Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Best Players Without a Retired Number (+Quiz!)

As you may or may not know, I have a bit of an interest when it comes to retired numbers. And that intersected with my interest in trivia a few years ago, when I decided to make a Sporcle Quiz on the best players by Wins Above Replacement who had never had their numbers retired. Well, with the Hall of Fame induction of Ivan Rodriguez last month came the news that the Texas Rangers would finally be retiring his number 7, which reminded me of that quiz.

Ivan Rodriguez wasn’t the only bit of turnover, though. In the five years (really? It’s that old?) since I had published that list, over a fifth of the names on it were no longer eligible, and twenty-five individuals in total had gotten their numbers retired by a team. This year alone will see at least four (edit: five, with the White Sox's announcement that they'd retire Mark Buehrle's number, but more on that later), between Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez for the Mariners, David Ortiz for the Red Sox, and Derek Jeter for the Yankees.

With all that change, I decided totally starting from scratch might be the easiest plan if I wanted to revisit that quiz, to see what all was different. And while I was at it, I could comment on the individuals on the list in a sort of mini-article, looking at which ones might one day get their number retired and which ones probably wouldn’t.

The quiz focuses on players who have actually worn a number, as retiring numbers for pre-numbered jersey players is a little more difficult. Not to say it hasn’t ever been done, just that it didn’t seem fair to compare the two standards. I did include a bunch of pre-number players as bonus answers though, for those who feel like seeking them out (44 in total).

Of course, if you want to play the quiz, reading the article would probably ruin the fun of it, so all of the body text will be hidden behind the “read more” break. If you want to play the Sporcle trivia quiz on “Best Players by WAR Without a Retired Number”, click here now. Spoilers will follow!

Okay, then. Let’s go person-by-person down the list, with a look at which teams might retire their numbers.

Barry Bonds
Giants: 25; Pirates: 24
The Giants are almost certainly just waiting for Bonds to make the Hall of Fame, seeing as no one has worn his #25 since he retired. Given that Barry finally passed the 50% mark in voting this year, it might just be a matter of time until this happens. The Pirates almost certainly won’t retire his number, but with 50.1 WAR in 7 seasons in Pittsburgh, one could make a solely numbers-driven case for it. It’s worth noting that only 12 players* have had a number retired with two teams (and only 5 of those** had two different numbers retired), so I’ll be pointing out candidates for that when I can, even if it is unlikely.

*Hank Aaron, Sparky Anderson, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Rollie Fingers, Carlton Fisk, Reggie Jackson, Greg Maddux, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Nolan Ryan (3 times), and Casey Stengel
**Anderson, Boggs Fisk, Jackson, and Ryan

Also, I may as well get this off of my chest now: I don’t get why teams make dumb hard-and-fast rules on number retirement. Most of the time, like here, they just wind up taking the number out of circulation and waiting around for nothing. It’s like how I view the Hall of Fame; you already know he’s deserving, just get it over with. And better to just play it by ear than set hard standards, because then you either wind up with stupid cases like this where you can’t retire a number everyone wants retired, or look like an idiot when you break your rules over and over to honor guys all your fans want you to honor (see: the Red Sox, who had three rules on this when I wrote about them that they’ve had to break four out of the last five times they wanted to retire a number, between Johnny Pesky, Pedro Martinez, Wade Boggs, and Ortiz).

Roger Clemens
Red Sox: 21; Yankees: 22
If he makes the Hall of Fame (which, like Bonds, seems more and more likely now), he’ll have checked off the two important rules the Red Sox use (“10 years in Boston” and “Hall of Famer”; they’ve ignored “Retired with Boston” a little more often). And he’ll probably go in as a Red Sock anyway. Also, once again, no one has worn his #21 since he left Boston anyway. 

Would the Yankees retire his number too though? Probably not, but it would be amusing, and with 2 World Series, 4 Pennants, and a Cy Young there, maybe he qualifies under their “Reggie Jackson” standards.

Alex Rodriguez
Yankees: 13; Mariners: 3
Like with Clemens and Bonds, I think time will mellow peoples’ dislike of A-Rod. Once that happens, he’s a pretty sure thing, since the Yankees are more inclined to retire numbers than most teams. And they don’t seem to hate him too much, since he’ll be a guest instructor for them at Spring Training. Meanwhile, the Mariners do still seem to hate him, so his amazing years there probably won’t be enough for Seattle.

