Friday, December 4, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The American League West

Today, we move to our penultimate division in the Retired Number Quiz series, the AL West. In stark contrast with the Central divisions, four-fifths of the teams in the AL West are expansion teams, making them the overall youngest division.* Still, I think there are a lot of solid options here. And if you missed any of the previous pieces, so far, there’s the AL East (quiz, article), the NL East (quiz, article), the AL Central (quiz, article), and the NL Central (quiz, article).

*Technically, all three expansion teams in the NL West are newer than any AL West team, but the age of the Giants and Dodgers leaves the AL West with the lower average age. I guess that means the NL West is younger by median, but either way, they still cover more history.

You can try the AL West quiz HERE before coming back here to read the full breakdown. As a refresher, players must have worn a uniform number for at least three seasons, and this quiz covers the entire history of the franchise. For bonus answers, there are five A’s; one who failed to reach the three-year minimum, and four players from the Oakland era of the team, since two-thirds of the list is from before their move out to California.

As usual, good luck!


Houston Astros
#28 Cesar Cedeno (1970-1981, 49.6 WAR)
#17 Lance Berkman (1999-2010, 48.1 WAR)
#44 Roy Oswalt (2001-2010, 46.1 WAR)
#27 Jose Altuve (2011-Present, 36.3 WAR)
#18 Joe Morgan (1963-1971 & 1980, 30.7 WAR)
#19 Bill Doran (1982-1990, 30.5 WAR)

I’ve written at length in the past about how Berkman and Oswalt deserve retired numbers in Houston. I feel like that case is pretty comprehensive. I will note, though, in the two years since that post, Lance Berkman’s number is still out of use. Oswalt’s #44, however, has since been issued to Yordan Alvarez, so they’ll either need to ask Yordan to change, or it’ll be a while before they retire it for Oswalt. This is probably why teams are taking more numbers out of rotation these days. I’m also not sure why the big difference on policy for those two, since my personal evaluation has long been that their cases are pretty equivalent? I’d definitely put both players’ chances above Cesar Cedeño’s, though.

Jose Altuve looks like a favorite for a retired number one day, and he’s under contract for the next four seasons at least, so there’s time to build up more value. But he does need to bounce back after a rough 2020. Even if he falls short of the Hall of Fame, it might be enough (the Astros haven’t been shy about retiring numbers for non-Hall members), but if he ends with five bad seasons and then limps out of town, it will probably damage his lasting impression with fans.

Has a player ever been so closely associated with one team, as Joe Morgan is with the Reds, while technically spending longer elsewhere? Like, Morgan is, without a doubt, a Red first and foremost… but he did technically spent two more years in Houston than Cincinnati (he played more games as a Red, but less than a season’s worth on the whole). I can think of several Hall of Famers who I associate with multiple teams, but not many in Morgan’s situation, and I’m struggle to think of comparable examples. Maybe Jim Bunning, who has a retired number with the Phillies but spent most of his time with the Tigers? That’s the only other player in Cooperstown I can think of right away. In any case, the Astros probably could retire Morgan’s number if they really wanted to, but they’re the clear second banana of his career. I don’t think it’s at all likely.

And then, in sixth place, we have Bill Doran. I thought for sure one of the more modern stars, like Carlos Correa or Alex Bregman, would have snuck their way this high, but they still need a little more time (although George Springer might have made it with a normal and healthy 2020). Anyway, Doran seems fine, I’m just not totally sure why he’d be getting a retired number before any of these other examples, or even several others who didn’t make this list (like, say, J.R. Richard or Billy Wagner).

Los Angeles Angels
#27 Mike Trout (2011-Present, 74.4 WAR)
#31 Chuck Finley (1986-2002, 51.8 WAR)
#15 Tim Salmon (1992-2006, 40.6 WAR)
#5 Brian Downing (1978-1990, 38.0 WAR)
#36 Jered Weaver (2006-2016, 36.0 WAR)
#4 Bobby Grich (1977-1986, 35.1 WAR)

#27 on the Angels is my second-place vote for “most likely number to get retired twice by one team” (this comes up a lot in this division, for some bizarre reason). One year after Vladimir Guerrero gave it up when he left the team in free agency (during which time it was owned by Mike Ryan for 22 games), Mike Trout took the number in 2011 and then went on to ensure no one else on the team would get to wear it. I suppose the other question is whether the team will want to retire it for Guerrero still by the time 2033 or whenever rolls around. I don’t see why they wouldn’t, but that is still a ways off, so it feels less certain even though everything about Guerrero’s side of things is pretty much set.

