Mailing List

Sign up for email updates from Hot Corner Harbor any time there's a new post!

    Monday, November 23, 2020

    Retired Number Quiz Series: The National League East

    Part two of my retired number quizzes is out, this one featuring the NL East teams! The quiz can be found here, with an article explaining the results (and including spoilers) included after the break. If you’re looking for part one, featuring the AL East teams, the quiz can be found here and the article can be found here.

    (Also, like last time, players must have worn a uniform on said team for three or more seasons to qualify. And as far as bonus answers go, for those searching, the Braves and Nationals each have three focusing on their days in Atlanta and Washington, respectively.

    Good luck!


    Atlanta Braves
    #25 Andruw Jones (1996-2007, 61.0 WAR)
    #5 Freddie Freeman (2010-Present, 38.5 WAR)
    #3/#4 Wally Berger (1930-1937, 36.9 WAR)
    #1 Tommy Holmes (1942-1951, 35.7 WAR)
    #23 Johnny Logan (1951-1961, 33.5 WAR)
    #15 Joe Torre (1960-1968, 33.3 WAR)

    The Braves are one of the two or three teams that I think will wind up being difficult even for baseball history buffs. Few teams have done as good of a job at covering their bases, with most of the obvious cases already retired. Andruw Jones stands out above the rest, and I wouldn't be shocked if the team one day adds his number to their collection; however, they might have been slightly deterred by the sheer number of '90s figures they were retiring numbers for, between Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Bobby Cox. That might feel like a lot, but then again, a decade and a half of division titles is bound to have a plethora of stars supporting it. Maybe they're waiting for a Hall of Fame ceremony in his case, which isn't out of the question completely. He did jump up to about 20% of the vote last election cycle. But it could still be a while before said ceremony, so maybe they get impatient and do it anyway. Or maybe they continue to ignore him, thinking five retired numbers is already enough for one era. He's recent enough that there's still time for them to change their mind if that's the case, too. It really just depends on what the heads of the team are thinking, which we just don't really know right now.

    Going down the list, Freddie Freeman sounds like a safer bet for a retired number one day, having arrived on the scene with the Braves first round of post-Cox success and surviving the subsequent rebuilding to the second round. After him is a bunch of players from the Braves pre-Atlanta days, in Wally Berger, Tommy Holmes, and Johnny Logan. This is the area that I expect to give people trouble, and I don't think any of them is a solid bet to get a retired number. None of them is super famous, or went on to the Hall, or is from a run anywhere close to the '90s Braves. They just played for a long time in the pre-free agency era before the team even moved to Atlanta.

    Joe Torre is interesting, since he actually did keep up his production after leaving the Braves, building a borderline-Hall case in his playing days. Playing most of his days with the team, including coming up with the team, might be enough had the Veterans Committee inducted him. But his playing days seem to have been totally overshadowed by his managerial success with the Yankees, so I wouldn't be shocked if the Braves just leave his number in circulation.

    Also, for the bonus questions, if we only included players who played on the Atlanta version of the Braves, we'd drop Berger, Holmes, and Logan, and instead replace them with Tim Hudson, Brian McCann, and David Justice. I don't know if any of them is super likely (maybe McCann, if the estimates of his pitch framing skills hold up and gain popularity with Hall voters), but I'd put all of their chances ahead of the three players they’re replacing.

    Miami Marlins
    #27 Giancarlo Stanton (2010-2017, 35.7 WAR)
    #2 Hanley Ramirez (2006-2012, 26.9 WAR)
    #55 Josh Johnson (2005-2012, 25.7 WAR)
    #1 Luis Castillo (1996-2005, 22.4 WAR)
    #35 Dontrelle Willis (2003-2007, 20.8 WAR)
    #24 Miguel Cabrera (2003-2007, 20.8 WAR)

    The Marlins are at a disadvantage even compared to most of the other new expansion teams, given their high turnover rate. Maybe they'll try and do something if Stanton or Carbrera get inducted to the Hall of Fame, but I kind of doubt it. Cabrera's probably more closely associated with the Tigers at this point, and unless Stanton somehow ends up bouncing between a couple teams, he'll probably wind up that way with the Yankees. My dark horse candidate here is still probably Gary Sheffield.

