Take a moment and think fast of these three numbers; 3, 44, 21. Who comes to mind? Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente. That’s the beauty of sports, especially baseball, the identification of popular players by their numbers. No matter who they play for, after they establish themselves in the game, the number they wore as they grew into popularity is theirs for life. But it looks like all of that may change
Take a moment and think fast of these three numbers; 3, 44, 21.
Who comes to mind?
Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente.
That’s the beauty of sports, especially baseball, the identification of popular players by their numbers. No matter who they play for, after they establish themselves in the game, the number they wore as they grew into popularity is theirs for life.
But it looks like all of that may change.
According to an article published by the Associated Press, the new collective bargaining agreement in Major League Baseball has some new rules when it comes to a player’s number.
If a player wants to change his number during the season, he better be ready to spend some money. Under the new agreement, players who want to change their number in the middle of a season — whether it be because of a slump or for their own personal reasons — has to not only meet a deadline request to the league, but would also have to pay for all of the merchandise made with that number that just isn’t working out.
Long story short, if Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton wanted to change from No. 32 to No. 16 in the middle of the season, he’d have to get league approval and pay for all those jerseys, T-shirts and paraphernalia that bears his name and No. 32. Otherwise he’d have to wait until the following season.
That rule is understandable. If a player wants to change his number, why do it in the middle of the season? The beginning of the season is a clean slate, do it then.
However, here’s the part that I do disagree with.
It appears that this rule also affects trades during the season and this is where it gets controversial.
I completely understand the marketing and sales side of this whole thing, but when it comes down to popular players and veterans it’s just not fair.
The best example floating around is to compare a trade and the addition of a new player to a team.
Let’s use Rafael Furcal’s trade to St. Louis last season. He was No. 15 for the Dodgers, but when he was traded to the Cardinals No. 15 was occupied by Jon Jay. But since Furcal is a veteran and Jon Jay hasn’t been around as long, Jay gives up No. 15 to his new teammate and Jay begins to wear No. 19.
Under this new rule, that wouldn’t have happened.
According to the AP article, Jay would have kept No. 15 and Furcal would have had to choose a number to wear for the remainder of the 2011 season. At the start of next season, Jay would have been able turn his No. 15 over to Furcal and then take No. 19.
This just doesn’t sit right with me. Veterans in baseball earned the numbers on their back and unless they go to a team where their longtime number is retired by the organization, they should be able to keep it. Since when should merchandise determine the numbers on a player’s back?
Again, I understand the fact that teams would have to discount the merchandise that has the previous number. In Jay’s case, merchandise with his name and No. 15 on it had to be marked down, but if you think about it teams will run into the same problem with their newly acquired stars.
Let’s say this rule was in effect this year and Furcal took No. 19 and Jay kept No. 15. The Cardinals would have still produced merchandise with Frucal’s No. 19 and would have to start discounting it along with Jay’s No. 15 merchandise by now or at the start of Spring Training. Either way it gets marked down.
Jersey numbers are a great baseball tradition I really hope MLB doesn’t fully kill it off.