Yankees Suck postsSaturday August 22, 2015
Yankees Retire 19th Number, 20th Player
ERRATA, August 23: Make that 20 numbers, 21 players, with Andy Pettitte's #46 being retired today. Don't know how I missed that. No date set yet for Jeter's #2.
Here are more numbers to fuel anti-Yankee Nation.
The New York Yankees have won twice as many pennants as the next-best team (40-20, over the Giants), and more than twice as many World Series titles as the next-best team (27-11, over the Cardinals). They spend more money than anyone, most years, and hog the spotlight. They're hogs—the Donald Trumps of Major League Baseball.
So it's no surprise that they've also retired more numbers than any other team, and today they added to their collection.
Jorge Posada, their regular catcher from 1998 to 2010, and, along with Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte, one of the “Core Four”—the four players that (mostly) stuck with the Yankees during the recent dynasty years, before the crumbling and fan-grumbling began—had his number (20) retired today at Yankee Stadium. It's the 19th number the Yankees have retired. And that doesn't include Derek Jeter's No. 2, which will soon go. And it's only counting the No. 8 once, when, for New York, it was so nice they retired it twice: for both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.
Here's the list, team by team (and updated, per above), and not including all the 42s for Jackie Robinson retired throughout MLB (except, of course, for the Dodgers):
|New York Yankees||20|
|St. Louis Cardinals||12|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||10|
|San Francisco Giants||9|
|Boston Red Sox||8|
|Chicago White Sox||6|
|Los Angeles Angels||5|
|San Diego Padres||5|
|Kansas City Royals||3|
|New York Mets||3|
|Tampa Bay Rays||1|
|Toronto Blue Jays||1|
A few teams, instead of going overboard, have actually gone underboard when retiring numbers. The worst culprit is my Seattle Mariners, who, despite such talent as Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez on the team, have yet to retire anything. I figure they'll get this ball rolling after Junior goes into the Hall of Fame next year. It'll probably go Junior, Edgar, Ichiro, eventually Felix. Maybe Buhner. Maybe Alvin Davis, maybe Jamie Moyer. Maybe.
The Mets also seem to under-retire: Just Tom Seaver and two managers: Stengel and Hodges. Shouldn't someone else be in the mix? Ed Kranepool? Tommy Agee? Dwight Gooden? Daryl Strawberry? Maybe not. But David Wright down the line.
Most teams, though, go overboard in this realm. Start with the Yanks' so-so picks. Billy? One title in '77. Maris? An apology for all the boos. Munson? Sorrow for dying young. Elston Howard? Oops, it sure took us a long time to integrate, didn't it. Reggie? Based on three homers.
The White Sox have retired some pretty medicore numbers, too, while the Indians retired “455” for the fans (a stupid gesture) and the Cards 12 retirees are a mixed bag. (August Busch? Plus three managers?)
The worst, though, has got to be the Houston Astros, which came into existence in 1962, has one pennant, and yet has somehow retired nine numbers. I'll give you Biggio and Bagwell, and maybe Mike Scott, particularly for '86. But I think that's about it. Nolan Ryan's best years were elsewhere, Jimmy Wynn was only a three-time All-Star, Jose Cruz and Larry Dierker were only two-time All-Stars, and the remaining two are guys who died young: Jim Umbricht and Don Wilson. That's sad but I don't know if it deserves being up on the wall.
So does Posada deserve having his number retired? I could make arguments for and against. He was a five-time All-Star with a higher lifetime OPS than Jeter (.848 to .817). But in the World Series, where it counts to Yankees fans, he hit only .219 in 29 games. The only thing he ever led the league in was grounded into double plays. Twice. I think he's mostly honored because of the Core Four thing.
How the Yankees Almost Got Ty Cobb 13 Years Before They Got Babe Ruth
From Charles Leerhsen's biography “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty”:
Clark Griffith of New York had hinted that [Tigers new manager Hughie Jennings] might want to make a swap. When Hughie heard back from the Highlanders the next day, however, they were offering only Frank Delahanty, a .238 hitter, a proposal that was either, as Hughie said, “a humorous effort,” or an indication of just how wary some people were of young Tyrus.
This was before the start of the 1907 season. Cobb, who at this point was 20 years old and had played 139 games over the two previous seasons (batting .293), would go untraded. There'd been strife on the team, according to Leerhsen, because some of the other players, northerners mostly, disliked Cobb, who kept to himself, had airs, read books, and was, you know, good. They hazed him for the better part of a season. To some, Jennings mostly, it would just be easier to get rid of the kid, but Tigers' business manager (and eventual owner) Frank Navin liked Cobb and squelched any deal.
Over the next 13 seasons, Cobb would win 12 batting titles, lead the league in OPS nine times, hits eight times, runs five times, RBIs four times, and stolen bases six times. The Tigers would also win three straight pennants (but no championships).
The Highlanders, soon to be the Yankees, would have to wait out those 13 seasons before they began their turnaround.
Which A.L. Team Suffered Most from Mid-Century Yankees Dominance?
I just finished Bill Pennington's excellent bio, “Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius,” and, as often happens when I read about Yankees history, particularly mid-century Yankees dominance, I wonder about the teams that finished second in the A.L. all those years. Who stayed home as the Yankees went to another effin' World Series?
