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Is it time to stop retiring numbers?

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  • Is it time to stop retiring numbers?

    So I saw the news the other day that the Giants have decided to retire Will Clark's #22 next year. Frankly, whenever I hear about a number getting retired these days, it just makes me annoyed. It's partially because I like seeing a guy wear the same number his entire career, so taking them out of circulation makes it harder for guys to do that. What's more annoying to me though, is that a lot of the players who get their numbers retired aren't even all-time greats, just fan favorites. In other cases, retiring a player's number seems pointless.

    Take Will Clark. He had Hall of Fame potential, but he spent the majority of his career being just a good player rather than a great one. I'm sure Giant fans loved watching him in his prime, but did any of them feel upset that for the last 25 years, plenty of other players have worn #22? I doubt it. The Giants even gave #22 to Rikkert Faneyte the year after Clark left, according to Baseball Reference.

    I thought it was similarly silly when the Giants retired Monte Irvin's #20, fifty years after his career ended. Irvin was a great player, but he didn't even play for the team in San Francisco, and I'll bet not many fans could've told you what number he wore. Even a jersey number nerd like myself couldn't have told you. There was also the Pirates retiring Paul Waner's #11 forty years after his death, when, again, most fans probably didn't even know what his uniform number was. Aren't there better ways to honor a former great than to take a number out of circulation most people don't even associate with him?

    The fact is, these number retirements are really an excuse to have a special day at the ballpark. I know there are some football teams that don't retire numbers, but have a "Ring of Honor" for their greats. I think that'd be a better idea for baseball teams: Have some kind of team Hall of Fame that you can honor players with, but leave the uniform numbers alone. It's possible some teams do have their own Halls of Fame or Rings of Honor or whatever. If so, they should promote them more, because I think they'd be a better way to honor the team's history.

    Now, I understand that sometimes fans don't like seeing a lesser player wear the number of a beloved one, so there are ways you could account for that. Perhaps certain numbers could be taken out of circulation for a period of a few years before being used again. I think the Yankees did this with Paul O'Neill's #21.

    Another way might be to have certain "sacred" numbers that aren't given out to rookies or scrubs, only proven veterans. Or if the team had enough confidence, an up-and-comer who they felt could handle the pressure of wearing a beloved great's digits. I heard, for example, that the Cardinals' equipment manager was told to give Albert Pujols a single-digit number by the higher-ups because they knew he was going to be a great one. Let's say there was a prized rookie on the Yankees who wanted to wear Mickey Mantle's #7. If the guy failed, it would go down as a cautionary tale about getting too hyped up over a young guy, and if he succeeded, it would add a small measure of greatness to his legacy. Either way, it'd be a memorable story.

    I know it's unlikely that teams are going to start un-retiring their numbers and doing something like what I suggest here, but I can always dream. I think it's much cooler to see a number on the back of a current star who's continuing its legacy than up on the wall never to be worn again.
    Baseball Junk Drawer

  • #2
    I like retired numbers.

    I have started to travel to different stadiums all over the country with my girlfriend and she always asks about the numbers and I get to flex my random baseball knowledge muscle. I also got to experience a proud San Diegan (Diegonite?) tell me how great Steve Garvey was for the franchise.

    It should be for players important to a franchise and Will Clark certainly fits that.
    "Batting stats and pitching stats do not indicate the quality of play, merely which part of that struggle is dominant at the moment."

    -Bill James

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    • #3
      How about no more numbers for managers and coaches? Yankees don't have any single digit numbers available anymore. That's understandable since they have had so many great players. But noooo, two of those retired single-digit numbers were worn by managers. Such a waste of space.
      Using a stolen chant from Boston Celtics fans whenever an L.A. team is playing up there just reeks of inferiority complex.

      If hitting a baseball is the toughest thing to do in sports, then pitching must be the easiest thing to do in sports.

      Comment


      • #4
        The answer is, of course, no. You can go into numbers in the 100s. Japan does it officially, designating players in developmental squads.
        46 wins to match last year's total

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        • #5
          I think that the Giants are sorry for trading Will Clark. This is kind of a make up gesture.

          Actually, I think that they should retire #22, for both Will Clark and Jack Clark. Jack wasn't much worse as a Giant.

          Will
          1986-1993 SFG 1160 4878 4269 687 1278 249 37 176 709 52 41 506 744 0.299 0.373 0.499 0.872 145 2129 47 32 13 58 11

          Jack
          1975-1984 SFG 1044 4300 3731 597 1034 197 30 163 595 60 44 497 556 0.277 0.359 0.477 0.836 134 1780 98 11 9 52 55



          This week's Giant

          #5 in games played as a Giant with 1721 , Bill Terry

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          • #6
            I actually wish the Tigers retired more numbers.