I’m not totally sure why the Angels haven’t retired #31 or #15 yet. Salmon and Finley feel like exactly the type of guys the honor was made for. And it’s clearly not a team rule about making the Hall of Fame, given that Jim Fregosi (who sits between them on the franchise WAR leaderboard) has his number retired. Also, I’m not sure which case is more confusing: Salmon, who’s number has been unused since he left but with no indication that the team plans to go any further after a decade and a half; or Finley, who’s number was only issued once after his departure (and for just 16 games, at that), then not at all for a decade after his official retirement until for some reason, in 2013, when it suddenly went back to normal. What could have caused that? And again, like with Berkman and Oswalt, the two cases seem similar by numbers in my mind, but the hitter has a clear advantage in the process. Weird.

If Salmon and Finley aren’t getting their numbers retired, I’m really not sure what Downing and Weaver would bring to a table that they don’t. Maybe once #15 and #31 are retired, something would happen, but it’s hard to see them jumping those two in line. The only one that I could see maybe doing that is Grich, if he finally makes the Hall of Fame. He’s one of only a handful of players to appear on these lists with two teams, and I genuinely don’t know if either would retire a number for him since his career was so evenly split, but I think it would be nice to see at least one of them do it. Since the Angels are a newer team with less history, and since his stint in Anaheim was longer, they feel like the more likely team to take that offer up I think.

Oakland Athletics
#10 Lefty Grove (1925-1933, 64.8 WAR)
#3 Jimmie Foxx (1925-1935, 61.6 WAR)
#6 Sal Bando (1966-1976, 52.1 WAR)
#7 Al Simmons (1924-1932 & 1940-1941 & 1944, 50.9 WAR)
#19 Bert Campaneris (1964-1976, 49.0 WAR)
#7/#4 Bob Johnson (1933-1942, 43.0 WAR)

As mentioned in the opening, four of these players come from the A’s days in Philadelphia. Grove, Foxx, and Simmons are all in the Hall of Fame, while Bob Johnson fell a little short (although if he had gotten an earlier start, he probably would have built a good case, seeing as he still managed 55 WAR and 8 All Star selections while not debuting until he was 27). If the team decided to honor their pre-Oakland days, any of them would be a strong choice, but the team seems fine keeping their scope to just their days on the West Coast for now.

And even with that limited timeframe, it’s not like they don’t still have multiple good options to pick from. The two Oakland reps on the list, Sal Bando and Bert Campaneris, were two of the less-heralded pillars of the A’s dynasty of the 1970s, holding down the left side of the infield.

As I’ve said before, third base is underrepresented in the Hall, and Bando is one of the three or four biggest misses that I would add to bring it closer in line with the others positions, along with previous series-mentions Graig Nettles and Ken Boyer (plus one more coming up shortly). His case is basically being 90% of Scott Rolen-they had close offensive value in similar plate appearances (122 wRC+ for Rolen, 121 for Bando), but Bando was only a good fielder rather than one of the best ever at the position. Which probably explains why he didn’t get more attention; I think it’s pretty obvious that Rolen should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but the voters haven’t been as quick on the uptake there, and that trickles down to their perception of Bando. But I think there is still a chance of the Veterans Committee recognizing him one day, and maybe that spurs them to action. Or maybe it doesn’t take quite that long; after all, the A’s recently announced they were retiring Dave Stewart’s number with little prompting. Bando would be a fine choice for something like that.

As would Campaneris, honestly. A Dave Concepcion comp makes a lot of sense here, something that their similarity scores agree with. But both were long-time shortstops on 1970s dynasties who played 19 seasons, they finished within 160 games played of each other, their OPS+ are one point apart, defensive WAR has Campaneris within a win of Concepcion with the glove. The biggest differences would be 1) that Concepcion spent his entire career in Cincinnati, while the A’s let Campaneris walk at age 34; and 2) Concepcion was a little better recognized, with 3 more All-Star selections and 5 Gold Gloves to Campaneris’s 0 (although to be fair, Concepcion didn’t have to compete with fielding legends Mark Belanger and Luis Aparicio like Campaneris did; flip one of Belanger or Aparicio’s leagues and there’s a change both Campaneris and Concepcion end up with, like, 2 or 3 each). Overall, Bert’s career isn’t as good as Bando’s, so he probably won’t get Hall consideration to bump his case, but he’d still be a fine choice if the A’s are looking more to their history now.