Lefty Grove
Athletics: 10; Red Sox: 10
A big change of pace here, with someone who debuted nearly seven decades before Alex Rodriguez. It’s rare for someone as good (109.9 WAR) as long ago as Grove to not have a retired number, but Grove is a perfect term. His primary team (nine seasons) was the Athletics…back when they were in Philadelphia, which they’ve sort of put behind them. The Red Sox have a decent claim to him as well (eight seasons), but it’s still not as good as the Athletics’ claim, and he failed their three criteria back when they actually cared about those things. Unless the A’s decide that retiring numbers for players from the Philadelphia days is a big draw, Grove probably isn’t getting his number retired.

Albert Pujols
Cardinals: 5; Angels: 5
A lock in St. Louis as soon as he retires. Probably not happening in Los Angeles, but who know how that will play out. He’ll be there for a long time at least.

Jimmie Foxx
Athletics: 3; Red Sox: 3
Foxx has the same problems as Grove, except that an even higher percentage of his career was spent with the Athletics. I’m not sure if that makes it more or less likely he’ll get a retired number, but odds are still pretty close to zero either way.

Adrian Beltre
Rangers: 29; Dodgers: 29
At this point, Beltre’s probably going into the Hall of Fame as a Ranger, so I imagine he’ll get his number retired in Arlington shortly thereafter. He also technically has more games played (for now) with the Dodgers, and started his career there; maybe they’ll also retire his number if he makes the Hall, although that seems less certain. He just wasn’t as famous in his time there.

Mike Mussina
Orioles: 35; Yankees: 35
Mussina had his career pretty evenly split with the Orioles and Yankees, but his seasons in Baltimore were definitely better, so they have an edge in being his team when he is inevitably (at this point) inducted into Cooperstown. Once that happens, I can easily see either or both teams retiring his number. Even if he goes in with the Orioles, the Yankees like to retire numbers a lot, so they might follow suit.

Curt Schilling
Phillies: 38; Diamondbacks: 38
Like Mussina, his last few years on the Hall ballot indicate he’d going to get in eventually. Once that happens, I imagine the Phillies retire his number (maybe even sooner, if he gets very close one year). He only played four years in Arizona, so that one’s a long shot. But maybe they decide to honor him because of how instrumental he was to that 2001 team. In any case, Arizona is more likely to retire his number than Boston, given that they’re an expansion team and are likely more willing to retire a number for a person who only played four seasons for them.

Lou Whitaker
Tigers: 1
I have no idea why the Tigers haven’t retired this number yet. They removed it from circulation for nearly two decades before just handing it to Jose Iglesias for some reason. Hopefully they aren’t waiting for a Hall election (they haven’t used that as a prerequisite in the past) given how overlooked Whitaker has been in voting.

Jim Thome
Indians: 25
I bet we see this one next year when Thome appears on the Hall ballot. Even if they’re waiting for him to actually be inducted first, it doesn’t seem they’ll be waiting for long.

Arky Vaughan
Pirates: 21, 5
Vaughan was incredibly underrated in his time, and had to wait for the Veterans Committee to induct him (strike one). He hasn’t played in seven decades, indicating there’s not much of a push for a retired number (strike two). The number he wore longest was later worn and retired for a much more notable guy by the name of Roberto Clemente (strike three). Probably not happening.

Larry Walker
Rockies: 33
The Rockies removed his number from circulation when he retired, and it looked like they were just waiting to let Todd Helton get his number retired first, as the face of the franchise. That time has come and gone, though, and Walker’s number has since been reissued (for one special case, and with Walker’s permission). I wonder what they’re waiting for?

Rafael Palmeiro
Rangers: 25; Orioles: 25
Rangers (10 seasons) are much more likely than the Orioles (7), but both are probably avoiding him for how he’s been embarrassed by steroids connections. We’ll need some indication the public perception of Palmeiro has moved beyond that before we see any buzz for this happening.

Johnny Mize
Cardinals: 10; Giants: 3, 15
Arky Vaughan 2.0, with the added benefit of splitting his prime years pretty evenly between two teams and missing three more to World War II. The Cardinals have retired his 10 for Tony La Russa, and he split his Giants years pretty evenly across two different numbers. There’s no momentum for this to happen right now; we’d need some sign of a shift in that before calling this at all possible.