            They waiting to retire Morris and Trammell's numbers until they were elected to the hall of fame, and still haven't retired Whitaker's.

            At the very least they should retire Whitaker, Freehan, Lolich and give some consideration to Parrish and Cash. They don't have to hall of famers to be important to your team.

            They also need a Whitaker/Trammell statue asap.
            "Batting stats and pitching stats do not indicate the quality of play, merely which part of that struggle is dominant at the moment."

            -Bill James

            Comment


            • #7
              People have a lot of criticisms about the Mets ownership, but I like the way they handle retired numbers.

              For players, there's only Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza. And with Piazza, they waited until his HOF induction, almost a decade after he retired. I really think Mets would not have retired Piazza's number if he didn't get the HOF; that's how picky they are with it. (Seaver got his number retired quickly and early, in contrast)

              Over the years, I've heard people say that Mets should retire Koosman, Kranepool, Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, and David Wright's numbers. They would be the equivalent of Will Clark & the Giants, or Luis Gonzalez & the Diamondbacks, Wade Boggs & Tampa Bay, or Paul Korneko & White Sox.

              So basically, retired numbers are good only when done selectively.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by sturg1dj View Post
                I like retired numbers.

                I have started to travel to different stadiums all over the country with my girlfriend and she always asks about the numbers and I get to flex my random baseball knowledge muscle. I also got to experience a proud San Diegan (Diegonite?) tell me how great Steve Garvey was for the franchise.

                It should be for players important to a franchise and Will Clark certainly fits that.
                Maybe they could do what a lot of college basketball teams do: Put the player's jersey and number in some place of honor, but keep the number itself in circulation. That way you can still impress the ladies with your knowledge and the guys on the field still have access to their preferred number.

                Originally posted by UnderPressure View Post
                How about no more numbers for managers and coaches? Yankees don't have any single digit numbers available anymore. That's understandable since they have had so many great players. But noooo, two of those retired single-digit numbers were worn by managers. Such a waste of space.
                I'm fine with coaches and managers having numbers, since it sometimes adds to their personality, but yeah, retiring a manager's number is even sillier than retiring a player's, if you ask me.

                Originally posted by SamtheBravesFan View Post
                The answer is, of course, no. You can go into numbers in the 100s. Japan does it officially, designating players in developmental squads.
                This has nothing to do with anything I said in my original post, but OK.

                Originally posted by JR Hart View Post
                I think that the Giants are sorry for trading Will Clark. This is kind of a make up gesture.

                Actually, I think that they should retire #22, for both Will Clark and Jack Clark. Jack wasn't much worse as a Giant.
                Originally posted by sturg1dj View Post
                I actually wish the Tigers retired more numbers.

                They waiting to retire Morris and Trammell's numbers until they were elected to the hall of fame, and still haven't retired Whitaker's.

                At the very least they should retire Whitaker, Freehan, Lolich and give some consideration to Parrish and Cash. They don't have to hall of famers to be important to your team.

                They also need a Whitaker/Trammell statue asap.
                I'm starting to feel like no one actually read my original post, because I proposed alternatives to number retirement, and the responses I'm seeing seem to presume that no player can be properly honored by a team without his number being retired.
                Baseball Junk Drawer

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by redban View Post
                  People have a lot of criticisms about the Mets ownership, but I like the way they handle retired numbers.

                  For players, there's only Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza. And with Piazza, they waited until his HOF induction, almost a decade after he retired. I really think Mets would not have retired Piazza's number if he didn't get the HOF; that's how picky they are with it. (Seaver got his number retired quickly and early, in contrast)

                  Over the years, I've heard people say that Mets should retire Koosman, Kranepool, Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, and David Wright's numbers. They would be the equivalent of Will Clark & the Giants, or Luis Gonzalez & the Diamondbacks, Wade Boggs & Tampa Bay, or Paul Korneko & White Sox.

                  So basically, retired numbers are good only when done selectively.
                  I'm more agreeable to this position. I wouldn't have such a problem with numbers being retired if it were more rare, but so many teams and fans nowadays seem to think anyone who wore their uniform for a long time or was really good for a few years should get his number retired. It's madness, and it dilutes the honor.
                  Baseball Junk Drawer

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by UnderPressure View Post
                    How about no more numbers for managers and coaches? Yankees don't have any single digit numbers available anymore. That's understandable since they have had so many great players. But noooo, two of those retired single-digit numbers were worn by managers. Such a waste of space.
                    The #22 is always available to new players who want to give a subtle f-you to their former teams, particularly the Red Sox

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JR Hart View Post
                      I think that the Giants are sorry for trading Will Clark. This is kind of a make up gesture.
                      Trade? I thought he signed with the Rangers as a free agent.
                      46 wins to match last year's total