    New York Mets
    #5 David Wright (2004-2018, 49.2 WAR)
    #16 Dwight Gooden (1984-1994, 46.4 WAR)
    #48 Jacob deGrom (2014-Present, 38.1 WAR)
    #18 Darryl Strawberry (1983-1990, 36.6 WAR)
    #15 Carlos Beltran (2005-2011, 31.1 WAR)
    #13 Edgardo Alfonzo (1995-2002, 29.6 WAR)

    David Wright getting his number retired feels like one of the safer bets in the game today. Like, you could probably count the more likely cases on your fingers. Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina in St. Louis. Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera in Detroit. A handful of other players maybe on Wright's level, like Joey Votto and Evan Longoria and Buster Posey, but it's hard to say if they're necessarily more likely than Wright. The bigger question at this point feels like it's "how long will the Mets wait?"

    Jacob deGrom also feels like a pretty safe bet, as far as players in the middle of their careers go. He's under contract for at least three more years, maybe four (team option in 2024) or more (if he's re-signed). He's coming off a third-place finish in Cy Young voting, after winning both the 2018 and 2019 awards. Even if he doesn't keep up with a Hall of Fame pace, he seems safe as far as the team's retired number standards go.

    My assumption going in was that it would be difficult to draw up a standard that would allow deGrom's number to be retired while ignoring Dwight Gooden, but... it actually wasn't that hard. Gooden is about 8 WAR ahead of deGrom, but his stint with the Mets was four years and 1000 innings longer, meaning deGrom's peak has been higher and his overall value will also likely wind up higher. Dwight's fall-off post-1986 was pretty steep, likely at least partially due to the 750+ pro innings he threw from the ages of 19 to 21. He was still good enough that the team could still retire his number and it wouldn't look out of place, but Wright and deGrom probably have better chances; Gooden's case partially relies on having a good relationship with the team, and I always got the sense he was on rougher terms with the Mets than the other two. Maybe their new ownership marks a change in the waters, though.

    As for the other three, Strawberry feels like he has all of the downsides of Gooden's case, but less upside. Edgardo Alfonzo was good, but pretty perpetually overlooked throughout his career (he was even left off the Hall of Fame ballot in his lone year of eligibility despite meeting the minimum qualifications, a relatively rare occurrence). Carlos Beltran is the wild card. If he makes the Hall of Fame, I could see either the Royals or Mets (or both) "claiming" him and retiring his number. But his role in the Astros' Sign Stealing Scandal does bring up the question of how Hall voters will treat him when he arrives on the ballot, which in turn generates questions of whether either team will think differently about him. Seeing how quickly Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch have re-entered the league, maybe this will look a lot less important when the 2023 ballot actually rolls around.

    Philadelphia Phillies
    #26 Chase Utley (2003-2015, 62.0 WAR)
    #11 Jimmy Rollins (2000-2014, 47.6 WAR)
    #53 Bobby Abreu (1998-2006, 47.2 WAR)
    #35 Cole Hamels (2006-2015, 43.0 WAR)
    #6 Johnny Callison (1960-1969, 39.4 WAR)
    #38 Curt Schilling (1992-2000, 36.3 WAR)

    The Phillies don’t have as much history as the other original fifteen teams, let alone the ones still in their original city. That’s not meant to be a diss or anything, just a reflection on how this team reached 10,000 losses four years before the next team, despite the Braves starting seven years before them. The Phillies had seen a lot of failure, but had done a good job of celebrating the successes in between.

    Which is why I’m very interested to see how the team handles their recent run of success, now that we’re reaching the point where we’ve seen a lot of retirements and will start seeing Hall of Fame ballots and anniversaries and such. Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins both seem like extremely good choices for retired numbers, and right in line with the type of players they’ve honored in the past.

    The only hold up I can imagine would be if the team decides to wait on Hall enshrinement (not a fan of that strategy), since Rollins falls a little short of the Hall’s standards and Utley is exactly the type of player Hall voters have historically overlooked. But the team honored fellow perpetual snub Dick Allen with a retired number earlier this year, so I’ll take that as a good sign. The other big question will of course be how the team handles their longtime teammate and fellow infielder Ryan Howard, although he doesn’t grade out well enough under WAR to make it on the quiz. But I imagine he’ll fare better on sentiment.

