The Yankees have retired a bunch of numbers. Many would say too many, although we would argue that is an oversimplified take upon closer review. Nonetheless, the team’s glorious past has led to some logistical challenges in the present. As a result, the Bombers want to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer.
The Yankees have retired 22 numbers — well ahead of the second-place Cardinals, who have retired 14. New York is also keeping three out of circulation on purpose. Very few players want higher numbers typically associated with NFL offensive tackles, hockey defensemen or back-of-the-roster scrubs. And the lack of numbers left over has become such an issue for the Yankees that they have started a conversation about no longer issuing uniform numbers to managers and coaches, and it’s gaining momentum in clubhouses around the game. (Yankees director of clubhouse operations Lou) Cucuzza has brought the idea to Michael Hill, the senior vice president of on-field operations for MLB. The league doesn’t want to authorize such a change just yet, a major-league source said, but it hasn’t dismissed it.
The Yankees’ argument: Almost all managers and coaches — with the exception of first- and third-base coaches — only wear uniform tops for introductions on Opening Day and during the postseason. Perfectly rational. But also a bit overboard.
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If this is a true crisis — and we would argue it is not — there are several equally effective, but far less drastic, measures that can be taken. A few off the top of our head:
• There is no reason why managers/coaches and players cannot share numbers. Especially if the manager/coach has no intention to wear a uniform top outside of ceremonial settings. Maybe the base coaches need to have their own number since they are on the field regularly. But beyond that, there is no reason not to share.
• Along similar lines: The Yankees could bring retired numbers out of circulation solely to be used by the coaching staff. Maybe the manager wears Billy Martin’s No. 1 in perpetuity while the base coaches always wear Joe Torre’s No. 6 and Casey Stengel’s No. 37.
• The Yankees could stop doing nonsensical things like mothballing Masahiro Tanaka’s number indefinitely.
Let’s try to use some common sense before we send the coaches out there wearing numberless jerseys that look like they were pulled off the rack at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
As for the retired number debate … Here’s my thing: Look at the list. So, who shouldn’t have their number retired? I’ll give you Reggie Jackson. But after that, it is hard to zero in and get too bent out of shape about anyone else. These are the Yankees, remember. You do not win 27 world titles with a bunch of JAGs.
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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.