And then, we have the four bonus answers to make up for all of the Philadelphia A’s. Mark McGwire fell 0.1 WAR short of matching Bob Johnson, which is basically nothing. I feel like McGwire is one of the more likely players with steroid ties to get forgiven, in part because he’s already back working in the game. Still, even if Oakland and St. Louis have slightly warmer feelings towards him than most (and I’m not even positive on that, it’s just my gut impression), I still don’t see the love for him in either city matching the love San Francisco has for Barry Bonds or New York has for Andy Pettitte, and that’s basically what it’s taken so far. On the other hand, if the team is re-evaluating it’s ‘80s stars like Stewart… that would be the right era, so it’s not a total lost cause just yet.

The rest of the list is a drop-off from there, all falling between 31 and 35 WAR: Eric Chavez, Dwayne Murphy, and Tim Hudson (in his second bonus answer appearance). Murphy is probably the least likely of those, as his run doesn’t really coincide with an era of A’s success; the centerfielder left the green-and-gold after a decade in 1988, meaning he missed all three of the A’s consecutive pennants. I’d imagine players who made it to those teams will likely get more consideration.

Chavez, Hudson, and Barry Zito (who finished within a win of Hudson’s total) can at least claim to represent a different era, the A’s regular season success of the early Moneyball era. Chavez is probably the favorite of that group for spending far longer with the team (even if a lot of that time was knocked out by his many injuries). Hudson had the best career of them, but still probably won’t get a ton of Hall consideration this winter on his first ballot, and even if he does, he wound up spending more time in Atlanta, so Oakland might defer to them. Barry Zito spent longer in Oakland than Hudson and remained close after leaving for the other side of the Bay, but I don’t know that he’s substantially more likely, although his #75 would make for an interesting and unique retired number.

Retiring Hudson and Zito’s numbers without Mark Mulder feels wrong, but he spent less time in Oakland than either of them and finished 10 WAR behind them, which mildly surprised me? So I can see them leaving him out even if they do decide to retire #15 and #75, as unlikely as that is. The Big Three era felt longer to young-me, I guess. Also, the final bonus answer here is Eddie Rommel of the Philadelphia Athletics era, a pitcher who racked up nearly 50 WAR in the 1920s and early ‘30s.

Seattle Mariners
#51 Ichiro Suzuki (2001-2012 & 2018-2019, 56.2 WAR)
#34 Felix Hernandez (2005-2019, 50.1 WAR)
#51 Randy Johnson (1989-1998, 39.0 WAR)
#3 Alex Rodriguez (1994-2000, 38.1 WAR)
#50 Jamie Moyer (1996-2006, 34.4 WAR)
#15 Kyle Seager (2011-Present, 33.2 WAR)

At this point, I feel like we’re just playing the waiting game with Ichiro and Randy, and I think it tops the Angels’ #27 for the honor of most likely dual-retirement for a number coming up. Nobody wore #51 after Johnson left, and Ichiro had to get special permission to continue wearing the number he had worn with the Orix Blue Waves. But he eventually did, and instantly became an icon; given that he’s more closely associate with the team at this point, any Johnson ceremony is likely just waiting on Ichiro’s coming first. The only Seattle retired numbers so far have been for Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, but that’s not really in question here, since Johnson is already in the Hall and we know Suzuki will be a first ballot pick. It’s mostly a question of whether they wait until the election like they did for Griffey, or jump the gun and do it early like the did with Edgar.

I hope they eventually retire Felix Hernandez’s number as well. I’m still hoping he can put together a bounce back year after opting out of 2020 (it’s still going to be weird seeing him on another team, though), because he needs some sort of return to form to get his Hall of Fame case running. But even if he falls short, I hope Seattle decides to retire his number anyway. Just like Felix in another uniform will look wrong, another Mariner wearing #34 would look off. And just holding it out of circulation indefinitely, like they’re doing at #19 for Jay Buhner (2021 will mark two decades with no Mariner using it) feels kind of silly. Why not just make it official?

The Mariners retiring #3 for A-Rod feels like the Pirates retiring #24 for Barry Bonds. They could, I guess, but I get the feeling the team doesn’t really want to and the fans aren’t terribly interested in that possibility anyway.

