What goes into retiring a players’ uniform number?
One would think there was a certain benchmark a player had to hit in order to be honored, but when you look around the league that doesn’t seem to be the case. Good on field production is obviously a key element across the board, but longevity is not necessarily a requirement. Some players make it to their respective clubs’ wall with a little help from sentimentality. So, while some teams may only have legendary numbers hanging in their park, others may have some that feel like a reach.
You also have to take into account the history of each franchise. The Cardinals and Padres aren’t cut from the same cloth. One is a storied franchise, while the other… plays in a beautiful city.
Every Major League franchise has at least 1 retired number, plus Jackie Robinson. If you ask me, Roberto Clemente’s #21 should be retired league wide as well, but that’s another story. The Yankees naturally lead the way with 21, while 4 teams bring up the rear with 2 each.
So, is this who I believe should be next, or who I believe will be next? Well, it’s a bit of both. I didn’t come up with a formula. I tried to use educated guesses based on the pattern each franchise has used to decide their retired numbers in the past. Some of my picks might seem a bit controversial. Many of my picks are probably obvious, and a few are completely out of left field… which is coincidentally where some retired numbers hang.
30 Arizona Diamondbacks - Paul Goldschmidt #44
While the D-Backs haven’t been around long, they do have a pretty strong history. So far they’ve only managed to retire two numbers – Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez. Guys like Mark Grace and Matt Williams are immortalized as giant headed mascots in their Legends Race, but neither seem like future number retirees. If Curt Schilling didn’t completely fall off the deep end, he may have had a shot at some point, but I think we’re gonna be waiting for a while before they slap another number up on the wall. The safe and pretty obvious bet is Paul Goldschmidt. The perennial MVP candidate has already been in the league for seven seasons, all with Arizona, and is the face of the franchise.
29 Atlanta Braves - Andruw Jones #25
It almost feels like people have forgotten just how good Andruw Jones was. Never mind his transcendent defensive prowess, the guy mashed while playing alongside Chipper Jones and the Braves all those years. Jones racked up ten Gold Gloves while also being named to five All-Star teams with the Braves. Sure, he left Atlanta and kinda faded into oblivion, but he still put in enough time to warrant his number 25 on the wall. Jones was also one of the first players to usher in a pipeline of talent from Curacao, which is currently pumping out Major League stars. He should be a lock.
28 Baltimore Orioles - Mike Mussina #35
Mike Mussina is a guy who is argued about every year around Hall of Fame voting time. He’s a borderline Hall of Famer, who has seen momentum grow in his favor over the years and could very well sneak it at some point. If that happens, he’s an automatic number retiree in Baltimore. If it doesn’t happen, I still say they should throw his number 35 on the wall. A decade of good to great seasons in Baltimore should be more than enough to warrant the honor, but no one really ever knows Peter Angelos’s thought process, do they?
27 Boston Red Sox - Manny Ramirez #24
OK, so here’s the first “steroid” guy on the list. Look, I understand the stigma that a lot of these guys carry, and I realize Manny Ramirez is one of the players who actually tested positive for a banned substance… but he’s Manny. How can you not love Manny? Whether you consider his numbers legitimate or not, he’s one of the best hitters in baseball history. If Albert Pujols didn’t exist, we might very well be talking about him as the best right handed hitter of his generation. Taking all of that into account, I didn’t even mention his importance to the Red Sox. Pedro and Big Papi are on the wall, it would be a shame if Manny never had his day. If they decide not to retire his number, they better at least erect a Fenway statue of him cutting that ball off in left field for no reason.
26 Chicago Cubs - Anthony Rizzo #44
This is a tough one. I really wanted to pick Henry Rowengartner, as he’s deserved his day in the sun for twenty plus years now. OK, that’s obviously a joke, but there aren’t many sure thing number retirees for the Cubs. They’ve shown they’re open to giving flags to guys who didn’t play there long – Greg Maddux only pitched in Chicago for seven seasons – but there’s still not many guys that stick out. You and I both know Sammy Sosa is probably never getting his number retired. Baseball has essentially shunned him, and he and the Cubs aren’t on speaking terms anyway. At this point I don’t think they’ll go digging in the crates and retire someone from decades ago, so we may be waiting a while here. You gotta figure someone from the current crop – Anthony Rizzo being the safest bet – will get up there eventually if he keeps up his career path. Being the de facto captain of the team that broke the curse doesn’t hurt either.
