Should it be retired: Number 51

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Last week, I debated whether Paul O'Neill's jersey number 21 should be retired, and this week I'll go into Bernie Williams and number 51.

Bernie Williams at the plate, His Birthday, Se...Image via Wikipedia

Bernie is an interesting case considering that, despite having not played since 2006, he has never officially retired. When he returned for the ceremonies prior to the closing ceremonies at the old Yankee Stadium, he said he "may never retire officially." Nevertheless, the number has not been reissued. There was a little bit of friction between Williams and the Yankees after the 2006 season; he thought he could still play, but the team only gave him a non-roster invite to Spring Training. I think that should be water under the bridge since he came back for the final game and then a few times last year.

So, let's get into it:

The case for retiring the number:
  • Career Yankee
  • 5-times All-Star
  • 4 World Series Championships
  • 6 Top-20 finishes in MVP voting (Highest was 7th in 1998)
  • 4 Gold Gloves, 1 Silver Slugger
  • Position on All-Time Lists: 6th in home runs, RBI's, runs, and games played, 5th in hits and extra-base hits, and 2nd in doubles.
  • Everyday centerfielder for 13 seasons.
The case against retiring the number:
  • Most likely will not be enshrined in the Hall of Fame
  • Most of statistics came from a peak period, and he faded quickly at the end of his career.
  • When compared to the other center fielders who have their numbers retired, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, Williams does not compare favorably. That, however, is a pretty unfair comparison.
I think it is pretty safe to say that the number 51 will hand in Monument Park some day.The bigger question is probably whether Williams gets a plaque as well. That is probably a closer debate, but I can see that happening as well.

In some actual news, the Yankees won their first spring training game today against the Pirates. The 2010 Yankees won in 2009 style with a 3-run walk-off homerun by Colin Curtis. They take on the Philadelphia Phillies tomorrow in a rematch of the World Series.

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