Bobby Grich
Angels: 4; Orioles: 3
Played more games with the Angels and is probably more closely associated with them, despite starting in Baltimore. It’s actually kind of shocking the Angels haven’t retired his number yet, given his importance as one of their earliest stars. Maybe if the Veterans Committee finally pays attention and inducts him, he’ll become a higher priority, although it’s worth noting the Angels don’t actually use that as a requirement.

Carlos Beltran
Royals: 15; Mets: 15
Hopefully he makes the Hall of Fame like he deserves; maybe one of these two will retire his number regardless of that, but it would make things much more certain. I actually wonder if maybe he split his time between these two too evenly for one to want to claim him with a retired number? Or maybe they both do it? Or maybe just whichever goes on his hypothetical plaque’s cap? Only time will tell.

Frankie Frisch
Cardinals: 3; Giants: (no number)
You could make a solid case for him just on his numbers, but the fact of that matter is Frisch hasn’t played for eight decades. It’s probably just not happening at this point.

Red Ruffing
Yankees: 15
Much like Vaughan, Ruffing’s primary number has become someone else’s (Thurmon Munson, here). And while the Yankees retire quite a bit of numbers, I feel like the fact that they haven’t bothered here for seven decades is pretty telling.

Alan Trammell
Tigers: 3
Whitaker, part 2. Right down to having his number reissued after a long time out of circulation (here, for Gary Sheffield and then Ian Kinsler). I genuinely don’t understand it, and most Tiger fans I’ve heard sound off on this don’t either. What are they waiting for?

Rick Reuschel
Cubs: 48
Reuschel is one player who has, with the advent of advanced stats, become recognized as a really good player who wasn’t properly acknowledged in his time, in part due to playing on some bad teams and in front of some really bad defenses. Of course, being re-evaluated as good isn’t always good for retired numbers, as so much of it depends on emotion. Finding out a guy was good years after he retired isn’t so good for that. Something will probably have to change, like his case for the Veterans Committee picking up steam. And if he does start to draw attention, his number wouldn’t look too out of place with the rest of the Cubs.

Scott Rolen
Phillies: 17; Cardinals: 27
I’ve written a lot about Scott Rolen and the Hall of Fame, and I feel like his chances are highly dependent on that. His career is pretty evenly split between Philadelphia and St. Louis, which makes him a little less likely to get his number retired with either. A few more years in either place might have made one of them feel more closely associated with him (and probably helped his Hall of Fame case, if we’re being honest), but making the Hall might make one or both of them want to associate more closely with him. I don’t know about the Phillies (I get the sense they still aren’t to fond of him for a variety of reasons), but as a Cardinals fan, I look back fondly at his time in St. Louis and would love for them to step up. And in the off-chance one of them retires his number first, it might also help his Hall chances.

Miguel Cabrera
Tigers: 24
Maybe the Marlins try and cash in too, but I imagine Cabrera’s going to get his number retired in Detroit immediately upon retirement.

Manny Ramirez
Red Sox: 24; Indians: 24
Manny is another candidate who is very likely being hurt by steroid connections. If he hadn’t tested positive, he’d have probably made the Hall this summer and been honored by one (or even two) teams. Eight years in Boston that included a vital role in breaking The Curse (including the 2004 World Series MVP) and their follow-up title? Plus eight strong years at the start with the Indians during their 1990s dominance? Does he get all that now? The Cleveland retirement is more up in the air, but Boston will likely happen eventually given his importance to the franchise. They’ll just need some time to come around to it (like they needed with Wade Boggs). And Hall induction will help, but who knows how that will go in the near future.

Al Simmons
Athletics: uhh…7?
Like Foxx and Grove in that he’s primarily a Philadelphia A, but less good in that he didn’t spend the other half of his career mostly with one team. Also, he changed numbers, like, every year. He has thirteen different jerseys listed on Baseball-Reference. I have no idea what number the A’s would even want to retire for him if they ever got to that stage.

Kevin Brown
Look, I think Brown got snubbed in the Hall of Fame vote. He has the numbers, even if people don’t think of him that way, but still barely cracked 2% of the vote. But I have no idea which team would retire his number. He spent the most time in Texas, where he started, but those were pretty close to his worst seasons. Then he had four really good years in three different cities (Baltimore, Miami, and San Diego), before having four really good years (and one injured one) with the Dodgers, who, let’s face it, aren’t going to retire a number for four good-but-expensive years from a hired gun. I think this bouncing around is also part of what hurt his perception with Hall voters. Ah well.

