News broke on the afternoon of February 19, 2019 that Manny Machado had agreed in principal to a deal with the San Diego Padres. The deal is for 10 years and $300 million including an opt-out after year five. The deal, if Machado passes a physical, keeps him away from the New York Yankees. People were spending all off-season saying the Yankees, the team Machado preferred to play for, would sign him eventually. But that didn’t happen. Now that the time has passed, it’s time to take the number 13 out of service forever.
Just over two and a half years ago, the Yankees made a deal with designated hitter Alex Rodriguez to retire after thirteen seasons in the pinstripes. This deal opened a roster spot to have Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge join the Yankees the next morning. That day proved to be the most notable moment of the 2016 season, with Austin and Judge going deep on back to back first at bats. The retirement “ceremony” the previous night was drowned in rain during the event, causing them to have to cancel early. Since then, the #13 has never been seen again.
The #13 in Yankee history is weird. No one took 13 until Spud Chandler in 1937. Lee Stine took the number the next year after spud changed to 21. Lee Stine only wore it in 1938. After that, the number went dead again for 10 years until 1948. That year, Cliff Mapes took the number after the #3 was retired for Babe Ruth. The reason for 13 was “CLIFFORD MAPES” was 13 letters long. Mapes dumped 13 the next season for 7. After that, 13 went into hibernation again for 22 years.
13 wasn’t worn again until 1970, when Curt Blefary took the number for a pair of seasons (including 1971). Outside of a five year hibernation from 1976-1980, the number has been in service ever since. Alex Rodriguez took 13 instead of 3 (retired for Babe), which he’d previously worn in Seattle and Texas. He kept number 13 the rest of his career wearing the pinstripes. (The only other #13 of note is catcher Jim Leyritz, who wore it from 1993 to 1996 and 1999-2000.)
Alex Rodriguez hit the 400, 500 and 600 home run milestones in New York. He came four short of 700 home runs. From 2004 to 2016, Rodriguez hit .283 / .378 / .523 / .900 with a 136 OPS+ for the Yankees. These numbers included 351 of his 696 home runs (50.43%) with seven All-Star appearances, along with two Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards. Believe it or not, those career numbers are higher than the 115 OPS+ Derek Jeter provided with the Yankees over 20 seasons. However, Jeter is not the power hitter Rodriguez was, with a batting line of .310 / .377 / .440 over 20 years. In the seasons that A-Rod and Jeter were teammates, Jeter batted .303 / .368 / .423 / .790 with a 110 OPS+. Rodriguez was most definitely the better player.
The Yankees and Rob Cucuzza have not issued 13 since Alex’s drowned retirement “ceremony” in August 2016. There was a possibility Machado could have taken it, since he idolized Rodriguez. However, that is unlikely to happen now. So, the time has come. Put a date on the 2019 schedule for a Rodriguez 13 retirement ceremony. Let him join the legends.
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