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    Wednesday, June 2, 2021

    Hot Corner Harbor's 10th Anniversary! A Retired Number Series Retrospective

    June 2nd is Hot Corner Harbor’s anniversary, and this year in particular represents ten years since I started it, so I wanted to do something special. Part of the reason I started this site was to host my Retired Numbers Series, which was something I hadn’t seen anywhere else and felt like it needed its own place. I took a month or so to practice before starting it initially, and obviously kept writing here after the main series wrapped up, but it’s still closely tied to the creation of Hot Corner Harbor, so I figured revisiting it in some way would be an apt anniversary celebration.

    So join me now, as I reflect on all of my observations and predictions from over the course of the Retired Number Series, and compare them to how the last decade of new retired numbers has shaken out, from 2011 to present. First, let’s look at the teams that have retired a number in that span:

    Athletics: Dave Stewart
    This is a rough one to start on; I totally whiffed here. In my original article and list, I was really focused on the early-70s and early 2000s A’s teams (the latter of which was probably the result of personal bias). Even among the ‘80s teams, though, I didn’t really single Stewart out, instead focusing on the more controversial characters. To be fair, Tony La Russa’s Hall of Fame case was then-immanent, and it marked a change in the status quo even if he wasn’t especially likable, but Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco were never as beloved as Barry Bonds was across the Bay, and required big shifts in public opinion.

    Blue Jays: Roberto Alomar, Roy Halladay
    Alomar happened during the series, so I didn’t get a chance to predict that one. Halladay was an easy call, though. I also seemed to anticipate that obvious next-choice Dave Stieb would be held up by an insistence that honorees make the Hall of Fame (which, as a reminder, is still dumb).

    Braves: Bobby Cox, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones
    Another easy call, with Chipper at the top. Smoltz and Cox happened before I wrote about the team, though. Andruw Jones was my next choice, and we’ll see how his growing Hall case influences things. Also, the Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman excerpts are funny to see, as they had both just started at the time and their cases have diverged wildly. I kind of wish I included percentages on their chances, even if they would have just been my guessing. Like, I have Heyward as third, but it’s also pretty clear from my language that I saw him as highly conditional, and I also seemed to call fourth place on the list (Joe Torre) pretty unlikely, so being third reflected as much on the quality of the competition as it did a big bet on his chances. Further down the list a little, Brian McCann’s framing numbers also make him an interesting re-evaluation candidate. I still wouldn’t call his case likely, but I would definitely move him up a bit.

    Brewers: Bud Selig
    I didn’t even think to mention Selig, since I didn’t think they would assign him a number. I should have considered the possibility, though. He probably would have been one of the top two choices if I had, since the rest of the options were a little weak. Ryan Braun wound up being a rough top choice, and I openly wrote that spots two through four were based all on upside (especially since I had Eddie Mathews fifth, which I called “doubtful”), so I doubt I would have assigned them especially high chances, had I been doing so.

    Cardinals: Tony La Russa (and Ted Simmons, although it’s not official yet)
    The Cardinals piece came much earlier than the A’s one (and prior to their 2011 title as well), so I actually got to predict La Russa here. Albert Pujols, who was atop the list, is still playing, so we don’t technically know if his number will be retired… but come on. I whiffed by not even mentioning Yadier Molina; as I recently admitted, I came around to his Hall case a lot slower than some. But also writing this one so early, when he was just a 28-year-old catcher who hadn’t had a full season with an OPS+ over 100, probably didn’t help. And in my defense, I totally nailed Ted Simmons (whose number was set aside following his Hall election, but number retirements have largely been postponed from the Pandemic, so it hasn’t yet been made official), who I put at the top of the backlog options. My exact words were: “Someone on the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee finally had the sense to put him on the ballot last year, and it’s about time... If he makes the Hall of Fame finally, the Cardinals may decide to revisit his case”, which is exactly what happened.

    Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson
    Yeah, predicting this one was pretty easy. But I think I deserve some extra credit for nailing it so perfectly, in particular that the team was waiting until his Hall induction, and that he would go in with a D-backs logo despite more time in Seattle.

    Giants: Barry Bonds, Will Clark
    I was pretty confident that Bonds would get a retired number in San Francisco despite lingering steroids anger around the league, and only ranked him below the still-active Buster Posey. I was also pretty high on Will Clark, who I put at “50/50”. Both good calls. I also called Bochy very likely, placing him fifth and saying two titles was probably more than enough to get a retired number (this came out a year before their third title under his watch). Bochy retired after 2019, and no one has worn #15 since.

    The biggest weird spot is the pitchers who were on the roster at the time. I ranked Matt Cain third, apparently betting on a rebound for the then-28-year-old. I wasn’t very high on Tim Lincecum though, despite his higher peak. I guess his drop starting earlier influenced my thinking. I was somewhat prescient on Madison Bumgarner, though, who I placed just under Bochy, despite him being just 23 at the time. I’m not sure if MadBum gets a retired number with the Giants, but I wouldn’t be shocked given his run on the team and the love that engendered with fans.

    Indians: Frank Robinson, Jim Thome
    Jim Thome was the only player here whose chances I was enthusiastic about, and that has mostly held up. I was really down on Kenny Lofton’s chances, which I guess was partly due to how little attention he seemed to be attracting in the run-up to his appearance on the Hall ballot (which was a one-and-done affair a year after this article came out). It makes a little more sense in that context, but fifth place, even behind the twice-suspended Manny Ramirez and the numberless Nap Lajoie, seems extreme in retrospect.

    I didn’t foresee a number retirement for their former manager Frank Robinson, making him just the second person with a number retired by three teams. But the Indians don’t really tip their hands on plans like that, compared to most teams; #20 was in use basically right up until the decision, and even #25 was in use for a few years after Thome’s retirement.

    Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez
    I had these two as one-two in the rankings, and noted that they were likely just waiting to retire Griffey’s number before moving on. That was basically what happened; Griffey was inducted to the Hall in 2016, Seattle retired his number later that year, then they retired Edgar’s number the next season (notably, before he officially made the Hall of Fame). It also seems like they’re waiting for Ichiro Suzuki, who was third on my list, to reach Cooperstown before retiring his number, like they did with Griffey. The number is out of circulation until then, which also means any potential Randy Johnson ceremony (fifth in my ranking) will come after that.

    The confusing ones are Lou Piniella and Jay Buhner, who I put around The Big Unit in my rankings. Both have had their numbers withheld since they retired, which is a definite first step in the process. But Seattle also has rules stating that a player must either make the Hall after spending five years on the Mariners, or appear on the ballot while being a career Mariner. I suppose those rules hold for managers, which explains the former. But I have a hard time seeing how Buhner, who appeared on the 2007 ballot, isn’t a career Mariner, seeing as he played 1440 of his career 1472 games in Seattle. And he’s clearly not getting back on the Hall ballot, so that ship has sailed. Are they waiting to deal with Ichiro (and maybe Randy as well?) before moving on? That seems weird, but it’s hard to think of other possibilities, outside of just not retiring or using it indefinitely. It also makes me wonder how Felix Hernandez’s case will be handled.

    Mets: Mike Piazza, Jerry Koosman
    Piazza’s number retirement was obviously coming up back when I wrote the article in 2012, but the team wound up waiting until 2016, when he finally made it into Cooperstown on his fourth ballot. Also, as the Mets are one of the teams that makes heavy use of taking numbers out of circulation in anticipation, although how it ties into their number retirements is unclear. Piazza’s #31 was out of use back then, but there’s been no similar movement on Gary Carter’s #8, and it remains out of use. Willie Mays’s #24 was given to Robinson Cano, although I don’t know if this was a full return to circulation or an exception, like they’ve granted for the number in the past. Meanwhile, David Wright’s #5 is very clearly out of use now, and Keith Hernandez’s #17 has gone from “normal, short absence” to “very clearly out of circulation”, as it hasn’t been used since 2010. What the team is waiting for in both cases is as of yet unknown.

