Deadspin published an article today entitled “The Yankees Will Sell Their Past Until Their’s Nothing Left Of It”. In short, the article bashed the New York Yankees continual ceremonial tributes to their retired players prior to home games, saying they’re more so for sales of memorabilia and higher attendance for those games, instead of actual tributes for great players.
The author was correct on some fronts, as the Yankees have been honoring many players as of late. Last year, Joe Torre had his number 6 retired for good, and Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez, and Paul O’Neil had their respective tributes before summer ballgames.
The Yankees will have even more tributes this summer, with Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte having their numbers retired. Fan favorite Willie Randolph will also receive a plaque in the prestigious monument park. With Derek Jeter also recently calling it quits, expect him to receive a massive ceremony sometime in 2016.
The Yankees are not selling out on their history by honoring these players. All of them were integral to championship teams, and absolutely endeared by the fans. Gossage for example was one of the players the article criticized on having a plaque in monument park.
The Yankees did the right thing here. They did not retire his number, the greatest praise they could give. He instead got honored, which he absolutely deserved. In 1978 with New York, Gossage was 5th in Cy Young voting, and 13th in MVP voting. He also made the All-Star game, won reliever of the year, and was one of the teams most important players in a World Series run.
In six seasons in the Bronx, Gossage had four All-Star appearances, finished top five in Cy Young voting three times, received MVP votes three times, and finished with a 2.14 ERA, the lowest in Yankee history. He is also wearing a Yankee hat on his Hall of Fame plaque.
How is that not grounds for a Monument Park induction?
Joe Torre got his number retired deservedly so, winning four World Series with the Yankees, and he ranking fifth on the all-time wins list, second in Yankee history. Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neil are two of the most loved Yankees from the 90’s, and both won four rings.
Martinez made two All-Star games as a Yankee and received MVP voting in both of those years, and O’Neil made four All-Star games as a Yankee and had MVP votes all four of those seasons as well. Again, their numbers rightfully so were not retired. They were only honored.
This seasons slated celebrations are also all very warranted. Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were both a part of five championship teams, and the infamous “Core Four”. Posada is a top 15 catcher of all-time, while Pettitte is the all-time postseason wins leader.
Bernie Williams is a fan favorite and was a feared hitter in his prime. From 1996-2002, he hit .327 with 176 home runs and 731 RBI’s. Randolph’s numbers may not appear that gaudy (.275 average and one World Series ring in 13 seasons as a Yankee), but he still is a fan favorite and was a big part of one championship squad.
Why the unfair criticism?
In the case of Martinez, O’Neil, Posada, Pettitte, and Williams, the Yankees are just acknowledging one of the last great MLB dynasties, winning three consecutive World Series, four in five years, and appearing in six over the span of eight years. Twenty years from now, these guys will be the ones remembered from those teams.
They’re being honored for their contributions, not for monetary reasons. It is pure coincidence that the Yankees are going through a rough stretch right now. All of their players from the 90’s and early 2000’s are retiring, so it is time to honor them now.
These are not even close to the most money hungry ceremonies in sports. These players earned their ceremonies, but look at other examples.
in 1993, the then Florida Marlins retired number five in honor of Carl Barger. The issue is, Barger was not even a player and the only reason they retired number 5 is because his favorite player was Joe DiMaggio.
The Marlins had a 64-98 squad, and needed to bring people in. So they threw together this ceremony for the first ever team president, who tragically passed away over a year before the team ever played a game. He basically did next to nothing for the franchise.
What about Gene Autry, another retired number for somebody who never actually wore the number. Autry was a famous singing Cowboy in film, and owned the Angels for 38 years. Unfortunately for him, they were not very successful, as they did not win any championships under his 38 year reign. He still had his “number” retired though, number 26.
For an actual player, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays retired Wade Boggs number. He only played 215 games over two seasons for the club, but did hit his 3000th career hit with them. In his two seasons, the Rays were a bottom five team both times. Yet the team decided to retire his number and paint the seat the ball hit (his 3000th hit was a home run) bright yellow to honor him.
The Rays have been notorious for record low attendance, so for one day this did ring in some extra ticket sales.
What about other sports?
The New Orleans Hornets retired “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s number. The slight issue was he never played for that franchise. He played for the New Orleans Jazz before they moved to Utah, but he had no affiliation with the Hornets (now Pelicans) whatsoever. He was retired in the teams inaugural season, where they desperately needed ticket sales to stay put. The Miami Heat did something similar, but even more mind boggling. They retired Michael Jordan’s number in 2003, despite him having absolutely no affiliation with Miami or the Heat. They also strategically did this in a season they were 29-53 with the 22nd ranked attendance in the league.
Those could be considered selling out history. What the Yankees are doing is right, and the players absolutely deserve what they are getting.