Kenny Lofton
Indians: 7
He was unfairly snubbed in the Hall of Fame voting, falling off the ballot after only one year, but he seems like a perfect retired number candidate. He spent a decade’s worth of seasons in Cleveland, and his average season there was about All-Star level (nearly 50 WAR). Hopefully they aren’t waiting for Hall recognition (which they haven’t used as a requirement in the past, but who knows now). It would be great if there was movement on this front in the near future, though; as is, they haven’t even removed #7 from circulation, but that’s also true of Thome’s #25.

Graig Nettles
Yankees: 12
Why haven’t the Yankees retired his number yet? Did he not play there long enough (11 of 22 seasons)? Was it that he took a while to get there and therefore wasn’t a “True Yankee”? Maybe he just needs to be enshrined by the Veterans Committee to smooth all that over; of course, he’s more than worthy and that hasn’t done much for him so far…

Dwight Evans
Red Sox: 24
People have been pushing for Evans to make the Hall of Fame for years now. If that finally happens, he looks like a lock, given his nineteen years with the Red Sox. The one hang-up there might be that he shares a number with Manny Ramirez, but plenty of teams have retired the same number for two different players.

Luis Tiant
Red Sox: 23; Indians: 33
Tiant’s problem is something we’ll see frequently the rest of the way: his time was a little too evenly split between teams, with 8 seasons in Boston, 6 in Cleveland, and 5 in neither of those places. And he’s one of the best pitchers not in Cooperstown, so at least you can envision what would have to change to get his case considered; if he makes it in via the VC, maybe the team that goes on his hat would feel inclined to add him to their historic ranks. But unless something like that happens, though, he’s just sort of a good Hall of Fame snub who wasn’t strongly-enough associated with one team to overcome not making the Hall.

Buddy Bell
Indians: 25; Rangers: 25
If he had spent fifteen years in either place, he might have had one overwhelming case (especially Texas, given that he arrived relatively early in their history). Instead, he spent seven years in Cleveland and eight in Texas, and has two decent cases. Maybe if he makes the Hall, one team will make a move. Bell is one of several third basemen (the Hall’s most underrepresented position) all with similar numbers (Ken Boyer, Nettles, an A’s third basemen who will remain anonymous for the moment) who are on the outside of Cooperstown despite deserving at least another look, and being part of a clump like that makes things harder for any one of them.

Goose Goslin
Most of Goslin’s teams have abandoned him. His best years were spent with the Washington Senators, plus a handful of years for the St. Louis Browns. His only hope at this point would be for the Nationals to begin retiring numbers for older Washington stars, at which point he probably gets in line behind Walter Johnson (and possibly Joe Judge, Joe Cronin, Sam Rice, and Frank Howard). It doesn’t help that he didn’t wear a uniform for most of his time in the capitol (he started with #3 in 1930 before being traded away that year, switched to #5 for his one-year return three years later, and closed out with #20 in his 1938 swan song return to the Senators).

Willie Randolph
Yankees: 30
Randolph’s case feels like it overlaps a lot with Nettles. Maybe they were hurt because of when they played for the Yankees? I mean, both were on two championship teams (1977 and 1978) and two more pennant winners (1976 and 1981), but maybe since that isn’t a “dynasty”, it doesn’t count in their lore? Or maybe it was both “only” played for over a decade with the team (13 for Randolph, to Nettles’ 11). Or maybe it’s their positions? Second base isn’t quite as overlooked as third, but it has it’s own buildup of guys outside of the Hall who deserve attention (Grich, Whitaker, Randolph). I’m not sure what it’ll take for the Yankees to retire their numbers, but they definitely have the numbers, so it’s basically just up to the team. And it’s not like the Yankees always wait for Hall of Fame enshrinement for older guys; Ron Guidry, Randolph’s former co-captain of the team, got his number retired in 2003. No idea what’s going on here.

Red Faber
White Sox: 18
I’m going to be honest here: when I saw Faber’s name, I had no idea who he was. He’s a Hall of Famer, so I had probably heard of the guy at some point, but I was drawing a hard blank. I feel like that’s somewhat telling. He was a career White Sox, and they’ve been pretty open to retiring numbers, so maybe it’s possible. Being a Hall of Famer can’t hurt, at least. On the negative side, he only wore numbers for three seasons, and also he’s been retired for 84 seasons and dead for 41. He’s probably just too far out of memory.