    That takes care of a lot of the top of my 2012 list. On the flipside, I once again totally whiffed on Jerry Koosman, who I had really far down the rankings. And this wasn’t like with the A’s, where I put players from that era high up but picked the wrong ones; this was completely out of nowhere. And for a team that seems to signal when there’s a number they want to retire, Koosman was conspicuously not one of those cases. His #36 was in constant use from when he left the team in 1978 up until the announcement in late 2019, when they booted its most-recent wearer, then-manager and currently-banned sex pest Mickey Callaway, to a new number (because this is the Mets, and it is apparently impossible for them to do anything without it being a multi-layered disaster).

    Padres: Trevor Hoffman
    This one happened so early in the run of my series that it might have already been announced when I started. The team was in a rough spot at the time, so there weren’t a lot of interesting cases to cover without it, sadly. They might be the biggest improvement if I were to write a 2021 version, though.

    Phillies: Dick Allen, Roy Halladay
    I predicted that it would probably take something like Veterans Committee consideration for Allen to get a retired number. Three years later, he fell one vote short of such an induction. He looked poised to finally follow up on that last year, but then the VC stupidly decided to postpone their next ballot on his era (which are already, ridiculously, quinquennial), and Allen sadly passed away before getting the chance to learn his fate. Thankfully, the Phillies went ahead and retired his number last year anyway before he died, so at least he got that.

    The other number here is also tragic, being the late Roy Halladay. Like Allen, I wasn’t exactly pessimistic about his chances, either. I did have a lot of their 2000s stars ahead of them on my list, though, so we’ll see what becomes of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels shortly, I suppose. I still feel good about their chances.

    Rangers: Ivan Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young
    I nailed Ivan Rodriguez and Michael Young; I had them at the top of my list, and mentioned that I thought Young was probably already over the line for retirement (Pudge was more obvious). However, I didn’t even mention Adrian Beltre. This makes a little more sense given the context, though: Beltre had just signed with Texas, and was in his first year on his fourth team. Had I known that he would spend his final eight years in Arlington and find great success there, I might have brought him up; instead, I mentioned him during the Dodgers article (where he spent seven seasons), noting “If he makes the Hall and he isn’t clearly associated with any other team, it is possible the Dodgers may decide to retire his number”. So I had the right idea, at least.

    Rays: Don Zimmer
    I didn’t see this one coming at all, although in fairness to past-me, Zimmer is just the second non-manager/player coach to get a number retired in history, after the Angels’ Jimmie Reese. There wasn’t a lot of precedence to go off of there. At the time, I had Evan Longoria as the most likely choice, calling it “almost a lock”. That opinion is looking more and more likely, as the team now plays its fourth season without a #3 on its roster. That sure seems like a number that’s out of circulation (although time will tell if my estimate of “sometime around 2025 or so” holds up as well).

    Red Sox: Pedro Martinez, Wade Boggs, David Ortiz
    The Red Sox technically have rather strict requirements for retiring numbers, and I didn’t really know how to handle that when I wrote their article. I had Wade Boggs first, partly because he was the only person who fit even two of the three rules (make the Hall of Fame, play a decade on the Red Sox, retire with the team). Sure enough, he got a pass on the retiring with the team thing, which was something they had done in the past for Carlton Fisk. It was also notable that the team had finally stopped issuing his number following his induction to the Hall.

    I wasn’t sure what to do with the other choices, though. I eventually put Nomar Garciaparra second because I read that his number was also out of circulation at the time, which seemed like more progress than anyone else. I wrote this piece pretty early, though, and didn’t yet know how to check that fact; had I done so, I would have found that Pedro Martinez’s number was also not issued. It makes sense that the place I read that (probably Wikipedia?) would have missed that, though; a team not using #5 is a lot more out of the ordinary than a team not using #45. I wonder if I would have put Pedro second, had I known that? Either way, they waived their “ten year” and “retire with team” rules and hung up #45 for good following his Hall induction.

