Sunday, February 22, 2015

But Where Is My Plaque?

One can dream

It's hard to believe, but December 12, 2014 was the 9th anniversary of My Pinstripes.  You would think that by now the Yankees would have contacted me to put a plaque in my honor, or the blog's honor, in Monument Park. I have no number to retire, but I've been writing about the Yankees longer than Tino Martinez was a Yankee and they had a day honoring him. And he got a plaque in Monument Park.

Sarcasm, not necessarily at its finest. You know the story by now. Family owned team builds new stadium and overspends in doing so.  Ticket prices go way up. Area parking goes way up. Food and souvenirs follow suit.

The new place holds less seats and less seats are filled. After five years and one World Series title, and two missed post-seasons (for the first time since the early 1990's), it's time to pull out the gimmicks.

Retiring endless numbers and/or putting numerous plaques in Monument Park, is just that, a gimmick to boost attendance. Prior to the 2014 season, the Yankees had retired numbers 1 (Billy Martin), 3 (Babe Ruth), 4 (Lou Gehrig), 5 (Joe DiMaggio), 7 (Mickey Mantle), 8 (Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey), 9 (Roger Maris), 10 (Phil Rizzuto), 15 (Thurman Munson), 16 (Whitey Ford), 23 (Don Mattingly), 32 (Elston Howard) 37 (Casey Stengel), 42 (Mariano Rivera) 44 (Reggie Jackson) and 49 (Ron Guidry).

Some can argue that some of those number(s) should not have been retired. (I'll argue that number 1 should not have been retired and was only done so due to the guilt George Steinbrenner felt for the way he mistreated Martin as a manager and the tragic circumstances surrounding Martin's death.)

Along comes the 2014 season, a season following one in which the Yankees missed the playoffs. It was Derek Jeter's last season, Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the year, and one player after another was felled by injury. Time to pull a rabbit out of the hat to get some fannies in the seats.

On May 8, the team announces that Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, Goose  Gossage, and Joe Torre will be honored with plaques in Monument Park. In addition, Torre's number 6 will be retired and Bernie Williams will be feted in 2015.

Torre was one of the most successful managers in team history and had the longest tenure, by far, of any manager since the big guy with the boats purchased the team. He and Gossage were both inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  No matter how big a fan you might have been of O'Neill and Martinez - and I was a huge fan, especially O'Neill - neither deserves a plaque in Monument Park.

Bernie Williams will have his number 51 retired on a Sunday night, yes at night, in May and Andy Pettitte will have his number 46 retired in August. Plus plaques in M.P. of course. Both well deserved for home grown products, especially Williams who suffered through the very lean years in the early 1990's. In addition to a plaque, Jorge Posada will also have his number 20 taken out of the available numbers. This is where things get a little iffy.

There's already been a debate as to whether Posada is worthy of the Hall of Fame. Those in favor point to his offense and how it stacks up against the catchers already in the Hall. The same type of debate has tkaen place about retiring Posada's number. His detractors point to his defensive shortcomings. A home grown talent, who spent 17 years in the Majors, I have no problem with Posada receiving a plaque. Retiring his number, I believe, is going overboard.

Willie Randolph, one of the classiest people around, will also be honored with a place in Monument Park this Summer. I would actually rather see the former Yankees player and coach's #30 retired, along with Mel Stottlemyre, who wore the number prior to Randolph.

Notice anything about the players being honored? Only Randolph and Gossage were not part of the 1996-2000 dynasty. The Yankees, obviously, are appealing to the fans who became fans or were already fans during that stretch. It makes sense if they are looking to help fill the empty seats and bring some excitement back to the Bronx.

But in doing so the Yankees have ignored some players that are a deserving of the honor. In addition to Stottlemyre, who pitched for the Yankees from 1964-1974 and was their pitching coach from 1996-2005, other players from the lean years should be recognized.  First and foremost, and yes I am definitely biased, is Bobby Murcer.

The late Oklahoman was one of the few name players the Yankees had in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Bobby Ray was with the Yankees from 1965-66, missed two years in the service, 1969 through 1974 and returned during the 1979 season until his retirement in June, 1983. He immediately joined the Yankees broadcast team and remained in that role into 2007.

Roy White was never flashy, he just quietly did his job. The Yankees smooth left fielder played his entire 15-year Major League career (He also played in Japan) with the Bronx Bombers. He too played on the weak teams of the 1970's with Murcer and Stottelmyre, but earned World Series rings with the 1977 and 1978 squads.

Others to consider - Sparky Lyle, Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella, Bill Skowron, and Allie Reynolds.

I may not get my plaque, but please don't tell me that Bubba Crosby is getting a plaque.