Roy Halladay
Blue Jays: 32
For the longest time, the Toronto didn’t retire numbers, and stuck to a “Ring of Honor”, which was an interesting take I thought. And then Roberto Alomar went into Cooperstown as a Blue Jay, and next thing you know, they retired his #12, so I guess Hall induction is their requirement. Will Halladay make the Hall? I don’t know, as voters still don’t seem entirely sure how to evaluate pitchers apart from wins, but hopefully the shift towards Mussina and Schilling is the start of a trend that Halladay benefits from. Outside of the win total, he seems like the type of pitcher who’d get elected. And he deserves a retired number in the Rogers Centre either way.

Reggie Smith
Red Sox: 7; Dodgers: 8
Seven full seasons (eight total with his first call-up) in Boston, six in LA. Peak seasons split amongst those two plus St. Louis. This is formula is starting to look familiar. Once more, it’ll probably depend on his Hall of Fame status. He has some good numbers, but didn’t even hit 1% on his only BBWAA ballot and hasn’t appeared on a Veterans Committee ballot yet.

Chase Utley
Phillies: 26
Do they retire his number the minute he retires? And if so, do they make it a group affair with Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard? Or do they wait and see if Utley gets inducted into the Hall? If that’s their approach, they might be waiting a while, as Utley fits the profile of a guy the BBWAA wouldn’t fully appreciate.

Andruw Jones
Braves: 25
A lot like Lofton: a really good center fielder who’s Hall worthy, probably going to get overlooked, and spent so much of his time with one team that it makes a lot of sense to retire his number. I wouldn’t be shocked if he too was one-and-done. Hopefully the Braves don’t hold not making the Hall against him, but they’ve been pretty good about retiring their stars numbers, enshrined or not. It is worth noting though that, unlike all the other ‘90s stars they’ve honored lately, Andruw’s number has been reissued since his departure from Atlanta. We’ll get a better idea of how this plays out next year.

David Cone
Mets: 44 or 17
Cone’s case suffered from some trades. The Mets traded him right when he entered his peak, then he spent the next three years bouncing around before settling with the Yankees. As is, he has about 1200 and 900 solid innings with the Mets and Yankees, plus 600ish peak innings for the Blue Jays and Royals, so he feels really spread out. I do think that once the Hall of Fame gets better at inducting modern starters, Cone is right in that first tier that will benefit (along with Kevin Brown, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte, etc.). Maybe once that happens, the Mets will go back and retire a number for him.

Robinson Cano
Yankees: 24; Mariners: 22
Cano seems well on his way to Cooperstown. A retired number is a bit more up in the air, though. Maybe the Yankees decide to snub him for leaving? They don’t seem like they’d do that based on their other precedent, especially if he gets an “NY” on his plaque. But if he makes the Hall after a solid decade in Seattle, maybe all that won’t matter.

Tommy John
White Sox: 25; Yankees: 25; Dodgers: 25
He should probably be in the Hall of Fame, given both that his career is deserving (he’d be in lower end of Hall pitchers probably, but still better than a lot currently in) and his importance to the game. And maybe if he gets in, someone retires his number. He spent eight years with the Yankees, seven with the White Sox, and six with the Dodgers, all of which are possibilities, but none of which is a slam dunk. Maybe whoever goes on his hat’s plaque retires his number? Or maybe two teams retire his number? Or maybe none? Six-to-eight years are all in the “solid possibility” range, but maybe he just doesn’t have a strong enough connection to any one of those three.

Mark McGwire
Athletics: 25; Cardinals: 25
Despite only playing five years in St. Louis, the Cardinals only just returned #25 to circulation for Dexter Fowler. A number going back into circulation isn’t great, but the fact that it was held out for a decade and a half is a good sign. He was certainly well-liked in his time. As we move further from the steroids era, I think it’s more and more likely we see this happen. But the A’s are still the more likely team, just because he played there longer and will probably wear an A’s hat if he ever makes the Hall. I wouldn’t rule out either possibility, though, but I do feel like it may be contingent on Hall election. Or maybe not contingent, but related, as in, by the time his image is rehabilitated enough to merit induction, he’ll also be remembered fondly enough to also honor.

Wes Ferrell
Indians: 14
He didn’t really play anywhere long enough, with a max of seven years in Cleveland. And it’s easy to miss how good he was because of how much of his value came from hitting. Either way, it’s hard to see a guy with that type of career getting his number retired when he left the game before World War II and there’s been no sign since of it happening in the nearly-eight-decade interim.