    After that, I mostly focused on younger players who might reach the Hall or already-retired Hall of Famers. As a result, I also put David Ortiz pretty low because he seemed pretty far from the Hall of Fame at that point, and it wasn’t clear that he would even finish his career with the team. After bringing him back for his final few years, though, Boston didn’t even feel the need to wait and see if he made it to Cooperstown, retiring #34 the year Ortiz hung up his cleats. Had I known how open the team was to ignoring their own rules for retired numbers (which, to be clear, is a good thing), I feel like Ortiz would have been the biggest beneficiary, but it would have definitely meant a total shakeup in my rankings either way.

    Reds: Barry Larkin, Pete Rose
    I timed my Reds article really well. They hadn’t budged on retiring Larkin’s number for a while, from his retirement in 2004 to joining the Hall of Fame ballot in 2010. I was expecting something following him actually getting inducted in 2012, but there still didn’t seem to be any indication something was coming up. I published the Reds piece on July 10, the Hall induction ceremony came and went on July 22, and still nothing happened. Then, just under a month after my piece, they announced they were finally retiring #11 at the end of August.

    I had Pete Rose second in the rankings, but wrote that it would take some sort of change in the status quo to get his number retired thanks to his long-standing ban. It turns out, I was correct about that as well, I just didn’t guess what the actual change would be. Before he retired, Bud Selig allowed Pete Rose to participate in 2015 All-Star Game activities in Cincinnati, and the following season, new commissioner Rob Manfred apparently gave the Reds permission to honor Rose with a retired number and an induction into the team’s Hall of Fame. I had just assumed Selig would continue running baseball as a cursed skeleton even beyond his death, so you can see how I missed that potential outcome.

    Rockies: Todd Helton, Larry Walker
    These ones weren’t too hard to guess. For extra credit, though, I did predict that they would retire Helton’s #17 upon retirement rather than waiting for him to hit the Hall of Fame ballot, and that Walker’s case could proceed after Helton was taken care of, so that was a decent call on my part. As a rougher call, though, I was apparently way too optimistic about Troy Tulowitzki’s chances to overcome his many injuries.

    Tigers: Sparky Anderson, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker
    Anderson was the first retired number of the 2011 season, happening in June shortly after I started Hot Corner Harbor but before I started the Retired Number Series, so my focus would have been on the other three. All three had their numbers out of circulation at the time, but it had been that way for a while at that point. I was more or less right that they were waiting for the Hall of Fame, as both Morris and Trammell were inducted by the Veterans Committee in 2018 and promptly had number retirement ceremonies announced. After that, they moved on to Whitaker without waiting for a Hall induction, which was something else I called for, although his ceremony has been pushed back a lot due to COVID. With those three taken care of, I had Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera (who had only played four seasons in Detroit at that point) next. Both of those also look right, with Verlander’s #35 unused since his trade and Cabrera nearing some big milestones.

    Twins: Bert Blyleven, Tom Kelly, Joe Mauer
    Bert Blyleven’s ceremony took place less than a week after my first retired number piece, and Tom Kelly’s ceremony was what inspired me to get around to the Twins the following year, so Mauer was really the only one I had a chance to predict here. I did say that he already had the credentials for it back in 2012, though, even before he went and played another six years all with the Twins.

    White Sox: Paul Konkerko, Mark Buehrle
    I had both of them as very likely to get retired numbers, and sure enough, both happened in short order after their retirements. I’m not sure how big of a shock that was to most people, since neither were likely Hall of Famers (which is often used or at least thought of as a prerequisite); but the White Sox are very unique in their standards, and that is not one of them, so I nailed it. I’m also still a fan of their relative aggression in recognizing players.