Jamie Moyer and Kyle Seager both feel like they’d be fine choices for retired numbers, if not especially likely or notable ones. Like, I think there should be a place for local fan favorites and long-time members of the team and notable non-Hall of Famers. I just don’t know that there’s a lot of momentum for them in that direction, and Seager especially would feel kind of like a weird choice if they still aren’t pulling the trigger on Buhner. Moyer had a long enough career outside of Seattle that I guess you could decide “he deserves something, and we’re the ones to do it”, but again, they haven’t exactly been holding his number out of use before now.

Texas Rangers
#25 Rafael Palmeiro (1989-1993 & 1999-2003, 44.6 WAR)
#25 Buddy Bell (1979-1985 & 1989, 36.3 WAR)
#5 Ian Kinsler (2006-2013, 35.0 WAR)
#10 Jim Sundberg (1974-1983 & 1988-1989, 34.7 WAR)
#49 Charlie Hough (1980-1990, 32.6 WAR)
#11 Toby Harrah (1969-1978 & 1985-1986, 32.3 WAR)

And here, we have our final pair of overlapping numbers, and probably the most confusing case, for my money. Whereas the Mariners and Angels were both dealing with a Hall of Famer half-associated with the team and a future Hall of Famer totally tied to the team, instead we have two Hall snubs (for extremely different reasons), both of whom are primarily associated with the Rangers, but not entirely the way Trout or Ichiro are with their teams.

Bell spent eight of his eighteen seasons with Texas, and it’s where he got most of his notoriety, including four of his five All-Star appearances and every Gold Glove and MVP vote (although technically, he spent 29 more games with Cleveland, who drafted him). Like I was saying earlier in the A’s section, third base is under-represented in Cooperstown, and I put Bell in the same grouping as Bando of “guys I would immediately add to get third base closer to the other positions”, although I do think Bando was a hair better. Basically, all fielding stats have Bell as one of the half-dozen best fielders in the history of the position, and he was an above-average bat on top of that. If the Veterans Committee finally recognized him and added him to Cooperstown, I don’t know that it’s guaranteed the Rangers would retire his number, but I don’t see why they’d be opposed to it either. Of course, the VC can be slow to adjust at times. Maybe the Rangers could still retire his number even without that, but it obviously would take something else to change their mind, and I don’t know what that would be right now.

Palmeiro’s recognition was more evenly split between Texas and his second team (in this case, Baltimore), but his playing time is also more heavily skewed toward his Rangers days than Bell’s is. That, plus his higher profile, makes me think it would be even more likely he’d get his number retired if he made the Hall of Fame. Of course, that would also require Hall voters changing their stance on steroid players. It could happen, but it doesn’t seem immanent. I also feel like Palmeiro is one of the less likely PED players to have a team retire his number anyway, like the Giants did with Bonds. Either way, I don’t think either #25 has a strong enough claim to keep the team from just retiring it twice should it come to that, but they each have their own obstacles to overcome in the first place.

I’ve gone on before about Ian Kinsler being underrated. He is, but he didn’t quite reach “surprise, borderline-Hall of Fame” case before he retired, so we can probably rule that scenario out. His WAR with the Rangers is a little low, but it’s not really his fault that they decided to trade him for Prince Fielder (in retrospect, wow did the Rangers lose that deal badly). If there were enough fan support, he wouldn’t look totally out of place in the pantheon of retired numbers, maybe a slightly weaker choice, but not exceptionally so. But I also always got the sense that he was underrated on those early-2010s Rangers teams, behind guys like Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, and so on.

The bottom half of the list is a lot like that. All interesting, notable players. Fairly long tenures in Texas, but career totals short of the Hall of Fame (all are even further away than Kinsler, though, in my opinion). If there’s big fan support for one of them getting a retired number, it wouldn’t look totally out of place. But unlike Kinsler, they all retired over twenty-five years ago, so there’s been more time for that sort of fan support to play out, and so far, it hasn’t. Also, unlike Kinsler, none of them comes from a period of big team success that people might want to commemorate. So, like… yeah, it could happen, but I’d put their chances all a step lower than Kinsler, who’s already a step lower than Bell and Palmeiro. But, for some cool trivia, I hadn’t realized until now that Harrah was the player the Rangers traded to Cleveland to get Buddy Bell.

No comments:

Post a Comment