25 Chicago White Sox - Ozzie Guillen #13
The last two White Sox players to have their numbers retired were Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle, so it appears they have lowered the bar a little. Nothing against both of those guys – great White Sox – but it just seems like they’re willing to steer from the “legendary” players. That’s not a bad thing. It’s all a show for the fans anyway, isn’t it? There aren’t many obvious choices. I would have considered a good player like Robin Ventura, but his managing stint probably ruined those chances, so I’m gonna flip it and pick Ozzie Guillen. He was by no means a great player, but he did play for the Chisox for thirteen seasons. Oh, and he managed the team to a World Series championship in 2005, which counts for a lot. I’m not entirely sure what their current relationship is – you never know with Ozzie – but I can see reconciliation down the line.
24 Cincinnati Reds - Adam Dunn & Eric Davis #44
This one is controversial admittedly. I feel like both of these guys have been all but forgotten around baseball. Adam Dunn finished his career 38 homers short of 500, and while we’re not putting as much stock in benchmark numbers anymore, that’s pretty noteworthy. People liked to call him an “all or nothing” guy, but he consistently got on base at a good clip while also hitting absolute bombs. He bounced around the league, but most people associate him with the Reds. In the early 2000s he WAS the Reds. About a decade before that Eric Davis was a five tool player threatening to go 30-30 every year, while making two All-Star teams. He was also part of the 1990 World Series champs. I just like the idea of two players sharing a number and an honor. I feel like that would make for a really cool day at Great American Ballpark. It’s a stretch, but if not these two, then who? I guess the Reds can always hang Chris Sabo’s rec-specs from a flagpole. All fun aside, I’m pretty sure they aren’t gonna retire Dunn and Davis’s number in a dual ceremony, so we’re probably gonna be waiting for Joey Votto. Brandon Phillips could sneak in.
23 Cleveland Indians - Jim Thome #25
As much as I’d like to give some love to the unlovable Albert “Don’t call me Joey” Belle, Jim Thome is a cut and dry lock here. He played for a bunch of teams, but his number will be retired with the Indians and his Hall Of Fame plaque will feature Chief Wah… actually, it’ll probably just feature the Cleveland “C.” The guy already has a statue outside Progressive Field dedicated to him, so it almost feels like a cheat to pick him. Omar Vizquel (who is definitively NOT a HOFer) may beat him up there if the Indians dilly dally, but I would assume we’re gonna see Thome’s number 25 on the wall within the next couple years, especially with his definite Hall of Fame induction looming.
22 Colorado Rockies - Larry Walker #33
I can call back to a few iconic Rockies from the '90s, but it’s actually shocking Larry Walker’s number isn’t on the wall. That fact blew me away. I just assume his number 33 was up in Coors for nearly a decade by now. Whether or not you want to discredit Coors hitters, Larry Walker SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame. Some of his years in Colorado were incredible. Not only was he one of the game’s best all around hitters, he was a great defensive outfielder as well. With all due respect to Todd Helton – who was Mr. Rockie if there was one – Larry Walker should have beat him up on the Coors Field wall. The Rockies have no history to speak of, so while not a lifer, Walker was there long enough to be honored.
21 Detroit Tigers - Miguel Cabrera #24
I was shocked to learn Alan Trammell’s number wasn’t retired. Honestly, I just assumed he was, but then I realized the Tigers only seem to honor truly legendary players. I guess 20 seasons of being one of the faces of the Tigers wasn’t enough for Trammell, so the choice is easy – Miguel Cabrera. Miguel Cabrera is a borderline immortal hitter. Is he even borderline at this point? He’s heading towards the latter days of his career soon, so even if you believe a guy like Justin Verlander will eventually get up there, Miggy will probably beat him. He’ll coast into Cooperstown with a D on his hat.
20 Houston Astros - Billy Wagner #13
OK, this one might be my biggest reach. It’s really tough to get your number retired. It’s nearly impossible to get your number retired if you’re a closer. Billy Wagner was truly underrated. He was a dominant borderline HOF closer, who stacks up right beside “sure thing” Trevor Hoffman. Now granted he wasn’t an Astro lifer, and you can probably make a better case for someone like “Killer B” Lance Berkman, but he’s never gonna sniff the Hall. I’m probably putting way too much stock in the whole “borderline Hall of Famer” stuff, but I just think Billy Wagner deserves to be honored by someone at some point. Why not the Astros?