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Honestly, this may sound like I'm being a jerk, but I didn't feel the need to read your post because I dismissed your alternatives out of hand just based on the premise of the thread title and your first paragraph. I quickly saw it as just looking for something to complain about. Baseball does not have a number or honoring problem and there doesn't need to be an alternative for it.
                        46 wins to match last year's total

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SamtheBravesFan View Post

                          Trade? I thought he signed with the Rangers as a free agent.
                          My bad, I knew that

                          I should have said "letting him go'
                          This week's Giant

                          #5 in games played as a Giant with 1721 , Bill Terry

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SamtheBravesFan View Post
                            Honestly, this may sound like I'm being a jerk, but I didn't feel the need to read your post because I dismissed your alternatives out of hand just based on the premise of the thread title and your first paragraph. I quickly saw it as just looking for something to complain about. Baseball does not have a number or honoring problem and there doesn't need to be an alternative for it.
                            Well, I explained in my post what my perspective was and why I'm unhappy with the way retired numbers are handled. If it's something that doesn't bother you, that's fine, but I'm talking about an element of the game that interests me. I started this thread in hopes of finding like-minded fans with whom I could discuss the issue, so perhaps in the future, it'd be better to not reply to a thread if you think so little of the OP's position that you can't be bothered to read what it is.
                            Baseball Junk Drawer

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ian2813 View Post
                              So I saw the news the other day that the Giants have decided to retire Will Clark's #22 next year. Frankly, whenever I hear about a number getting retired these days, it just makes me annoyed. It's partially because I like seeing a guy wear the same number his entire career, so taking them out of circulation makes it harder for guys to do that. What's more annoying to me though, is that a lot of the players who get their numbers retired aren't even all-time greats, just fan favorites. In other cases, retiring a player's number seems pointless.

                              Take Will Clark. He had Hall of Fame potential, but he spent the majority of his career being just a good player rather than a great one. I'm sure Giant fans loved watching him in his prime, but did any of them feel upset that for the last 25 years, plenty of other players have worn #22? I doubt it. The Giants even gave #22 to Rikkert Faneyte the year after Clark left, according to Baseball Reference.
                              Ian, I gather you are not a Giants' fan. Will Clark is MUCH MORE than just a good player to Giants fans my age or older. Context matters in Will Clark's case.

                              The Giants won the NL West title in 1971. This was the last hurrah for the core group of the great 1960's Giants teams (Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Perry). Perry would leave after the 1971 season. By 1973 all four future Hall of Famers were gone. The Giants continued to develop quality players (Bobby Bonds, George Foster, Dave Kingman, Gary Maddox, Gary Mathews) but they kept trading them away. So the team slowly sunk into mediocrity and irrelevance as the 1970's moved forward. They played in an outhouse of a ballpark and the fans stopped coming. In 1976 the team was sold and headed to Toronto until the last second deal Bob Lurie kept the team in SF. The Giants contended in 1978 and 1982 but those were the only seasons with excitement. By 1984 the team had fallen on hard times again. The Giants lost 96 games in 1984 and lost a still franchise record 100 games in 1985. At the point the team was basically the Florida Marlins of today.

                              The Giants had the #2 pick in the 1985 draft and they selected Will Clark. Clark played in the California League (high A ball) in 1985 hitting .309/.458/.512. In late 1985 the giants hired Al Rosen as GM. Rosen then hired Roger Craig as manager. Craig managed the last month of the season. Craig later said the team had no drive, no joy, and a defeatist attitude. So the team cleaned house and got rid of the useless veterans. In 1986 the team decided to break camp with rookies Will Clark and Robbie Thompson.

                              Staring Will Clark at first base in 1986 completely changed the course of the franchise. Here was this young brash loud kid who could rake. In his first AB he homered off of Nolan Ryan in the Astrodome. To the shock of the baseball world the Giants contended in 1986. At the break the Giants were 48-40 W-L and in first place. And Will Clark was one of the leaders, though he got hurt and missed about 40 games of the season.

                              In 1987 Clark led the Giants to the NL West title and a heartbreaking 7-game loss in the NLCS. But in 1989 the Giants won the NL pennant. In game 1 of the NLCS Clark went 4 for 4, 6 RBI, 4 R, 3 HR, 1 BB. Then Clark drove in the pennant clinching runs in game 5.

                              Clark made five straight NL All Star teams, starting four times. He was being directly compared to Don Mattingly. Clark was absolutely considered one of top 6-7 players in the game at this time.

                              Given how important Clark's role was in revitalizing the Giants franchise having his number retired is due and proper. Clark earned this. Also, the Giants haven't retired very many numbers. There are only nine actual retired numbers (10 if you count Jackie Robinson) plus John McGraw and Christy Mathewson.


                              Giants retired numbers.jpg
                              Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 08-14-2019, 12:49 PM.
                              Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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