This week, the New York Yankees announced that they were going to retire the numbers of numerous players from their dynasties of the '90s and 2000s, including starter Andy Pettitte, catcher Jorge Posada, outfielder Bernie Williams and shortstop Derek Jeter.
The Yankees have now retired the numbers of 16 players (Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey both wore No. 8) and two managers. With these four numbers now soon to be out of circulation, that leaves 20 potential numbers not available to players.
The Yankees franchise was established in 1903, meaning its been in existence for 112 years. With 20 retired numbers in that period, the Yankees have been retiring numbers at a rate of .178 numbers/year. To make our predictions more accurate, let’s safely assume the Yankees will retire Derek Jeter’s No. 2 no later than 2016, which will alter the rate to .185 numbers/year.
With a 40-man roster to fill, that means the Yankees would only have room to retire 39 numbers before things get weird. We should hit that point by 2225.
At this pace, the team will run out of double digit numbers entirely by 2442, 427 years from now. We hope the Yanks have a backup plan in place.
Which brings us to the Phillies, the polar opposites of the Yankees in this regard.
Certainly, the Phils haven't had as rich a history of winning as New York has, and has had far fewer players worthy of such an honor. In all, just five Phillies' numbers have been retired.
Richie Ashburn's No. 1, Jim Bunning's No. 14, Mike Schmidt's No. 20, Steve Carlton's No. 32, and Robin Robert's No. 36, have all been retired by the Phils, and Major League Baseball has retired Jackie Robinson's No. 42.
As we exit the greatest sustained success in the team's history, there are obviously some players that warrant having their numbers retired. But if you'll notice, the five men who have had their numbers retired by the Phils are all Hall of Famers.
There are some borderline cases among some recent Phillies, specifically Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Cole Hamels could be on his way there, but his future with the team is tenuous to say the least.
Should the team change its policy towards number retirement? Should they continue to only retire numbers of Hall of Famers? Or should the criteria be eased a bit?
I don't think anyone should wear Utley's No. 26 ever again, nor should anyone ever get to wear Rollins' No. 11. When those two guys retire, they should be given that honor, regardless of whether they get into the Hall of Fame or not.
But what about Ryan Howard? We live in a time when Howard is maligned and ridiculed, and his heroics of the past are forgotten. But he is easily the best first baseman the team has ever had, and for a seven-year span was one of the most dominant power hitters in the game. He also was a critical component in five division championships, two World Series appearances and one world championship.
Should Howard's No. 6 be retired? I say yes.
Guys like Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay probably don't make the cut. They didn't start their careers with the Phils and weren't around for long enough to warrant the honor. Hamels will be an interesting case, especially if he gets traded within the next few weeks or months. If he stays, he's a no-brainer.
It seems as though the Yankees are overdoing the whole number retirement thing. And the Phillies have been smart to limit number retirement to the truly elite of the franchise. Sorry Curt Schilling. Sorry Darren Daulton. Sorry John Kruk. You simply don't meet the threshold.
But at the very least, when Rollins, Utley and Howard retire, they should get this prestigious honor, commemorating a time when the Phils were one of the marquee teams in baseball.