What’s In A Number?

It's official: Yankees sign Raul Ibanez
Yankees roster flexibility going forward
New faces, new numbers. (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

One of the general rules of thumb in Spring Training is the higher the number, the less likely the player is to make the team. Chase Whitley (#96) and Graham Stoneburner (#95) should probably start looking for apartments in Trenton rather than start planning for life in the Bronx. Non-roster players with a legitimate chance to make the team like Bill Hall (#40) and Russell Branyan (#45) were issued numbers a little closer to respectability.

New faces Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda were given some old, familiar numbers. Numbers with tiny little bit of history, either for the Yankees or in general. During the number-issuing process, Andruw Jones got caught in the crossfire. Let’s review…

Michael Pineda – #35
For the first time since Mike Mussina in 2008, someone will wear #35 in pinstripes. Pineda wore #36 with the Mariners last season, but Freddy Garcia has seniority and got to keep his number. Moose was a great Yankee, but not great enough to have his number retired. Keeping #35 out of circulation for three years before handing it over to an extremely talented young hurler like Pineda is a fine tribute in my eyes.

(AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Hiroki Kuroda – #18
Believe it or not, there’s actually a little something behind Japanese pitchers and the #18. It’s the country’s recognized “ace number” according to NPB Tracker’s Patrick Newman (and his commenters), a tradition that started way back in the 1930s with Akira Noguchi of the Tokyo Senators. It was later popularized by Tsuneo Horiuchi of the Yomiuri Giants in the 1960s and 1970s. After Horiuchi retired, Masumi Kuwata was given the number and went on to have a lengthy career. The tradition spread and now most staff aces in Japan wear #18, though #11 has started to gain popularity as an “ace number” thanks to Kenshin Kawakami and more recently Yu Darvish. Daisuke Matsuzaka wears #18 with the Red Sox, and the recently signed Tsuyoshi Wada will wear it for the Orioles. So yeah, neato.

Andruw Jones – #22
I don’t know if he got dinner or a watch or something else out of it, but Jones gave up #18 to Kuroda and will now don #22. If you’re the superstitious type, I have bad news for you: the #22 has been worn by some sketchy fourth outfield types in recent years, including Greg Golson (2011), Colin Curtis (2010), Chad Huffman (2010), Randy Winn (2010), and Xavier Nady (2008-2009). Jones is substantially better than all of those fellas, plus I’m not usually one to worry about the bad vibes given off by certain numbers. I expect Andruw to do just fine in 2012, regardless of what number he’s wearing on his back.

* * *

Raul Ibanez will be issued #27 when he reports according to Jack Curry, which can’t be good news for Chris Dickerson. Last year’s #27 is out of minor league options (can’t be sent down without first clearing waivers) and on the outside of the roster bubble looking in at the moment. He’s been given #41.

The numbers 6, 20, 21, 46, and 51 remain out of circulation, and four of the five are likely to get retired at some point. I have a real hard time thinking Paul O’Neill’s number will be retired unless they’re planning some kind of grand, late-90s dynasty number retirement night, where all those guys have their numbers put in Monument Park at the same time. O’Neill’s been retired for eleven years now, it’s time for something to happen with #21, one way or the other.

It's official: Yankees sign Raul Ibanez
Yankees roster flexibility going forward
  • nesto

    Pretty sure Montero’s jersey was #21 in the minor leagues. For shame.

    • Monterowasdinero

      But it is 63 for the Mariners currently.

      • Nick

        that is the number he wore with ny.

      • Nick

        gutierez also currently has 21

        • nesto

          ah that explains it.

  • Nick

    they probably would have given 21 to montero

  • http://yes jim

    Have we forgotten LaTroy Hawkins?(21) Got booed opening day!

    • Robinson Tilapia

      And everyone who booed him for that had some serious issues to work out for themselves.

      • Kiko Jones


  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    I recall the big who ha about Pat Kelly being the 1st Yankee since Pinella to wear 14… about saving it for someone special, that didnt work out.

    I think Robertson is the 1st to wear 30 since Willie Randolph.

    One of the nice things is at this point, just about every number under 35 has “someone” connected to it. 10 Chambliss et al 20 not just Jorge but Dent before him.