    Yankees: Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter
    The Yankees have unsurprisingly been the busiest team with numbers, retiring options one through six on my list in the last decade. At the same time… that may seem like a lot, but are there any of these guys that looks like a bad choice? The Yankees of the 1990s and 2000s were just good teams with a lot of guys who stuck around New York for a long time. I remember getting some pushback on some of these options, like Posada and Williams, on the basis of them not being Hall of Fame-caliber, but a) I think they’re a lot closer to Hall-level than some people realize, and b) that’s never really been a prerequisite for Yankees retiring a number, either. Anyway, all of these ceremonies means that the new number one on the list, going by my old rankings, would be Alex Rodriguez. His number is pretty clearly out of use, so something is up there. Are they waiting for him to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot? Get inducted? Just giving it time, since they just retired a bunch of numbers? Who knows. I’m sure that, when the time comes and they likely do finally retire #13, there will be absolutely no drama about it in Yankees fans or media circles, definitely not.

    And now, the other nine teams, who have not retired a number in over a decade:

    Mike Trout didn’t even have a full season under his belt yet when I wrote this one, so I couldn’t put him first on this list yet. Instead, I ranked him fifth, which was a maybe-aggressive call that paid off. In his place, I had Mike Scoscia first, and his #14 has gone untouched since he left the team. I had Chuck Finley and Tim Salmon as second and third, and both had their numbers out of circulation at the time, but Finley’s has since been returned to use. I have no idea why that was the case, just as I have no idea why the Angels haven’t retired or reused Salmon’s number, or what they might be waiting for with Scoscia’s number, or really, any number of other things they do as a team

    The Astros were in a pretty rough spot when my original piece on them went up. I remember being a little disappointed I couldn’t finish sooner, since it went up a week after the trade deadline where Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn had been dealt. I didn’t really think either of them was a great candidate, but they were the only somewhat-notable players on the team at the time. I decided to throw together a few other active names to make up for the shorter article length and smaller list of names, and one of the ones I picked wound up being Jose Altuve, who had barely a dozen games in the majors at the time. That one turned out to be a pretty good prediction sd well.

    Outside of them, I’m still shocked that nothing has happened for Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman’s numbers, even writing about it again a few years ago. I also had to write an addendum later because I forgot that J.R. Richard didn’t already have a retired number, despite it feeling like he should. And I’m curious if they’ll do anything for Billy Wagner’s number, should he be elected to Cooperstown. All of those numbers are still in use now (in fact, Berkman’s #17 was just re-added to use in 2020 after a decade-long absence), so there’s no indication anything is imminent. And Oswalt’s #44 is even being used by Yordan Alvarez now; asking someone like Abraham Toro or Jake Odorizzi to switch numbers feels like a minor thing, but asking a young star like that to switch feels a much bigger obstacle (although that’s mostly just my gut feeling rather than a hard rule with any evidence).

    We’ve seen plenty of the positives of betting on upside in this series, but if you want a potential downside, look no further than my Cubs ranking, where I put Starlin Castro second. Although to be fair, it’s not like I had a ton to work with at the time, so he wasn’t displacing an obvious choice or anything. And besides a drop on Castro’s odds, given how the dreams of a Cubs dynasty that seemed plausible after 2016 have fallen apart since then, I’m not sure the rankings have actually changed that much? I guess Anthony Rizzo has climbed a bit, but he’ll still need strong fan demand, and maybe a contract extension (2021 is the end of his current deal). #17 is more likely now, but for Kris Bryant rather than Mark Grace, and the team seems determined to run him off like Colorado did with Nolan Arenado anyway, which would nullify those chances completely. Honestly, “cautiously awaiting a reappraisal of Sammy Sosa’s career with the Cubs” might still be the best option, just like I guessed back in 2013.

    While my Red Sox predictions fell apart from Boston basically ignoring their rules, the Dodgers have held fast on their standards, and my predictions have held up well as a result. I had Mike Piazza first, but noted that it was only because he was very likely to make the Hall of Fame compared to the rest of the list, and that he was probably more associated with the Mets. I put Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw second and third, noting that as rising stars, they had a chance to build Hall of Fame resumes in Chavez Ravine. Well, at least one of those two carried through on that promise.