Here's who. These are the second-place finishers in the American League the years the Yankees won the pennant. I've limited the scope to the years before divisions were created (1969), when the team with the best record in either league immediately went to the World Series:
|1922||St. Louis Browns||1|
|1938||Boston Red Sox||9.5|
|1939||Boston Red Sox||17|
|1941||Boston Red Sox||17|
|1942||Boston Red Sox||9|
|1949||Boston Red Sox||1|
|1957||Chicago White Sox||8|
|1958||Chicago White Sox||10|
|1963||Chicago White Sox||10.5|
|1964||Chicago White Sox||1|
It's a mixed bag. Different teams threaten the Yankees at different times. The Philadelphia A's got the scroogie in the late '20s, but then gave back good in '29, '30 and '31. The Tigers won the pennant in '34 and '35 but then sat home because of the DiMaggio-resurgent Yankees of the late '30s. The Red Sox, sadly, never gave as good as they got. That '30s/'40s team hadn't won a pennant since 1918, and spent four out of five years finishing second to the team whose league dominance they (or Harry Frazee) started with the Babe Ruth, et al., trades. Ouch.
But it's Indians fans who have real reason to hate the Yanks. They finished second in '51, '52, '53, '55 and '56, and only threw off the Yankee yoke in '54 by winning 111 games. (The Yankees won 103.) During this run—this is awful—the Indians won 93, 93, 92, 111, 93 and 88 games, and all they have to show for it in historical terms is Willie Mays' catch against them in the '54 Series. Ouch again.
Anyway, that's the answer. If the New York Yankees had been the New York Suckees and everything else stayed more or less the same, the Cleveland Indians would've benefitted the most with seven additional pennants. Tigers would've had six, Red Sox five:
|Team||Regifted pennants||Current pennants||New total|
Overall, the greatest A.L. team in terms of pennants wouldn't be the Yankees with 40 but the Red Sox and the A's tied with 18. The Tigers would be right behind them with 17. The National League leader is the St. Louis Cardinals with 19.
The saddest bit of data? If you do this, if you take away all of the Yankees pennants from 1921 to 1964, all 29 of them, and assume that 1976 was the first year the Yankees won the pennant, they still would have more pennants than the White Sox, Browns/O's and Senators/Twins. Ouch for a third time, and out.
Indians' fans would've seen more buttons like this in the '50s if not for the Bronx Bombers.
The Decline and Fall of the New York Yankees ... Kinda Sorta
When I was reading Marty Appel's history of the New York Yankees, “Pinstripe Empire: From the Babe to the Boss,” I was really looking forward to 1965. You know why.
From 1921 to 1964, a span of 43 years, the Yankees won 29 pennants and 20 world championships. Essentially they were in two out of every three World Series (67% of them), while winning nearly half of all Series titles in those years (46% of them). No wonder author Douglass Wallop had to enlist Satan to stop them. (And of course, Satan is really a Yankees fan, so he wasn't much help.)
Their run ended in '64, the year after I was born. For 10 years, they sucked. Then Steinbrenner instigated their rise (late '70s), fall (the '80s), rise again ('96-'03) and fall again (post-'09). Since '64, the Yankees have won 11 pennants (22%) and seven titles (14%)—paltry numbers compared to what they did before.
That's why I was so looking forward to 1965.
But I wondered: Sure, the Yankees in my lifetime have paled compared to the dynasty years. But how do their numbers stack up again the rest of Major League Baseball?
Yeah. Still on top. And in terms of World Series titles, it's not even close:
MLB Pennants and Titles Since 1964
|Team||Pennants||World Series titles|
This is why I root against them. Even after their fall, they're still the most successful team in baseball.
This 1966 Topps card displays the previous year's sixth-place finish of the former World Champions. The '66 team would do it better, finishing in last place in the A.L. for the first time since 1908. Can you name the only other year the Yankees finished in last place?
Virginia is for Yankee Lovers?
Tomorrow is Opening Day (or Night), so everyone's talkin' baseball while their team is in first place. I've seen the map below several times today. It's Facebook's map of baseball fandom: “Each county is color-coded based on which Facebook team pages has the most likes from people who live in that county”:
You can see a bigger version here, courtesy of The Atlantic.
A couple of things about the map:
- That little notation in the lower left? It says: “There are no U.S. counties where a plurality of fans like the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, or Oakland Athletics.” Almost makes you want to root for those teams.
- I get that the Yankees have fans in places other than New York. “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” Gen. George S. Patton. But ... in the South?
So which Southern states root for the Yankees? Most of Virginia, West Virginia, and Louisiana. Half of Florida. And parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi.
I get Florida (spring training, Steinbrenner home), and my friend Mr. B lets me know the Yankees had a farm team in Greensboro, NC from 1990 to 2002. But c'mon, Southern states. Yankees? Really?
I just got back from a quick trip to Atlanta, where I stayed in midtown and during a free moment walked over to the Margaret Mitchell house, where I participated in a tour, etc., and watched a film on the making of “Gone with the Wind.” I came in on the film when all of those actresses were trying out for the character originally known as Pansy O'Hara before she got an 11th-hour name change to “Scarlett.” When the film role finally went to Vivien Leigh, the reaction among the Southern was disappointment tempered by worst case scenarios: sad, yes, that an English girl got the part, but at least it was better than a Yankee.
Now look at you. That old attitude is gone with the wind.