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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

DOES A UNIFORM NUMBER REALLY MATTER?

Since 1929, the New York Yankees put numbers on the back of their players’ uniforms and they were the first team to regularly do so. We are in the day and age where most teams have players’ names on the back of their jerseys along with several alternate jerseys to choose from. You almost don’t know what team is playing half the time.

The Yankees have retired 15 uniform numbers in their illustrious history and will undoubtedly be retiring a few more in the coming years. There are some uniform numbers in recent history that are not retired, but are not being regularly used as a tribute to important former players and a manager. For instance:
  • #6: Joe Torre. This number hasn't been worn since Joe left in 2007.
  • #55: Hideki Matsui. Matsui was beloved and wore #55 for 7 years. No one wore it in 2010, but now Russell Martin wears it because it was his number in Los Angeles.
My concern is reserved for #35. This number was used by notable Yankees such as Manager Ralph Houk, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, and John Wetteland. Mike “Moose” Mussina wore #35 for 8 seasons as a New York Yankee too. There is a lot to be said for what kind of pitcher Moose was for the Yankees. To me, he was a fierce and determined competitor. He walked very few batters and was also a very good fielder. Moose was sometimes on pitching staffs where he was the second or third best starting pitcher. But when your starting rotation has the likes of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte or Orlando Hernandez, there is no shame in that distinction.

Here is what Mike Mussina did for the Yankees in his 8 years in pinstripes:

W-L: 123-72, W-L%: .631, ERA: 3.88, ERA+: 115, IP: 1553.0, K: 1278, BB: 318, WHIP: 1.212, K/9: 7.4, BB/9: 1.8, 3 Gold Gloves

He came within 1 out from pitching a perfect game against the Boston Red Sox in 2001 AND who can forget his performance in his only relief appearance in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

I was pleased to see the Yankees sign Michael Pineda in spite of us giving up Jesus Montero for him. He is a young workhorse that should give us a lot of innings. He has added a change-up to his repertoire and gets more comfortable with it every day. I figured since AJ Burnett was dealt to the Pirates, that Pineda could be given his old #34. I was wrong. #35 has been out of circulation for 3 seasons and is now being issued to Pineda for the 2012 season. Pineda showed up to Spring Training several pounds overweight and he has not totally recovered the usual speed on his fastball...yet. I hope that is not a factor once the regular season begins, but history has shown us what happens when pitchers show up out of shape. You can just ask Phil Hughes.

I always liked Moose so I guess it is a personal thing for me but I don’t like his uniform number being used so quickly after his retirement. I am sure to be questioned harshly by some when I suggest that Mike Mussina is a serious Hall of Fame candidate. Many would disagree and that's fine, you have your opinions and I'm allowed mine. I also know there is a difference in some fans’ minds about Yankee players who once played for other teams. In the meantime, I will hope for the best out of Pineda and see if he will earn that number the way Mussina did. Hopefully he too will make us proud like Moose did.




--Joseph Saucedo, BYB Guest Writer

Follow me on Twitter: @JD_Sauce70



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