    I had Giancarlo Stanton first in my rankings, but also noted his case would be contingent on staying in Miami, which I was broadly skeptical of. That wound up being spot on. Second place was Jose Fernandez, mostly due to lack of other options (he had only fourteen games played at that point, en route to a Rookie of the Year season); there was some movement towards a number retirement following his untimely death in 2016, which would have been one of the most depressing ways to retire your first number as a team, but that momentum seems to have slowed since then, and #16 merely remains out of circulation for now.

    Another team that didn’t give me a lot to work with at the time. Ryan Zimmerman was the only one I was particularly optimistic on, and that call is holding up well. He’s the team’s first star, a local kid, he stuck around for years and even helped them get their first championship. Unless they decide to only honor Hall of Famers, I would not be at all shocked to see his number eventually retired.

    At this point, his only real competition for “first Nationals retired number” is probably Max Scherzer. I didn’t include Scherzer on my initial list at all, probably due to him still being two years away from his first All-Star season and four years away from joining the Nationals. My bad. I also threw out a bunch of their then-young players towards the end and said I expected one of them to be in the running for a number one day. Not all of them panned out or stuck around (most notably: Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon), but Stephen Strasburg has definitely matured into a solid candidate. We’ll see what his health allows, though.

    My first article in the series was on the Orioles, and I didn’t really see them having a lot of candidates, which was accurate. The one potential case I saw was Mussina; I was a little too optimistic that a Hall induction might smooth over any disagreements he had with ownership over him leaving for the Yankees. The only major change to their rankings in the decade since is that I threw Adam Jones in at the bottom of the list as the obligatory young player pick. Since departing Baltimore in 2018, no one else has worn his #10, which may just be temporary, but it’s still interesting. That’s more than you can say for a lot of the list.

    The Pirates also didn’t have a ton of good options at the time, so I put Andrew McCutchen first, despite him being in just his third season (and first All-Star season) at that point based on his early potential. I’m not sure if a retired number will happen for him, but no one has worn his #22 since he was traded away four years ago. Sometimes, betting on high upside really is the way to go, especially on teams without a ton of better choices.

    This one was one of my final articles of the original series, and it came at a weird time. I posted it in February of 2013, when the Royals were at the very end of their two decades in the wilderness, and right before there would be a big shift in the status quo for their roster. And their run at the top didn’t end up being that long, but I would still bet that they wind up with a few retired numbers from it. The top of my list, which included Carlos Beltran, Zack Greinke, Bret Saberhagen, Dan Quisenberry, and Kevin Appier, all still seem like fine choices, but there’s nothing pressing about any of them. Maybe the team will do something if one of them (particularly the first three) get elected to the Hall of Fame.

    But I would imagine that the recent success moves a number of names ahead of theirs on the list, primarily Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon (both of whom made the middle of my original rankings). Former manager Ned Yost is also probably in a decent place, although predicting managers can be hard. And Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer probably aren’t going to get anything after changing teams… but who knows, maybe there will be a lot of fan support there. And I don’t know what to make of the timeline for any of this. Gordon and Yost are both retired, so they could theoretically happen whenever, but they could also wait to sync it up with a ten year anniversary of the 2015 team or something. I would imagine that would be better for scheduling a team reunion together for any sort of ceremony as well. Also, their retirements from the game are way too recent to know if it’s intentional, but it’s probably worth mentioning that there’s no #3 (Yost) or #4 (Gordon) on the active roster this season.

    And with that, thank you all again for reading my work for the past ten years! Or however long it’s been since you found Hot Corner Harbor. I look forward to seeing what the next decade brings!

    1 comment:

    1. Happy Anniversary to Hot Corner Harbor. Thanks for all the great articles and your interesting perspectives Theo.