Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Celebrating Yankees’ heroes should be fun

The New York Yankees announced Monday that they would be retiring the jersey numbers of Andy Pettitte (No. 46), Jorge Posada (No. 20) and Bernie Williams (No. 51) this coming season. The club will also conduct a ceremony for former captain Willie Randolph, giving him a plaque in Monument Park. The press release including the dates of the events is here.

Once the three numbers are retired and out of circulation, the Yankees will be without the use of 20 numbers, and Derek Jeter’s No. 2 will surely be out of use until it is officially retired at a later time. The Yankees had a slew of number retirements and plaque ceremonies last season, mostly to celebrate members of the late 90’s early 00’s teams who made significant contributions to the franchise especially those who helped with four World Series titles in five seasons. The team also wove in an “old timer” along the way (Goose Gossage last season).

The Yankees call it a “recognition series” and that’s all it should be looked at as. It’s not meant to examine players and determine who had more of an impact or not. It’s simply the team’s way of showing their appreciation for the player’s roles in the history of the Yankees. Some players, as far as the Yankees are concerned, check off enough boxes to warrant their number being retired, others will receive a plaque and many more will receive nothing more than an invite to Old Timer's Day.

Fans and media can have their opinions of course, and a lot of it comes down to this subjective matter in which the Yankees seem to be making their decisions on who gets a number retired and who gets a plaque. Is it based on championships, all-star appearances, club records, captainship, longevity or all of the above? Do we need to know the Yankees' criteria?

While this should be a good thing for the team and its fans – a celebration of the great players in Yankees' history – there are some who simply feel the Yankees have begun to go too far with their number retirements and plaque ceremonies. Can there be enough celebration of great players? Does it matter that someone cannot wear No. 20 anymore, but No. 21 or No. 24 is still available? Is it really scary that the Yankees might run out of numbers?

It’s difficult for some to differentiate between the Yankees icons of yesteryear and those of more recent memory. Were Paul O’Neill's contributions to the Yankees more important that Graig Nettles’? For now, the Yankees say yes. It is believed that Nettles is on the radar for a plaque ceremony now with Randolph lined up for his. But seriously, what is the issue?

Part of it is timing. Why rush to get the players of more recent memory a ceremony? Why so many in one season? It is very similar to the Hall of Fame debates that go on and on each season. It’s a subjective decision. The Yankees have their own ideas on who deserves what and when. It’s something the fans and the media are going to have to deal with and it is certainly not hurting anyone.

The debate on the worthiness is fine, but to lament it like the Yankees are doing a disservice to the fans themselves, or for the media to ridicule the proceedings because they require coverage is inane. The Yankees are not out to hurt its former player’s feelings, but rather to commemorate the excellence of its most celebrated players. How is this wrong?

Photo of Bernie Williams courtesy of Wikipedia.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer and sports media strategist. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly Closer Report column. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.