    Cole Hamels still has more of his career to go, but his case is likely to land somewhere in the same range as the first two. Really, I think it’s a matter of how he finishes his career, and whether that lands him in the Rollins “Just Shy of Cooperstown” land, or whether he holds on to make it to the Utley “Overlooked, but Reasonable Selection” territory. I think he can solidify a Hall case, but it will depend on his health and how the 2021 season goes, among other things. There’s a lot of uncertainty there, but the Retired Number thing seems much more likely.

    I’ve written about how Bobby Abreu actually has an okay Hall case, but I’m not sure that will help as much here. The numbers are there if they want to, but I always got the sense the team and fans were on tenser terms with him, which is part of why they were okay trading him off even as he was still producing. Maybe I’m wrong there, or maybe I have a correct read but time will erode those rough edges and it happens anyway. But I ultimately think some combination of Rollins/Utley/Howard/Hamels happens before this is even considered.

    Johnny Callison is probably one of the more obscure answers on this quiz series, and I don’t recall ever hearing of him prior to this. He was a fine player, a star on the 1960s Phillies who even finished second in the 1964 MVP race. He was part of one of the less-heralded steals in history, coming over as a 21-year-old from the White Sox for Gene Freese, who they in turn traded away after one season. Callison had a stellar decade, then was traded to the Cubs for Oscar Gamble, and whether it was entering his 20s, the change to the 1970s, playing in a new city, whatever it was, his career promptly fizzled. In total, Callison had nearly 40 WAR in that decade in Philly, and -1.0 WAR outside of that window. A fine player, but probably not Retired Number worthy. Especially since the team wasn’t exactly a powerhouse in that era, regularly finishing with a middling record despite the expansion Mets and Astros occupying the basement and soaking up losses for most of that stretch.

    Curt Schilling may finally make the Hall of Fame this year, finishing last year 5% short of the 75% needed. Maybe he makes the Hall this year, and maybe the Phillies decide to use that a reason to retire his number, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if they find that he’s too much of a headache to associate with at this point. And of course, don’t underestimate Schilling’s ability to shoot himself in the foot here, either; he was last seen earlier this year serving on the advisory board for a political fundraising group that saw it’s leaders get arrested for large-scale fraud. He probably won’t be hit with similar charges within the next month before Hall voting wraps up, but it’s an especially uncomfortable issue to have dangling overhead right before a crucial vote, and one that other players just don't inflict on themselves.

    Washington Nationals
    #45 Steve Rogers (1973-1985, 44.7 WAR)
    #11 Ryan Zimmerman (2005-Present, 38.5 WAR)
    #31 Max Scherzer (2015-Present, 38.4 WAR)
    #29 Tim Wallach (1980-1992, 37.0 WAR)
    #27 Vladimir Guerrero (1996-2003, 34.7 WAR)
    #37 Stephen Strasburg (2010-Present, 33.3 WAR)

    The Nationals were one of the more frustrating cases when I was deciding whether to include franchises' entire histories, since they make everything messier. Technically, in Montreal, the team retired numbers for Rusty Staub, Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, and Gary Carter, but those have been "unretired" since the team moved to Washington, and three of their numbers were in use in 2020 (Carter Kieboom used Carter's #8, while Yan Gomes took Staub and Dawson's shared #10). So it feels weird to consider those numbers not retired, but it also feels weird to just ignore all of the Expos' years. Maybe if there's a new expansion team in Montreal down the road and they work out some deal with the Nats where they "inherit" the Expos' history, it'll make things neat and tidy, but until then, I decided to look at their full history and still consider those four players as having their numbers retired.

    As for their next six players listed, it's difficult to see former Expos getting their numbers retired in Washington if those former four numbers aren't recognized, even in cases of recent Hall enshrinement like Vladimir Guerrero, or an extremely apt name like Steve Rogers. My bet right now is that Max Scherzer is the first player with the curly W on his Hall plaque and gets a number that way, while Ryan Zimmerman might also get a number for being the team's first big star and seeing them through so many moments. The Arizona Diamondbacks, with Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez, might be a decent comparison. Stephen Strasburg also has a good shot of earning a spot, if he can stay strong and healthy.

    The three non-Expos who would make the list, absent Guerrero, Rogers, and Wallach, are Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, and Jordan Zimmermann; basically all of the team's recent big free agency departures, which means none seems like an especially likely choice. Right after them is Livan Hernandez, if you were looking for a choice to bridge the gap from the Expos to the Nationals.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment