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Have the Yankees retired too many numbers?

Yankee fans were saddened by the departure of Masahiro Tanaka last week, and rightfully so. For seven seasons, he was a great Yankee. A fan favorite at the top of the rotation who gave us some unforgettable playoff moments, I’ll surely miss Tanaka. However, I saw some overreactions saying that the Yankees should retire Tanaka’s number. As much as I love the guy, there’s just no shot you retire his number.

I’ve changed my tune and think that maybe CC deserves some consideration. But regardless, the Yankees have too many retired numbers. I’ve always believed that. I get that the Yankees have been around for a long time, and obviously have a ton of legendary players. But in my opinion, number retirement should be reserved for the absolute cream of the crop in franchise history. The Yankees have retired 21 different numbers for 23 players/managers. 8 is double-retired for Yogi Berra & Bill Dickey, while 42 is retired for both Mariano Rivera and Jackie Robinson. The Bombers are running out of numbers.

Which numbers are deservedly retired, and which were added to Monument Park too quickly?

The locks

In my mind, these are the numbers that were correctly retired, without a doubt.

#2, Derek Jeter: I know I don’t need to sell anyone on this guy. The Captain, five rings, one vote shy of being unanimously selected to the Hall of Fame. All-time franchise leader in games, hits, doubles, and stolen bases.

#3, Babe Ruth: The Bambino is another lock. His 714 home runs rank third all time, and 659 of them came in Pinstripes, the most in franchise history. He won four rings with the Yankees, too.

#4, Lou Gehrig: The Pride of the Yankees. .340 career hitter, 2x MVP, six championships. His career and life were tragically cut short due to ALS, but his legend lives on forever.

#5, Joe DiMaggio: Joe D is one of the best Yankees ever. He was an All-Star in all 13 seasons he played, as well as winning nine championships and three MVP awards.

#7, Mickey Mantle: One of the best switch-hitters of all-time, the Mick has an insane resume. 20x All-Star, 3x MVP, and 7x World Series champion.

#8, Yogi Berra/Bill Dickey: Both legendary Yankee catchers are more than deserving of having their number retired. Yogi has 10 rings, Dickey 7 of his own. Yogi was a 3x MVP, Dickey was a 11x All-Star.

#15, Thurman Munson: Another Yankee captain who had their life tragically cut short, Munson had an unbelievable career. 7x All-Star, 3x Gold Glover, MVP, Rookie of the Year, and two-time world champ. His locker was never used at the old Stadium after he passed, and it’s now been brought over to the new Yankee Stadium.

#16, Whitey Ford: Ford is arguably the greatest pitcher in Yankee history. His 236-106 career record gives him the best winning percentage (.690) of any 20th-century pitcher. 10x All-Star, Cy Young Award winner, and 6x champ.

#23, Don Mattingly: Donnie Baseball was another Yankee lifer who put together a fantastic career. A captain, 6x All-Star, 9x Gold Glover, an MVP & a batting title. It’s a shame the Yankees never got him to the playoffs until his final season.

#32, Elston Howard: Not only did Howard break the Yankees’ color barrier, but he was a damn good player. A 12x All-Star, an MVP, 2x Gold Glover, and 4x World Series champion.

#42, Mariano Rivera & Jackie Robinson: 42 is rightfully retired MLB wide at this point for Robinson, who broke the league’s color barrier. The last player to wear it was Rivera, who was grandfathered in because he wore the number before the league retired it. Mo was the greatest closer of all-time. 13x All-Star, all-time leader in saves & ERA+, a 0.70 postseason ERA in 141 innings, and five rings to go along with it all.

Borderline but deserving

#10, Phil Rizzuto: Scooter’s career numbers may not be overwhelming, but there’s no doubt he’s an all-time great Yankee. An MVP, 5x All-Star, a Hall of Famer, and most importantly, 7x champion.

#46, Andy Pettitte: The only reason I put Andy in the “borderline” category is because he did leave the Yankees from 2004-06. Nonetheless, it’s hard to hold it against him when he came back and helped us win another ring. 3x All-Star, 5x world champion who also holds the all-time postseason records for wins & innings pitched.

#49, Ron Guidry: “Louisiana Lightning” was a 4x All-Star, Cy Young Award winner, had two ERA titles & two World Series rings. He ranks 5th in wins and 3rd in strikeouts all-time in franchise history. It’s close, but I’d keep 49 retired.

#51, Bernie Williams: Bern, Baby, Bern. Bernie was a huge part of the 1996-2000 Yankees dynasty. 5x All-Star, 4x Gold Glover, a batting title, and 4x champion. Bernie also ranks among the top-10 of most major offensive categories in franchise history.

Numbers that were prematurely retired

To begin, I think retiring managers’ numbers is pointless. There’s no doubt that Billy Martin, Joe Torre, and Casey Stengel are Yankee legends. But their numbers (1, 6, and 37, respectively) should still be in circulation.

Roger Maris, #9: Everyone knows Maris hit 61 homers to break Ruth’s single-season record in 1961. He was a great Yankee, winning 2 MVP’s and championship. The problem is, he was only here for seven seasons. That doesn’t warrant number retirement to me.

Jorge Posada, #20: To me, Jeter, Mo, Pettitte & Bernie are more than enough number retirements from that era. He also didn’t appear in the postseason in 1996. Is he more deserving of number retirement than O’Neill? I have no issue with #20 being retired to round out the Core Four. But I’m not totally sold on 20 being retired, while 21 isn’t (at least, officially).

Reggie Jackson, #44: Speaking of players who weren’t here long enough, Reggie only played here for five years. He won two rings, he’s a World Series hero and Yankee legend. But I have a hard time saying a guy who played just a quarter of his career in the Bronx should have his number retired.

Who’s next?

It could be awhile before we see the next Yankee number retirement. Like I said before, it won’t be Tanaka. A lot of people tried to make the case for Brett Gardner, and while he is a Yankee lifer with a ring, I just can’t see it. CC Sabathia is a definite possibility.

Won a ring here, 4th in franchise history in strikeouts, and played his final 11 seasons in Pinstripes. Wouldn’t shock me at all to see #52 in Monument Park someday.

Past that, who knows? The Yankees need to win another World Series before we can even think about other players deserving their number retired. Hopefully in a decade, we’re talking about how Judge, Gleyber, Cole, and more will have their numbers retired. But let’s see them actually win something first.

Which Yankees should or shouldn’t have their numbers retired? Comment below or tweet me @ncostanzo24