What happens to the 2015 Yankees remains to be seen, much depends on how healthy the team stays, but one thing’s for sure. There are going to be plenty of celebrations in the Bronx.
The Yankees officially announced today that they’ll retire Nos. 20, 46 and 51 for Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams, respectively.
Bernie Williams gets his day on May 24.
Jorge Posada day will be Aug. 22, followed by Andy Pettitte day on Aug. 23.
Willie Randolph, a standout second baseman and a longtime Yankees coach, will receive a plaque in Monument Park on June 20.
Some quick thoughts on each of these guys…
Williams was one of those great all-around players who always kind of got overshadowed by the more powerful personalities on his own teams and fairly similar players of his era, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Bonds, who were just a class above.
Williams only had one league-leading performance, winning the 1998 AL batting title with a .339 average. He was named to five straight All-Star teams between 1997 and 2001 and won four Gold Glove awards.
He was also a consistent force in the middle of the lineup. Between 1993 and 2006, the final year of his career, excepting the strike year of 1994, Williams played in at least 119 games every year. He finished with 2,336 hits, 287 home runs and a .297 lifetime average.
The Bernie Williams era didn’t end on particularly good terms for either side. He started to slide in 2003, when his average dipped to .263.
When his contract ran out after the 2006 season, the Yankees weren’t ready to give him a guaranteed roster spot for spring training in 2007. He never came to spring training and never played in the majors again.
Williams was always sort of left out of that Core Four group of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, mostly because he was a little older and wasn’t around for the 2009 World Series. So the Yankees deciding to retire his number should mend a few of the bridges that were broken by the way Williams’ career in pinstripes ended.
Posada got his first shot in pinstripes in 1995, but he didn’t really start to see a lot of playing time until 1998. For the better part of the next 14 years, he was the Yankees’ No. 1 backstop.
Posada had a little bit of pop at the plate – he hit 275 home runs – but he was also a selective switch-hitting catcher, a rarity in the game. He finished with a career batting average of .273 and a career on-base percentage of .374, again, pretty good numbers for a catcher.
Aside from a right shoulder injury in 2008, Posada was incredibly durable, recording no less than 545 plate appearances during his peak from 2000 to 2007.
Like Williams, Posada had an ungraceful end to his playing career. During his final season in 2011, Yankees manager Joe Girardi moved him to ninth in the batting order prior to a May game against the Red Sox. Posada, upset that Girardi hadn’t asked him about the move first, took himself out of the lineup. By August, Posada was being benched by Girardi and the writing was on the wall that his playing days were nearing an end.
Still, Posada was named to the All-Star team five times, won five Silver Sluggers and twice finished in the top 6 of the AL MVP voting. He was a cornerstone of those great Yankees teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Pettitte spent three years with the Houston Astros from 2004-06, but he came back in time to win a World Series, his fifth, with the Yankees in 2009. After retiring after the 2010 season, Pettitte returned in 2012, pitching well enough over 12 starts that he decided to come back in 2013. Pettitte’s final season was solid if unspectacular, as he went 11-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 30 starts, but to do that at 41 is pretty impressive.
Overall, Pettitte went 256-153 with a 3.85 career ERA over his 18 major league seasons. He went to three All-Star games and earned Cy Young votes five times. He led the league in one of the major stats just four times, winning 21 games in 1996 and making the most starts in 1997, 2006 and 2007.
Like Williams, Pettitte is likely to miss out on induction to the Hall of Fame. His numbers overall are fantastic for the era, but he was never a strikeout machine like Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez. He didn’t have Greg Maddux’s control. Pettitte may never have been considered the Yankees ace, overshadowed by David Cone, David Wells, Rogers Clemens, Mike Mussina and the like, but he was a very, very good pitcher for a very long time.
If there’s one stain on Pettitte’s career it’s his admission to using human growth hormone to recover from an elbow injury in 2002. Pettitte got in front of the story, apologized and said he never used the stuff again, and seemed to be forgiven by Yankees brass and fans alike.
Randolph played for 18 years in the major leagues and he played for six teams, but the bulk of his career was spent in the Bronx.
Acquired in a 1975 trade with Pittsburgh, the Yankees shipped Doc Medich for a package that included Randolph, Dock Ellis and Ken Brett, Randolph spent the next 13 years in pinstripes. He led the Yankees to World Series appearances in 1976, 1977 and 1981, earning a ring with the ’77 series win over the Dodgers.
Randolph was a career .276 hitter and finished with 2,210 hits. He was a six-time All-Star.
Once his playing career was over, Randolph spent 11 years as a Yankees coach, mostly during the team’s run of success in the late 90s’ and early 2000s. He went on to manage the Mets in 2005 only to be fired in the middle of the 2008 season following the Mets’ historic late-season collapse in 2007. Randolph held other coaching positions with the Brewers and Orioles in recent years.