Friday, February 01, 2008

Retired Numbers: AL Central

It’s about time to continue on with this series: here’s the AL West version and back story.

Cleveland Indians:
World Series wins: 2
Current retired numbers: Earl Averill, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Mel Harder, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, The Fans

Okay, seriously… The Fans? Who are you, the Orlando Magic? When did this become acceptable? Granted, 455 straight sellouts is impressive, but come on. Basically what you’re saying is that you’re just as successful as, but draw better than, the Atlanta Braves. Well, what similarly successful team doesn’t draw better than the Braves? Is this really the bar that we’re setting?

(Shaking head…)

Back to the point, only two titles doesn’t leave much wiggle room, especially based on the potential hall-of-famers who played in Cleveland in the mid- to late-90’s. Of those above, I would only retire Bob Feller now, and hope that the current young core can win a title or two in the next five years to allow the latitude to retire someone else. Of the others, Mel Harder’s not in the Hall and wasn’t even that good, so he’s out. Boudreau, Doby, Lemon, and Averill are all in the Hall, and I’d rank them in that order if the team ever earns more slots. Of other Indians Hall of Famers, how the hell are Tris Speaker and Nap Lajoie not retired? That’s utterly ludicrous. I don’t even know who I would choose first to fill the second slot out of those two, that’s how freaking good they were. At gunpoint, I’d probably have to pick Lajoie, if only because the team was actually called the Naps for three years because of him. That seems like kind of an important fact in franchise history.

From those 90’s teams, Manny Ramirez is better known as a Red Sock, and Roberto Alomar as a Blue Jay/Oriole. Jim Thome could be an issue, but I think, right or wrong, the steroid stigma could follow him through retirement, and he may never end up in the Hall of Fame. Albert Belle’s hall candidacy is debatable, but I can see why, from a P.R. standpoint, you wouldn’t want to retire him. Omar Vizquel is absolutely not a Hall of Famer, but his candidacy is being debated anyway, for some reason. It is, of course, worth noting that none of these guys ever won a World Series in Cleveland.

The verdict: Retire Feller and Lajoie, and if you win the World Series this year, immediately retire Tris Speaker. Like, if you clinch the series at home, do it during the post-game celebration.

Detroit Tigers:
World Series wins: 4
Current retired numbers: Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Willie Horton, Al Kaline, Hal Newhouser
Current “Honored Names”: Mickey Cochrane, Sam Crawford, Ernie Harwell, Harry Heilman, Hughie Jennings, George Kell, Heinie Manush

I like what the Tigers do with their “honored names” here. It’s like having a second tier of great but not immortal players. A lot of teams have their own individual halls of fame for this, but if they’re anything like the Red Sox’, then they’re all easier to get into than Dunbar’s.

Ty Cobb is a given. I don’t care if he never had a uniform number - if you can’t retire a spot in franchise history for Ty Cobb, regardless of his, um, social flaws, then you might as well move the team.

Beyond Cobb, the other no-brainer is Al Kaline. After that, there are two spots for Greenberg, Gehringer, and an open number for the future. Newhouser was a borderline Hall of Famer, in my opinion, and Horton’s not even in, so they’re out. It doesn’t look like Trammel or Whitaker will get into the Hall, and nobody on the team now who’s good enough is really a lifelong Tiger. The team itself is good enough to win another title soon, though, so it’s relatively safe to use all four.

The verdict: Retire Cobb, Kaline, Greenberg, and Gehringer.

Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins:
World Series wins: 3
Current retired numbers: Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett

This one is tough; do you include the Washington years? The Twins franchise right now is just so distanced from that era, it seems strange. But since the original Senators won one title and have one icon worthy of the honor, I think it makes sense to use the first slot for Walter Johnson.

Now the Twins years get tougher. You have to do Killebrew, but then who? It actually made me laugh to see Hrbek’s name on this list – there’s just no justification for that, honestly. That’s a Boston Bruins move right there. Oliva also isn’t a Hall of Famer, so see you later. The last spot is tough; Carew was a better player than Puckett, and he had a longer career. Puckett, though, played his entire career in Minnesota, won two titles, and gets the sympathy vote. Luckily they traded Santana, so we don’t have to worry about keeping a number open for him and we can use that third slot pretty safely. I’d pick Carew by a hair for the last slot, but I wouldn’t envy the person who had to make this decision.

The verdict: Retire Johnson, Killebrew, and Carew, then lock yourselves in the Metrodome to hide from the pissed off Kirby Puckett fans.

Chicago White Sox:
World Series wins: 3
Current retired numbers: Nellie Fox, Harold Baines, Luke Appling, Minnie Miñoso, Louis Aparicio, Ted Lyons, Billy Pierce, Carlton Fisk

See, this is why we need to establish some standards when it comes to number retiring. The White Sox had eight iconic players? Really? Right away, we can cut it down to five by getting rid of non-Hall-of-Famers Baines, Miñoso, and Pierce. The glaring omission is Eddie Collins, but of course I’m an idiot and already retired him as a Philadelphia Athletic, even though he spent 12 years with the White Sox and was on the 1917 World Series team. The good news is that if I take him away from the A’s, that opens a spot for Lefty Grove or Jimmy Foxx, who I stupidly left off originally. I don’t much care for the Philadelphia A’s. They confuse me.

So, here’s an executive decision to retire the best second baseman ever (according to Bill James) as a White Sock, leaving two spots. Ross was pretty adamant when we discussed this that Frank Thomas has to be one, and I don’t disagree, so we can leave a slot open for him. That leaves one more from this mess: Fox, Appling, Aparicio, Lyons, and Fisk.

You can eliminate Fox and Aparicio because Appling was much better than both of them and also a middle infielder. Lyons was a pretty good pitcher who walked more guys than he struck out over his career (seriously), so I have to take him out. Fisk is tough because it’s debatable whether or not he belongs to the Red Sox. He’s got more years in Chicago, but they’re decline years, and of course he’s known most for Game Six in ’75. My gut tells me he belongs to Boston – please let me know if I’m just being a homer. That leaves Appling.

The verdict: Retire Collins and Appling, and keep a spot open for Frank Thomas when he’s done stealing money from the Blue Jays.

Kansas City Royals:
World Series wins: 1
Current retired numbers: George Brett, Dick Howser, Frank White

This one is simple. There’s one Royal in the Hall of Fame, and it’s George Howard Brett.

The Royals, by the way, have 22 people, including Ewing Kaufman’s wife, in the Royals Hall of Fame. Come on.

The verdict: Retire Brett.

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