boston).

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph M

    You want to meet Paul O’Neill circa 1940’s, say hello to Tommy Henrich “Old Reliable”. Hendrich’s numbers aren’t as good as O’Neill’s but he lost three full years to WWII. My point, Henrich was an outstanding clutch player, spent his entire 11 year career (remember he missed 3 other years) yet no one ever thought about retiring his number. The more numbers retired, the less it means. If O’Neill’s number gets retired doesn’t Posada’s number also deserve consideration. Bernie’s number, Torre and Jeter and what about Winfield. Where does it end. To me retiring numbers should be reserved for baseball immortals. Williams, Banks, Mantle, Ruth, Bench, Ripkin, Seaver. If there is a question the answer is no. Billy Martin(I love the guy but come on), Roger Maris (the most overrated underated player of all time), Reggie Jackson (he wasn’t with the club long enough).

    Retiring numbers around baseball has become a joke, so it’s not just the Yankees. Wade Boggs number is retired by Tampa Bay, Harold Baines, Jim Fregosi (the Angels). The Houston Astros have 8 numbers retired, including Jimmy Wynn.

  • pounder

    The only times I saw Paul O’Neill smile was after winning world championships(excluding the WS when he played after his fathers death).How would the history of New York Baseball look if it were not for Paul O’Neill and the famous ninth inning 11 pitch (?) at bat versus the Mets in the first WS game back in 2000? That alone elevated him to onto a higher level.