    • Thomas Cassidy

      Lidle wore 30 I think.

      • CP

        Matt Smith and Corey Lidle wore #30 in 2006, and Scott Patterson wore it in 2008 before Robertson.

  • CMP

    Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte should have their numbers retired for sure.

    As much as I liked Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and Joe Torre, I’d say no to all of them.

    • ChrisS

      I’d say no to all of them. Retiring a number should be the highest honor a player could receive rivaling selection to the HoF.

      None of the these players are HoF guys. Honor them by reserving their number for a few years and then reissue to someone deserving. I like all those guys and nothing but respect for them, but they weren’t the face of the ball club. The only numbers from the 90s and 00s to be retired are #2 and #42.

      I don’t have a problem with the Yankees giving out #21 provided it’s to another all-star type player and not a journeyman relief pitcher.

      • http://twitter.com/_swarlsbarkley Drew

        Joe Torre is a HOF

      • CMP

        Posada and Pettite are potential HOFers and Bernie, while probably not it pretty close too

      • Havok9120

        Donnie Baseball? Guidry? Elston Howard? Thurman Munson?

        You’d really go with “none of the above” on them? I’ll grant you that I’d say no to Bernie and O’Neil, but Jorge and Torre definitely deserve. I’m on the fence about Andy, but I’m very, very biased because I love the guy.

      • Bo Knows

        These guys were instrumental pieces in the modern Yankee dynasty, they deserve to have their numbers retired. I agree its one of the highest honors a player can get, and Bernie, Jorge, and Andy deserve that honor.

    • http://twitter.com/_swarlsbarkley Drew

      So the manager that won 4 WS and never missed the playoffs under this tenure doesn’t deserve to get his number retired? You have some lofty standards.

      • Johnny O

        Agreed, Torre’s number will be retired. He’s very close to a HoF manager and would go in as a Yankee. So it would be fairly embarrassing if he didn’t have his number retired by the Yankees, despite all the meanie things he said about Cashman in his book.

        As for the guy who thinks only HoF’ers should have their numbers retired – how about Donnie Baseball? Guidry? Elston Howard? Thurman Munson?

        • CP

          I think that HOFers should have their numbers retired (so that counts 2, 6 and 42 – although 42 is really just a formality as it’s already retired for Jackie Robinson, so no one else will wear it). They should also retire the borderline HOFers. That would count 20, 46 and 51. I’m not sure whether they’re HOFers or not, but they’re close enough to have serious discussions about (similar to Mattingly). I don’t see a strong reason to retire 21.

      • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

        Well, let’s see. Joe McCarthy won SEVEN (7) championships for the Yankees and his number isn’t retired, so……..

        • gc

          I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Joe McCarthy never actually wore a uniform number as manager of the Yankees.

          • Havok9120

            I’m not sure either, but I think you’re right.

      • Midland TX

        I think Torre deserves to, and will, get inducted into the HOF by the national media, based on his playing and managerial careers, and notwithstanding his mediocre record managing non-Yankee teams.

        I think he poisoned the well with the Yankees, however, with his drama-queen departure from NY (When Jeter pulled the same petulant shit renegotiating his last deal, I imagined him saying to Torre, “I learned it from you!” as in that ABC After-School Special) and with that book. Maybe he’ll get #6 retired in the Bronx, but probably not till after Hank drops dead of a heart attack.

    • Josh S.

      Tino wore 24, which is Robinson Cano’s number now. I think that worked out.

  • RobertGKramer@AOL.Com

    My first favorite Yankee wore #22, Allie Reynolds!

  • G

    I can’t decide if I want to get a #35 Pineda shirtsey or wait and see if he gets 36 back next year.

  • pacman

    imo. retire oneills jersey

    • UncleArgyle

      I’m with you. O’Neill was such a massive part of the Yankees turnaround from laughling stock to Dynasty that he deserves to be honored.

  • Mr. Furious

    Dickerson is wearing #41 now.

  • erik

    id like to see oneils number retired over posada, but i know im probably in the minority there especially given posada was a yankee lifer and oneil came from the big red machine. his impact was huge tho, and i think the fans want it. who knows.