19 Kansas City Royals - Salvador Perez #13
Realistically it should be Bob Hamelin… nah but seriously, this seems like a case where the next retired number is on the team now. I guess it could be Hosmer (who is an overrated pending FA) or Sal Perez when all is said and done. Sal Perez seems like he’ll probably be a lifer, so he’s my pick. He’s the Yadi Molina of Missouri’s other team. I had a hard time finding anyone else from the past that seemed worthy, but I had to pick someone. He’s their guy and while it’s a long projection, Sal Perez feels like a worthy gamble.
18 Los Angeles Angels - Tim Salmon #15
Here’s another controversial pick. Would it have been a copout if I chose a manager? Mike Scioscia has been managing this team since Y2K. They’ve had some nice players come and go, and two of the greatest players of all time currently, but I think Scioscia beats Trout to the wall. Thing is, I think Tim Salmon beats Scioscia. He’s my dark horse. Salmon never made an All Star team, but he did win a ROY and was great in that 2002 World Series. For a while he was the guy you’d associate with the Angels. No Angel has worn his number 15 since he retired, so that’s a nice clue. He’s my pick. Mike Trout may not even be the first fish put up on the wall by the Angels. He’ll be third if you count the Big Mouth Billy Bass in Mike Scioscia’s office. I really wanted to say Vlad Guerrero, but I don’t know if he was there long enough. I think the fact the Expos no longer exist leans in his favor though. Someone has to retire Vladdy’s number, right? I still say Salmon beats em all.
17 Los Angeles Dodgers - Clayton Kershaw #22
With all due respect, it wouldn’t be right to put a Steve Garvey or Eric Karros outside of Dodger Stadium with the likes of Sandy Koufax and the Brooklyn greats. The Mike Piazza ship has sailed as he went into the Hall as a Met. So, who else is there? The Dodgers have enough of a rich history to dig deep into the past and honor someone, but I think they’ll just hold out for a while until Clayton Kershaw’s career is over. He can retire tomorrow and enter Cooperstown. Anyone who has been to Dodger Stadium knows there are numbers outside to take photos with, and Kershaw’s 22 would fit right in with the legends already assembled. It’s tough to really find anyone else worthy enough.
16 Miami Marlins - Giancarlo Stanton #27
The Marlins are tough as they are basically just a pit stop for most players. The only real choice is their adopted son, Jeff Conine… but come on, is he good enough to have his number retired? The only number they currently have retired is unfortunately Jose Fernandez’s, so if they haven’t honored Conine by now, it’s probably not happening. The way the Marlims sell off players makes it nearly impossible for someone to stick longer than a few years. I’ll go with Stanton because there are really no other candidates, and his Jeffrey Loria-special backloaded contract may be impossible to move despite his talent level (when healthy.)
15 Milwaukee Brewers - Ryan Braun #8
Braun would be an easy pick if not for the steroid stuff, but who else is there? Prince Fielder didn’t play long enough despite being beloved. The Brewers have lacked star power for decades now. They’ve already honored their legends. Maybe they can hang Bernie Brewer’s overalls from the rafters. Despite the whole fiasco a few years ago, I’m gonna stick with Braun. He’s their guy, and has a lot of time to make people forget about the PED stuff. So, it's safe to assume that down the line, you will see his jersey retired out in Milwaukee.
14 Minnesota Twins - Joe Mauer #7
This is a pretty easy pick despite how far down the line it’s gonna be. The Twins seem to already have their historic players covered, so we’re probably gonna have to wait until Joe Mauer retires. His career has fallen off some, but he’s done more than enough to warrant the honor, especially when you factor in him being a native son of Minnesota. There is really not much to dispute here as Mauer will certainly find himself honored at the end of his career by those who have admired him for so long in the Minnesota Twins organization.
13 New York Mets - David Wright #5
As a diehard Mets fan, this one hurts. It hurts because it’s probably coming sooner rather than later. While most Mets fans will probably tell you players like Keith Hernandez, Doc, Daryl and Gary Carter deserve their retirement days; the Mets are historically stingy, and I don’t see it ever happening. Keith has a shot when his broadcasting career is over, but for now the next guy is David Wright. Wright was well on his way to a Hall of Fame caliber career before injuries derailed him. Sadly, with every passing game missed it’s looking he may not have much playing career left. He’s the Captain and has been the face of the Mets over a decade, so he’ll undoubtedly get his number 5 on the wall one day. I’ll be in attendance on that day. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him manage the team at some point too. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Carlos Beltran’s 15 up there eventually, and think he wears a Mets cap into Cooperstown if he gets there.
