More Yankees, Mets to be immortalized
David LennonDavid Lennon
David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since
Upset that Gary Carter's No. 8 is not retired by the Mets? Disappointed that Mike Mussina is stuck on the waiting list for Monument Park?
Just because your favorite player hasn't been immortalized yet at Citi Field or Yankee Stadium, that doesn't mean it won't happen.
In some cases, the timing is everything, and that became evident this past week when the Yankees announced their next round of honorees -- the start of what the team has dubbed a "recognition series'' of former greats.
Joe Torre will have his No. 6 retired on Aug. 23, a month after his Cooperstown induction. Goose Gossage, a Hall of Famer since 2008, will receive a plaque in Monument Park, as will Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez.
Next season, it will be Bernie Williams' turn, and the likelihood is that his No. 51 will be retired, making it the 19th number to be taken out of circulation by the Yankees. We haven't officially counted Derek Jeter's No. 2 yet because he's still wearing it, but that will bring the count to 20.
And what about Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, the other half of the Core Four still on hold? We have to believe the No. 46 and the No. 20 are scheduled to be retired as soon as the Yankees pick an appropriate spot, perhaps one each in 2016 and 2017.
With so many potential honorees still on the docket, Monument Park could begin feeling as stuffed as Central Park on a sunny May weekend, and that's before thinking about more plaques for players such as Mussina, who might wind up in Cooperstown someday.
So when does this current "recognition series'' end? Probably not for a while. The Yankees have four title teams to honor from the dynasty years (1996-2000) along with two others that fell just short of a ring in 2001 and 2003. We're putting off the 2009 world champs for the time being, but that team's five-year anniversary is fast approaching.
Hence, the problem. Where do the Yankees draw the line between very good players and Bronx immortals?
Some might argue O'Neill and Martinez fall in the former category, but there are more factors involved than just numbers and whether a player receives Cooperstown consideration.
The fact that both players were significant pieces of a Yankees dynasty adds weight to their numbers. Plus, O'Neill, currently a YES analyst, and Martinez remain hugely popular, which makes them more plaque-worthy in the eyes of the franchise's decision-makers.
Think of it this way: Monument Park is really just a Yankees Hall of Fame by another name, serving a similar function to what the Mets created at Citi Field -- a place to honor players and achievements, as well as to bridge the gap between generations of fans.
And when it comes to determining who deserves what, that comes up on a year-to-year basis, with ownership huddling with the baseball operations and marketing departments to map out a plan for the coming season.
The whole process is an inexact science. As Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo explained, the Yankees follow no specific criteria when it comes to retiring numbers or dedicating plaques. Some are slam dunks, such as Jeter and Mariano Rivera, while others may take some deliberation.
Based on the post-'96 boom, the Yankees have a long list of potential honorees. "It's a good problem to have,'' Zillo said.
Across town, the Mets have wrestled with a smaller but no less deserving group of candidates, including Hall of Famer Carter, Mike Piazza and maybe even others from the '86 world champions.
The franchise has retired only three numbers in addition to Jackie Robinson's No. 42 -- Casey Stengel's 37, Gil Hodges' 14 and Tom Seaver's 41 -- but Piazza seems to be next in line.
Piazza's No. 31 has not been issued by the Mets since he left after the 2005 season, and he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame last year. But the Mets appear to be waiting on Piazza's campaign for Cooperstown, and he fell 74 votes shy of the 75 percent needed (429) for induction in his second year.
Carter's No. 8, Keith Hernandez's No. 17 and Willie Mays' No. 24 also have been mostly kept out of circulation, so they remain possibilities.
In the meantime, the Mets rely on a seven-person committee to decide on their own Hall of Fame, which has 27 inductees. Who will follow Piazza? David Wright? That would be a bit of a wait.
Randolph's baseball life
He managed the Mets for nearly four seasons, but it shouldn't be a surprise that Willie Randolph's memoir (to be released Tuesday) is named "The Yankee Way,'' a reflection on the years that shaped his career -- as a person, player and coach.
Randolph's backstory is a familiar one for New York fans on either side of the RFK bridge, but he does offer more details on a number of topics, including plenty of behind-the-scenes moments from his Mets days and ultimately his firing after a 34-35 start in 2008.
"I remain very proud of the things we accomplished while I was wearing the Mets uniform,'' Randolph writes. "I wasn't happy about the decision and felt then, much as I do today, that if given the opportunity, my staff and I could have contributed to the kind of sustained excellence that the Braves and Yankees have enjoyed.''
Randolph also uses a chapter titled "Making Some Tough Calls'' to do his own head-to-head comparison of Tino Martinez and Don Mattingly, as well as how he stacks up with the top second basemen from his playing days (1975-1992).
The "All-Willie'' team debates continue in subsequent chapters, from shortstop to third base to "The Battery,'' where Randolph praises one of his favorite teammates.
"Nobody I ever played with competed harder, or wanted to win more, than Thurman Munson,'' Randolph writes.
Of course, no baseball book from this era would be complete without addressing PEDs. Randolph mentioned that he was interviewed by George Mitchell's investigators during the spring of 2007 in Port St. Lucie, Florida, when he was asked about Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch and trainer Brian McNamee.
Randolph admits he was no different from many other players in trying amphetamines, or "greenies,'' to get through a long season.
"Some teams had two coffee pots -- one filled with standard-issue java, the other with spiked java,'' Randolph writes. "I sipped the spiked java a few times in my career, but I never liked the way it made me feel. It didn't feel right, didn't feel natural.''