    • Havok9120

      I won’t argue too much over O’Neil. He and Bernie are both major toss-ups for me, though I lean more toward not retiring their numbers.

      O’Neil>Posada though? I don’t see any argument for that at all. And not even because he’s home grown. Just longevity and importance to the team set a clear distinction in Jorge’s favor.

  • jack knife

    i know that the big league camp is the hot topic but is anyone posting info on the minor league side. Anything going on accross the street of interest

  • Pete Law

    I’d say put them all in Monument Cave but put the numbers back in circulation. I’m looking at you 1, 9, and 10!

    • gc

      I don’t think they’ll ever un-retire a retired number. But if it were up to me, I would un-retire 1, 9, 10, and 44. All fine players in their own right, but ultimately lacking that quality that (to me) makes them “all-time” Yankee greats.

      Munson’s 15 is sort of tied into how tragically he passed away, how he still had some years left in the tank, so I’m OK with keeping that one.

      And I’m on the fence about 23, 32, and 49. Growing up when I did, I adored Mattingly and Guidry and what they meant to the Yankee teams they played on. There’s a lot to be said pro and con about their numbers and how they stand up to all-time Yankee greats. I suppose in the end, I’m fine with their numbers staying retired, but it’s close.

      And honestly, I don’t think managers should even have a number to retire. It’s kind of one of those silly things that has never made much sense to me. They don’t play on the field, their number really isn’t relevant to anything meaningful. Again, if it were up to me, give them a plaque in center field and put the number back into circulation.

      Jeter and Mariano (and Torre) are locks. I’d put Posada and Bernie in the “on the fence” category for now, leaning towards yes, retire their numbers. Pettitte and O’Neill I would say no.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I might be able to understand why you’d say Maris, but Martin, Scooter, and Reggie are a massively important part of Yankee lore. Those numbers stay retired for an eternity. Elston Howard also has his special place in history.

        • gc

          Yeah, I get all that. But being a key part of Yankee lore should only count for so much, in my opinion. Especially if they didn’t really accumulate the kinds of legendary numbers during their time as Yankees. I guess what I’m saying is that every legendary Yankee moment doesn’t automatically mean that player should have his number retired. Longevity and sustained excellence should take precedence the way I see it. Let them keep all their plaques, but release some of those numbers back into the population, I say. (I realize that my position will most likely never be adopted by the team)

          I agree about Howard, and put him on my fence but leaning towards yes. As I said, I’d be fine with him, Mattingly and Guidry.

  • mike

    Robinson Cano wore #22 when he first came up

  • Yank The Frank

    It’s hard to believe that it’s been 11 years since Paulie retired.

  • Vegetable Lasagna

    Jorgie’s number will definitely be retired and he will get a place in monument park next to his friends, Derek, Andy and Mariano. Wouldn’t be surprised to see 3/4 of those in the HOF. Andy was below boderline before the steroids so he definitely won’t get in. The other 3 will.

  • forensic

    Via Chad Jennings about Jones’ number:

    • Jones is now wearing No. 22, with his old number 18 given to Hiroki Kuroda. Jones said he wasn’t given time to negotiate a price for giving up the number, but when the Yankees asked him about it, he said he didn’t mind. “Why not let him do it?” he said.

  • Jonathan

    Clemens wore 22 with us and after he left Robbie wore it but gave it up in 2008 to switch to the inverse of 42 in honor of the man he’s named after. 22 has a pretty damn good recent history.

    • Havok9120

      That’d be a sweet story if not for the fact that that would give us two #42s on the team.

      • Havok9120

        God, that came out way harsher than I meant it too. Sorry about that.

        • Jonathan

          If it wasn’t for your apology I’d be much harsher about the fact that you clearly don’t know what the word “inverse” means.

      • peter

        Didn’t Cano give up 22 to Clemens then switch to 24?

    • Midland TX

      I always liked how Pettitte, another Cajun southpaw, took Guidry’s 49, rotated the “9” 180 degrees, and went with 46.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I’d retire Torre over any number other than Jeter and Mariano, but that’s just one guy’s opinion.

