Running Numbers In The Bronx

The New York Yankees are a baseball team with a proud and storied history, with 22 retired numbers, more than any other team in Major League Baseball (MLB). The Yankees have become victims of their own success or self-aggrandizement – they have retired so many numbers that they are running out of them. The issue has become a near-daily concern for the Yankees’ director of clubhouse operations, Lou Cucuzza, who is struggling to match players with the numbers they desire. The lack of numbers left over has become such an issue that the Yankees have started a conversation about no longer issuing uniform numbers to managers and coaches. Cuccuzza has brought the idea to Michael Hill, the senior vice president of on-field operations for MLB. The league does not want to authorise such a change just yet, but the idea is gaining momentum in clubhouses around the game.

The Yankees have retired every single-digit number except for 0, with their first number retired in 1939 in honour of legendary first baseman Lou Gehrig, who wore No. 4. They can’t issue No. 42, which MLB retired in honour of Jackie Robinson, though the Yankees also retired the number for Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera. Two numbers are in reverence for recently departed franchise stars – No. 19 for Masahiro Tanaka and No. 52 for CC Sabathia. The third number remains uncirculated as a mutual service to players who don’t want to wear it and the team that doesn’t want to give it out – No. 69.

The Yankees have started to worry that they may run out of numbers one day, with the possibility that the coaches may have to wear triple-digit numbers one day. While facing the Yankees in an exhibition, the Washington manager and Mets manager spent the game in a red hoodie, just like many other coaches and managers across the league. The coaches of today are different than the coaches of yesteryear, says Cucuzza, who is now considering presenting the idea formally at the upcoming Winter Meetings.

It would be a significant change, but it seems that it may be the only option if the Yankees and other teams want to keep retiring numbers to honour their stars. Imagine a world where Yankees legend Don Mattingly can no longer wear No. 23 as a Blue Jays coach because his former team complained to MLB. Whether the Yankees will take the lead in making this change happen, only time will tell.