Sal Bando
Athletics: 6
He’s as deserving, if not more so, than several of the players that Oakland has retired numbers for. But Bando has been overlooked in memory, for some reason, despite several All-Star and MVP ballot appearances, over a decade in Oakland, and some good numbers to boot. You’d think those 1970s A’s would have a bunch more retired numbers given how good they were, but they’ve basically kept it to Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, and Reggie Jackson (which is understandable, given how those players have all made the Hall of Fame, but at the same time, that feels like a very questionable set of honorees). I think you could make series arguments to throw in Bando, Bert Campaneris, and maybe even Vida Blue.

Early Wynn
Indians: 24
It always struck me as weird that the Indians have retired numbers for guys like Earl Averill, Mel Harder, and Bob Lemon, but not Early Wynn. His career wasn’t noticeably worse than any of those guys’, he’s in the Hall of Fame just like all of them (he’s even more memorable I’d say, given that he’s a 300-game winner), and he’s even spent about as long in Cleveland as some of them. But so far…nothing. I don’t get it. I guess it could happen, but given that we’re entering Year 64 of “Wynn Watch”, I think it’s fair to say it’s not happening. And it’s worth noting that his #24 has since become Manny’s number. Also, his second team was the Senators (eight seasons), so maybe he’s eligible in the extremely remote chance that the Nationals decide to expand to include all of Washington baseball.

Willie Davis
Dodgers: 3
Fourteen years all with the Dodgers and an at-least-borderline Hall case would make Davis a good candidate for a retired number. But 1) the fact that a lot of his value came from defense has left him underrated, and 2) the Dodgers are one of the stricter teams in the league on retiring numbers. Not making the Hall sinks his retired number case, for the time being.

Jim Edmonds
Cardinals: 15
Here’s another one that’s up in the air that I’d really like to see, although he presents the Cardinals with a stronger case than Scott Rolen, given his extra time in St. Louis. Half of his seasons (including his clear peak) took place there. He might need to make the Hall of Fame for the team to take action, but like fellow center fielder Kenny Lofton, he was pretty unfairly dropped from the ballot in one year. Of course, Ken Boyer got an exception on that guideline, so maybe someone who was a key part of those strong 2000s Cardinals can get a similar pass.

Gary Sheffield
Marlins: 10
Like Kevin Brown, Sheffield didn’t really stick around anywhere for long enough to make an impact. However, the Marlins are a new enough team and have had enough fire sales that his six seasons (four full, two partial) with the team feels like it could be enough (for reference, he had about as many games in Miami as Nolan Arenado has total). If he made the Hall of Fame in the near future, I could see the Marlins “claiming” him with a retired number, but that doesn’t seem likely at the moment. As more time goes on, it feels less and less likely that will happen.

Keith Hernandez
Mets: 17; Cardinals: 37
It always surprises me a little to remember that Hernandez spent more time and was generally better with the Cardinals; he feels much more integral to the Mets’ history than the Cardinals’. Which is partially why I listed them first; he just seems more well-liked by that fanbase, to the point where he might not even make the Hall to get that recognition. If he does get elected though, maybe even the Cardinals would act. He’ll be a solid candidate for the Veterans Committee to discuss going forward.

Bobby Abreu
Phillies: 53
I don’t get the sense Philadelphia fans are super fond of Abreu, which is basically his only hope. He just doesn’t have the intangibles he needs. It’d be nice to see a number above 50 retired (Abreu’s #53 would be just the eighth number between 51 and 99 retired, and the fifth above 51). (edit: With the announcement of Mark Buehrle the other day, that’s now nine and six, with two of those being for non-players.)

Ichiro Suzuki
Mariners: 51
The minute he retires, he’s probably getting his number retired. The first year he’s on the Hall of Fame ballot at the latest.

Dazzy Vance
Dodgers: 15 or 21
It’s not happening. Vance hasn’t played in over eight decades. He only barely played in an era where he wore uniform numbers. And, if you’re doing math, you might realize that means that he only played in Brooklyn and never Los Angeles. The Dodgers haven’t retired a number for a guy mostly known for time in Brooklyn in nearly three and a half decades, and most of the ones who got that honor were more famous and well-remembered than Vance is today. His moment has pretty much passed.

