Monday, December 14, 2020

More Sporcle Trivia: Retired Numbers on Multiple Teams

As a short coda to the Retired Number Quiz series, I have one more retired numbers game up over at Sporcle: Can you name the players with retired numbers on multiple teams? Since I’m not the first to tackle that idea, I also added my own twist to the proceedings, in that you also have to guess the teams for each respective player. In total, there are thirteen honorees (eleven primary-players and two managers) and twenty-eight teams (two honorees have retired numbers on three teams) to guess.

If you’re interested, I’ll also be discussing some possible future additions to the list here, since I just wrapped up writing about the topic and it’s on my mind. But it will be below the break, to keep from spoiling the quiz for anyone (although in this case, I guess the spoilers would come from eliminating possible options).


The most obvious place to start, to me, is players who already have a number retired on one team. And the most obvious one within that most obvious category is Randy Johnson, who is one of the leading candidates for the Mariners while also having his number retired in Arizona already. I think that one is extremely likely to happen; it’s mostly a question of when (which will depend on when the team decides to finally retire #51 for Ichiro, at which point then can then honor Johnson).

None of the other potential honorees who already has a retired number on another team has a case that compelling, although some of them certainly have their own unique quirks. I mentioned that Joe Torre, who appeared on the Braves’ list, was probably more remembered for his managing at this point, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude the Braves from recognizing him as well. And of course, on the topic of managers with retired numbers who could get an additional number as a player, there’s Gil Hodges, who could finally qualify for the Dodgers’ team retired number rules if he finally makes the Hall of Fame (the Mets have already honored his #14).

On the pure-player side, there’s Joe Morgan, who appeared in the Astros’ blurb; maybe the team where he spent a decade decides to have a ceremony in memory of him? I wouldn’t call it likely, but it’s not impossible either. Certainly more likely than Barry Bonds or Joe Cronin*, who both also appeared on a list while already having a retired number, but had other external factors making it unlikely they acquire a second.

*Cronin of course has his number retired in Boston, but the Twins not recognizing their days as the Washington Senators makes it difficult to believe he’ll get a second one. Other players who might have appeared here if not for one of their teams moving: Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Larry Walker, and Vladimir Guerrero. Walker just had his number retired by the Rockies, and I imagine Guerrero will have an Angels ceremony to share the number with Mike Trout once the latter is retired. Maybe once baseball returns to Montreal, those will happen. Meanwhile, Boston hasn’t recognized Foxx or Grove’s contributions at all, and the A’s seem focused on their Oakland days exclusively.

And then, there are a whole host of other options that require a little more imagination, since they don’t even have a first retired number yet. The starting point for this group, in my mind, is Mike Mussina, as a recent Hall of Fame inductee who split his time pretty evenly between two good teams. I think he’d fit in well with the Orioles’ numbers, although the lack of movement thus far is worrisome. I wonder if there’s still resentment at him leaving for the Yankees. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ lack of a World Series during his tenure might hurt his chance with them, as might having only spent half of his career there (for instance, look at Graig Nettles for a possible similar case).

There are also some potential Veterans Committee picks who could make a retired number case with multiple teams if their election went through as well. I mentioned that Bobby Grich appeared on multiple teams’ lists during the series, and I don’t see any reason the Orioles or Angels would totally ignore him. Buddy Bell’s blurb on the Rangers also noted how much time he spent in Cleveland, and how evenly split his career was. I guess Rafael Palmeiro is in this territory now as well, having fallen off the BBWAA ballot due to lack of support; I would want to see support for other steroid users first, since I imagine Palmeiro will be one of the later beneficiaries from shifting opinions.

Then, there’s Scott Rolen, who’s percentage on the current is ticking up on the current BBWAA ballot with plenty of time to go. The Cardinals have already added him to their team Hall of Fame, and I’ve seen some push for the Phillies to do the same. That could be a good omen for his case, especially if he reaches Cooperstown. Also still on the ballot is Curt Schilling, who appeared on both the Phillies and Diamondbacks lists (although his appearance on the Arizona list was largely due to their newness as a team and their lack of long-tenured players), but as I noted in his section, he might have burned through the good will needed to persuade teams to retire a number, regardless of how his Hall case turns out.

After that, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran will be coming to the BBWAA ballot soon. A-Rod appeared on two teams’ lists as well, but I would bet that turns out closer to Barry Bonds, since I feel like Seattle’s feelings towards him mirror Pittsburgh’s thoughts on Bonds. Carlos Beltran moved around a lot, but his time was primarily split between the Royals and Mets (although he fell a little short of the Royals’ list). I’m curious to see how his role in the Astros sign stealing affects how voters see him, and how that correlates (or doesn’t) with what the teams decide to do on their end.

And lastly, there are the still active players. These are a lot harder to read, since there are still so many ways their careers can go, but we can at least build a list of candidates to keep an eye on based on which players will wind up with significant value on multiple teams. Right now, my quick list would probably include: Max Scherzer, Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Zack Greinke, Manny Machado, and Bryce Harper. Technically, Miguel Cabrera also appeared on two lists (the Tigers and Marlins), but I’m not sure what to make of any former Miami stars (a sentiment which also extends to Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich).

On the whole, this is mostly attempting to cast a wide net, since the chances of a player getting two retired numbers is already pretty low. If I had to guess, I would bet only one or maybe two of these players pull it off. But we’ll see, especially for a lot of the younger players. I’m mostly curious about Machado, Betts, and Harper, since they will very likely wind up as two-team stars; I don’t think Albert Pujols has played well enough in Los Angeles to make his chance for two retired numbers that high (unless he’s really close to the Angels ownership or something), but the aforementioned three seem like they’ll be in a situation like his, except where they’ll contribute decent value to their second teams. That could make things interesting.

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