12 New York Yankees - Alex Rodriguez #13
Look, don’t let my Mets fandom cloud your judgment. I’m not a Yankees hater… but I know they aren’t retiring A-Rod’s number. It’s not happening. So, who is my actual choice for the Yankees? No one. Stop retiring numbers. The more guys you retire, the closer you come to tainting Monument Park. I guess they pretty much had to put all of the “Core Four” in, but does Andy Pettitte really belong there beside Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle? Let’s pump the brakes for a while, Yanks. If they keep going, Yankee players will be wearing #100 in twenty years because they ran out of non-retired numbers. I’ve heard whispers of Tino Martinez, Hideki Matsui and Paul O’Neill getting plaques, which I think would be outrageous. Don’t get me wrong, they were all great Yankees… but come on. Are these immortals? The Yankees hold their franchise in such high regard you’d think Monument Park would be reserved for Gods. I can argue Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams shouldn’t be in there either. ARod is a legendary player. A lot of Yankee fans hated A-Rod despite his MVPs and WS title. They seemed to dislike him because he wasn’t Jeter. He wasn’t Jeter. He was better than Jeter. Man, maybe I am a hater, but I really think the Yankees need to take a decade or two off from retiring numbers. Maybe Aaron Judge is your next guy. People seem desperate to anoint him that after a few months... Ok, I’ll stop.
11 Oakland Athletics - Billy Beane #N/A
There’s not a team in baseball I pay less attention to. As a fan of a NL East team, the A’s are barely on my radar, so accept my apologies if I somehow missed a worthy name in my research. No one has seemed to cement themselves as a superstar in Oakland since the Hudson/Zito/Mulder days, but none of them have a shot. Hudson would have been close if he stayed a few more years. Miguel Tejada had a nice run, but it was ultimately a short one. Mark McGwire ruined his chances or he’d probably be a lock. I figured Dave Stewart would be up there, but his numbers weren’t as good as I thought they were overall in Oakland. Still, I’m kinda shocked he’s not. I’m having a really hard time finding a player, so I really think they’ll probably just put Billy Beane’s Blackberry number up on the wall or something. Sure, that’s a joke, but it’s also not really a joke. The A’s are the only team in baseball whose GM is the face of their franchise. How many GMs in sports have had a movie made about them? Yeah, I’m cheating, so what? As we’ve learned from some of my previous picks, some of the greatest ballplayers in history were “cheaters.”
10 Philadelphia Phillies - Chase Utley #6, Jimmy Rollins #11 & Ryan Howard #26
Realistically it could be any of the Rollins/Utley/Howard trio. I would assume Jimmy Rollins would get the nod first, but I really think they should do a joint retirement ceremony in a few years. Chase Utley has a few years left at best, and Ryan Howard is basically already out of baseball. I always associated these guys with each other. They were ¾’s of the Phillies infield for a decade and won a World Series together. Each guy is probably worthy of having their number put on the wall, so why not just do it all at once?
9 Pittsburgh Pirates - Andrew McCutchen #22
I won’t pretend I’m confident in this pick. Cutch’s career hit a tiny speed bump last year, but he seems to have recovered. He’s won a MVP and has been the face of the Pirates for years now. The only problem here is that he may very well be traded soon. Has he done enough in black and gold to warrant a number retirement down the line? I think he’s borderline at the moment. With all that said, I wanted to find a better pick, but couldn’t. It should be Barry Bonds, but let’s be real, it probably never will be. Never mind the fact this was (allegedly) pre-juice Barry Bonds who was a star in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have one of the strongest lineups of retired numbers, so we could be waiting a long time. Andrew McCutchen’s chances probably hinge on him finishing his career in Pitt, but he’s so beloved he probably has a strong chance regardless.
8 San Diego Padres - Jake Peavy #44
With all due respect to the Padres, they probably have the worst history in baseball. Almost fifty years in the league and there is just nothing much outside of Tony Gwynn owning the league for a while and a couple World Series losses. I’m shocked they even have five numbers on the wall in Petco to be perfectly honest. With Trevor Hoffman already up there, I’m stumped. I honestly don’t think they have a candidate… so I’m calling back to my not so original idea of retiring Roberto Clemente’s number around the league. There… there’s another number for your wall, San Diego - #21. Ok fine, since I have to pick a Padre, I’ll go with Jake Peavy. He won a Cy Young and was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game for a stretch. Sure he then went to a hated rival and won it all, but he’s still a Padre in my eyes and I’m sure they still have love for him down in San Diego.
