Numbers matter more than statistics

The Winter Meetings proved a little less fruitful than anticipated. GM Brian Cashman equated meeting with player agents to essentially a “staring contest”, more than accurate description of the negotiation process, if you ask me. And we think what happens on the field is the “game”. Little do most fans know that the real game takes place between men who won’t ever don those pinstripes, but have so much to say as to who actually will. It’s a game that never ends.

Much speculation has been circulating about a possible trade with Brett Gardner as the bait. Cashman made it very clear that he isn’t offering Gardner away and thinks he’s still a very essential part of the Yankee team, but he’s also not shying away from any offers. Clearly, however, there hasn’t been anything remotely close to the value they place on Gardner, short-term or long-term. Gardner is one of the most underrated players in all of baseball, let alone the Yankees. I hope he retires a Yankee in a decade, after a long career in pinstripes. Believe me, I don’t say that about everyone.

Someone else I am proud to say that about was also honored yesterday with a GIBBY award (Greatness in Baseball) is Mariano Rivera, who received a lifetime achievement award. Rivera failed to get the award in the two other categories he was nominated (Best Closer and Comeback Player) because the results are based on the competitive fan base of online voters. I think the failure to get those two would surprise even the other nominees. That good ole anti-Yankee sentiment seems to rule the day even against Hall-of-Fame bound greatness and class. Still congratulations to Rivera on another piece of hardware for his man cave mantle. That shelf must be pretty packed with all that well-deserved recognition.

And #6 is on its way to Monument Park sometime this next season. Joe Torre’s number hasn’t been worn since he left the team at the end of the 2007 season, and I think most everyone expected a retired #6 at some point. Perhaps waiting for a Cooperstown election (and unanimous at that) was the right time for such an accolade.

Three other numbers aren’t “allowed” to be worn by other players but haven’t made the jump to retirement yet are #20 (Jorge Posada), #21 (Paul O’Neill), and #51 (Bernie Williams). I don’t think anyone’s going to dare to touch Andy Pettitte’s #46 anytime soon either. Numbers of long-term Yankees are special to Yankee fans since they retired #4 for Lou Gehrig in 1939 (side note: it was the very first baseball number to be retired). Yankee fans currently have a 16 retired numbers (#8 is retired twice for Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey), but a plethora of numbers that are special to them. You can’t walk around Yankee Stadium without running into a hundred #2 shirts, worn by so many Jeter supporters. Other current representation across the supporting fans include Teixeira (25), Sabathia (52), and the occasional Rodriguez (13). Cano (24) and Granderson (14) jerseys, should they not be “eaten by the dog” like a homework assignment, will see a marked drop in representation in the Bronx next year. And of course, almost catching up to Jeter shirt sales, you can’t attend a Yankees game without the great 42 (Rivera) proudly displayed generously.

Initially worn to dictate batting order (Ruth was 3rd so he wore #3, Gehrig 4th…), fans came to embrace jersey numbers as a way to show support for the team they loved and a player they thought exuded the best of the team. Which is why my favorite numbers to find at games are the old guys, the retired numbers like #7 (Mantle) or #9 (Maris) or #23 (Mattingly) or even one of those not yet retired but saved for that “one day” induction into Yankee legend. Jersey numbers represent more than just “numbers” like stats, they represent memories — personal, cherished, countless memories.

Go Yankees!

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