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Monday, September 8, 2014

After Jeter's number goes, it will be a long, long time before the Yankees close out another jersey

Like all Yankee fans, while fidgeting in bed late at night or sitting on the throne of eternal knowledge, I've occasionally tried to calculate exactly when the Evil Empire - (aka, the Incompetent Empire) -  will run out of jersey numbers.

After Jeter's "2" is retired - (realistically, it is already gone) - we will have taken 18 numbers off the books. You could argue that it took 90 years to delete those 18 jerseys, but, in fact, the Yankee retirement craze began about 50 years ago and really kicked in during the last 20.

Thus, if the Yankees lop off another 18 numbers every half-century, by 2100, our next crop of Cito Culvers could show up in spring training with triple digits on their backs.

Should we worry? I sure don't. For starters, we'll be dead. It's like that super-volcano in Colorado: It'll happen, so urge your grandkids to settle in Maine. In the meantime, fear things that matter... like shark attacks and Slender Man.

But yesterday, during the pregame B.S. buffet, I found myself trying to ponder who on the field other than Jete was a legitimate candidate to have his number retired someday, or to be bronzed into Monument Park? Next year, the team will honor Bernie Williams. (No word on whether they'll retire his "51." I doubt they will, but then again, "51" is such an otherwise crappy number, they might. Was there ever a Yankee star who wore a crappier number?) 

Truth is: There aren't many numbers likely to soon go off the grid. Paul O'Neill's "21" will stay in circulation. That leaves "11" as the lowest - and, thus, I guess, the coolest - Yankee number in service after Jeter's "2" disappears.

And, seriously, what player on the '14 Yankees is likely to be immortalized with a day at Yankee Stadium? Mark Teixeira? Ummmm... I doubt it. He's crapped the bed now for two seasons, and he's ours for two more. By 2016, tearful goodbyes will be strained. A-Rod? Yeah, right - though they might never give anyone number "13" out of Triskaidekaphobia. Jacoby Ellsbury? He has Redsock DNA. Brett Gardner is a fine player, but no Yankee great. David Robertson? He needs to pitch at least 10 more years, and he might be gone next winter. Tanaka? Will his elbow hold?

If you're looking for a Yankee savior, you almost have to latch onto Rob Refsnyder or Aaron Judge - this year's versions of Slade Heathcott and Austin Romine. If one of them becomes a Yankee great, his jersey could go poof in the year 2035. By then, if not in the ground, I'm eating creamed corn.

Nobody on this Yankee team conveys the presence of a future Hall of Famer, as Jeter and Rivera did from their early careers. We had one such Yankee: Mr. Robbie Cano. For financial reasons - perhaps valid ones - the Yankee ownership decided to poor-mouth. Hal Steinbrenner - the multi-billionaire - reached into his pockets and pulled out the tongues. Yep, it was a tough decision, and - yep - the Yankees needed to wean themselves from excessively larded, long-term contracts. But in one stroke, they fire-hosed $150 million onto the mudslide of Beltran/McCann/Ellsbury - and then when Robbie came knocking, they sat on the cold pavement and rattled the cup until he went away.

Twenty-four would have been the next number to go. Maybe Refsnyder will get it. Maybe it will be worn forever. Doesn't matter to me. Unless some ex-Yankee cures cancer or kills Slender Man, it's going to be a long, long time - my lifetime - before we hold another jersey ceremony.

So... how are them Jersey Giants looking?

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