    Would I add the rest of the Core Four to that? Sure. I’d add Bernie as well. O’Neill and Tino would be on the outside looking in.

  • Moyer

    The Toronto Leafs don’t retire numbers, they “honor” them by raising the players name and number to the rafters. I’d like to see that with the extreme exception of certain players that are some of the best ever like Ruth, Dimagio, Mantle, Gehrig, Rivera, Jeter. The others I’d honor with a monument if you wish, but to retire a number…You have to be one of the best ever in my book. Basically saying that we are confident in saying no one will be better than you who will wear that number. If Rivera decided to switch from 42 to 44 when 42 was retired, would anyone say he wasn’t as good as Reggie?

    • fin

      I think eventually they will have do that. Their will just be too many numbers out of commission. I think they might have to do that soon too, as think they will retire O’niel, Jeter, Bernie, Mo, Posada and Petite. O’niels the only one I can see them passing, but i doubt it. The rest all came up and played togather and were equally valuable. It would be a slight to any of them to get passed up, and the last thing the Yankees want to do with this tradition is slight people or casue any hard feelings. I cant imagine Mo, Jeter, or Posada being happy about Petite or Bernie being left out either. Lets not forget Ford and Berra as being part of the permanantly retired, and maybe Munson in commemerance of the tragedy.

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    Never been a baseball uniform “numbers guy” As long as Joe has 28 on his back it’s Game On !

  • Raza

    A-Rod’s # will be retired. Especially if he gets the HR record and wins another ring. His 2005 and 2007 seasons were some of the best in team history.

    • Havok9120

      Whooooo boy. That’d be a divisive announcement from the front office.

  • Chop It Up

    I personally don’t think 1, 9, 44 or 49 should be retired. I do feel that the Core Four plus Torre and O’Neill should be retired but that’s 6 guys plus the probable 13 retirement and we have a Boston Celtics situation on our hands.

    • Bo Knows

      If your a legendary franchise, its bound to happen eventually. Its a good problem to have.

      I’m looking forward to seeing triple digit numbers and fractions one day

  • greg c89

    Mussina was better than a lot of guys with their numbers retired. He is a HOFer, or at least should be. He’s at least borderline, while several others are clearly not close. However, it’s a lot more complicated than that, and I’m not saying he should have his number retired ( disclosure: Moose was my favorite Yankee after Mattingly retired and he started out as a great pitcher for my home team, so I have great personal attachment). Just as I’m not going to argue that every hitter as effective as Jim Rice should be in the HOF.

    • Raza

      Moose definitely deserves to be in the HoF.

  • Miles Davis

    moose def will get in HOF. we all have soft spots for obviously the core 4 but also tino bernie and paulie. obviously tino had his numbered reused. i think the yankee front office wishes that a few numbers hadnt been retired throughout the years. i cant see them ever unretiring a number like 44. love reggie but he was here for 5 years. its tough because i think the core 4, torre, bernie, and paulie are deserving but you can only retire so many numbers before we see kids in spring training wearing #100

  • Kevin

    I feel bad for Moose. Carl Pavano,Brad Penny,Josh Beckett…makes me throw up that they have World Series rings (and that 03 ring is the ugliest one in the hall by far) while he never got one.

  • peter

    i feel like retired numbers should be kept for homegrown guys that make a significant impact over a long period of time. 2,42,51,46,and 20 all should be retired IMO. although i loved paul oneill and wouldnt mind it, its ok if his isnt. same with torre. if cano stays long term and maintains his production i see him being retired as well.

  • Mark

    The Yankees are too proud a franchise to have more than half the guys on the roster wearing numbers like 56 and 63, which is something that’s going to happen in a few decades if they keep producing great players who win championships — and we all expect that to keep happening, don’t we?

    The more I think about it, the more I like the Maple Leafs’ way of doing it. The monuments are where you immortalize the all-time greats. The jerseys are where you want to keep every number available so that future players can wear the numbers of previous players whom they grew up respecting.

    If you absolutely have to retire a number, do it for a great player who died before his time. Only 4 and 15 for Gehrig and Munson, and no more.

  • jason

    Re: Moose & HPF: see


    Of course, he’ll go in as an O, but them’s the breaks.