7 San Francisco Giants - Barry Bonds #25
I’m gonna be defiant on this one. I don’t wanna hear PED backlash. Whatever, it happened. A lot of guys were on them… but Barry Bonds was arguably the greatest hitter in history on them. While I understand your anti-Bonds arguments, that’s still incredibly impressive. He was the Giants. Through an asterisk next to his number if you want, but don’t act like Bonds didn’t make your franchise boatloads of money. All of this said, it’s probably gonna end up being Buster Posey in 20 years, which will be well earned, but Bonds!
6 Seattle Mariners - Randy Johnson & Ichiro #51
Edgar Martinez is getting his number retired this season, so Randy Johnson should be next. He “should be next.” If they planned on retiring his number, why haven’t they done it already? He wasn’t there for 20 years, but you make exceptions for legends of the game. If not RJ, Ichiro will be next as he’s obvious. The thing is they both wore #51. I heard a rumor Seattle was waiting for Ichiro to retire at age 65 or whatever, to do a joint retirement ceremony. That actually makes total sense, and I really hope that’s the route they take, because both of these guys deserve to be immortalized as Mariners.
5 St. Louis Cardinals - Albert Pujols #5
I really wanna pick the underrated Jim Edmonds, but with only 8 seasons in red, I doubt they’d put his image on the outfield wall with all the previous Cardinal legends. Mark McGwire has basically been shunned by the league despite saving it, so that’s a no on him (Steroids yadda yadda, etc.) That leaves Albert Pujols. Albert still has some playing to do, and he may not be what he used to be, but what he used to be was an immortal. He’s a stone cold lock, and should get a statue at Busch in my opinion. Yadier Molina could technically beat Albert to the wall, but I get the feeling he has a lot of game left in him.
4 Tampa Bay Rays - Evan Longoria #3
Slim pickings down in Tampa. It’s tough for a team who has been around since the 90s to rack up many worthy retirees, so the Rays are gonna have to wait it out. Still, they retired Don Zimmer’s number and he never even managed them, so they may have an itchy trigger finger. If they wanted to rush things, I have no clue where they’d go. Carl Crawford? I doubt it. We’re probably waiting out Evan Longoria’s career on this one. He’s been the face of the organization and should finish his career with some really impressive numbers.
3 Texas Rangers - Adrian Beltre #29
The Rangers have very few retired numbers, shockingly. They’re finally giving Pudge his day this season, but beyond that, I don’t know. Juan Gonzalez is essentially forgotten but was excellent in the 90s. I have to imagine they would have done his ceremony by now if they planned on it. I guess we’re waiting out Adrian Beltre here. He’s only been there since 2011, but they adore the guy and he’s gonna enter the Hall of Fame wearing a Rangers hat. He’s hopefully got a few more seasons left in his legs, and should reach the 500 homer and 3000 hit clubs, so he’s a lock.
2 Toronto Blue Jays - Carlos Delgado #25
Lock it up. Give the man his banner already, Jays. Carlos Delgado was one of the most underrated hitters of the decade, and he unfairly got lost in the shuffle playing for a bad team in a league loaded with amazing First Basemen. Despite his enormous numbers, he somehow fell off the Hall of Fame in one year. I’m not claiming he should be in the Hall, but one year on the ballot is horrible. It’s unfair really. Delgado was a monster and most of his damage came north of the border, so they should do the right thing and honor him.
1 Washington Nationals - Ryan Zimmerman #11
Poor Vladdy. I just don’t see the Nats ever retiring an Expo at this point. There’s still hope he gets on the Angels’ wall, and he’ll always have Cooperstown. As for the Nats? Ryan Zimmerman seems like a safe pick, especially with his sudden career resurgence. He has essentially been the Nationals’ David Wright since Washington’s re-inception to the league. He’s been there through good times and bad, and has sat out a ton of games due to injury. Still, he’s been a National through and through. Zimmerman has played at least parts of thirteen seasons, all in Washington, and put up strong numbers. The Nationals obviously don’t have enough history to even speculate beyond him, so I’d assume he’s next.