Vladimir Guerrero
Angels: 27; Expos: 27
The Expos have the better case, but they don’t exist anymore. Maybe when Montreal gets its eventual expansion team, they can re-retire the Expos’ old numbers and add Guerrero (and maybe Walker and Tim Wallach’s #29?). In the meantime, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Angels announce something if/when he crosses the 75% threshold on the Hall ballot (next year perhaps?). Los Angeles seemed to love him.

Bret Saberhagen
Royals: 31 or 18
It’s kind of shocking the Royals haven’t retired Saberhagen’s number already. Maybe it’s that he only spent eight years in Kansas City? But for a guy who won two Cy Youngs there and wound up retiring with a career on the shorter side from injuries, eight years is pretty good. I’d say he’s the clear pitching face of the franchise (Kevin Appier was also good, but didn’t get the same recognition and had a lesser post-Kansas City career). Not really sure what the thinking is here. Maybe it’s because he wore two different numbers for substantial amounts of time? Or maybe they’re just saving it for a year they need to drive up ticket sales? Who knows. This could easily happen, though.

Dick Allen
Phillies: 15
Never much liked in his time for his abrasive personality, Allen’s case has gotten quite a boost over the past few years as more advanced evaluations have shown just how good he actually was. If he makes the Hall, he’d certainly go in as a Phillie, and maybe then they’d retire his number.

Tim Hudson
Athletics: 15; Braves: 15
A little less evenly-split than some other guys here, with nine years in Atlanta versus only six in Oakland, but there are some mitigating factors. His better seasons came in Oakland, he started his career there, and he came up in their system. On the other hand, Atlanta was his hometown team. Like most of these players, he’ll probably need something extra to get attention from either, but he probably wasn’t quite good enough for the Hall of Fame, so I can’t foresee him getting it.

CC Sabathia
Indians: 52; Yankees: 52
I used to think Sabathia was a lock for the Hall of Fame, but then 2013-2015 happened and it looked like he might be done. And leaving on such a sour note would have sunk any chance he had of getting a retired number. Not to mention that his time is split between two teams so evenly that he would almost certainly need a Hall election to get a number.

But then…he bounced back last year. If that’s a new trend, he could still revive his Hall chances. But this is probably going to be his last year in New York, leaving him with pretty-good-but-not-great numbers with two teams. So yeah, it’ll probably depend on if he makes Cooperstown.

Mark Buehrle
White Sox: 56
I imagine the White Sox are just waiting for him to officially file the retirement papers. He fits right in with who they’ve retired in the past.

Edit: And in between me writing this and posting the finished article, the White Sox announced they’d be retiring his number in June.

Darrell Evans
Braves: 11; Giants: 41
Another classic case of “who gets custody?” Evans spent nine years in Atlanta (his first eight, plus one at the end), eight in San Francisco (with more games overall), and five in Detroit, plus he was pretty good with all three. Bill James has speculated that being so evenly split has helped explain why he got so little Hall support, although being a third baseman who got value through walks, power, and defense probably also didn’t help. Once again: if he makes the Hall someday, maybe someone retires his number. There are just so many more players ahead of him on the “if he makes the Hall” list…

Chuck Finley
Angels: 31
Finley looks like the perfect retired number candidate. Holds a lot of franchise records for pitchers (as well as the team’s overall WAR mark, until Mike Trout catches him). Fourteen years with the team. Was very good in his time there. No idea why they’re waiting, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see 31 retired eventually in Anaheim.

Sammy Sosa
Cubs: 21
His end in Chicago was too ugly, but time may heal those wounds. He was loved while he was there, and time already seems to be softening some of the hate for steroids-tied players. Maybe in another few years, both sides will be willing to make amends. He was definitely significant enough to the franchise to merit a retired number.

And one more as a bonus, because I accidentally wrote it up before realizing that my quiz didn’t actually include this many answers:

John Olerud
Blue Jays: 9
Olerud is a pretty fringe case. He years were pretty well split between teams, and so the Blue Jays are likely his best shot. He did come up with the team, win two titles, and spend parts of eight seasons there, but I feel like he might be a little overshadowed by other players from the team and docked some reputation for spending so much time elsewhere. Of course, that didn’t hurt Roberto Alomar, but Alomar was also a clear Hall of Famer. You could make a borderline case for Olerud, and he’d likely go in a Blue Jay in that case, but that doesn’t look anything close to imminent.

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