Energy of two — MLB’s best jersey numbers
By the point Derek Jeter retired after the 2014 season, he was all over the place.
The traditional, white, pinstriped No. 2 Yankees jersey he made well-known was the best-selling jersey in all of MLB.
One distinguished baseball merchandiser advised ESPN that Jeter’s shirt was
in actual fact the best-selling MLB jersey of all time. The love of Jeter did not finish when he stopped enjoying, both, as he remained atop most lists of baseball’s most recognizable stars for years after he retired.
All of that hardly scratches the floor in the case of placing the affect
of No. 2 into context. Over the course of his unparalleled 20-year profession with the Yankees, Jeter gathered
3,465 hits, 14 All-Star appearances, 5 World Sequence titles and legions of followers of all ages. A few of these Captain
followers are actually excellent MLB gamers themselves.
Utilizing information gathered from baseball-reference.com
and MLB.com, ESPN evaluated the WAR (wins above alternative) of each MLB participant from 2005 (midway by Jeter’s profession) to 2021 to find out which jersey numbers have been best.
Under ESPN tells the tales of these No. 2s and of the gamers who at the moment put on the
solely different 4 numbers to rank within the prime 10 of common and whole WAR and be worn by at the least 100 gamers from 2005 to 2021.
Watch on ESPN and ESPN+:
“THE CAPTAIN,” EPISODE 1: Monday, July 18, 10 p.m. ET. Watch the
After a number of flirtations with uniform numbers, the observe of placing them on participant
jerseys started in earnest with the 1929 Yankees, they usually have been part of baseball ever since. At first,
gamers wore numbers that corresponded with their place within the batting order, which is why Babe Ruth wore
No. 3 and Lou Gehrig No. 4. The primary No. 2 was additionally a Yankees shortstop — Mark Koenig, a member of the
franchise’s famed 1927 membership.
Koenig had nothing to do with Jeter ending up as a No. 2-wearing Yankees’ shortstop
seven many years later, however Jeter has quite a bit to do with the proliferation of high-level No. 2s within the sport since
his arrival. A lot of the sport’s prime infielders have cited Jeter as an affect and a cause why they
put on the quantity they put on. There’s even a shortstop who debuted for Boston this season whose dad and mom
honored Jeter in a extra profound method. That rookie’s title is Jeter Downs, and, sure, he is named after the Captain.
Since Jeter broke into the majors in 1995, gamers carrying No. 2 have collected extra hits than some other uniform quantity, adopted by No. 7. Jeter leads the way in which, after all — he is sixth on the profession hit listing, in spite of everything — however 10 different gamers have at the least 1,000 hits carrying No. 2 since Jeter’s call-up. Following Jeter on that listing are Randy Winn, Denard Span, Aaron Hill, Troy Tulowitzki and Bogaerts.
The factor is, Jeter did not even need No. 2 at first. His choice was No. 13, the quantity his father, Charles, wore in school. The quantity was on the time occupied by Jim Leyritz, so Jeter was assigned No. 2. It was surprisingly obtainable provided that a lot of the single-digit numbers had been retired for the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. In keeping with Ian O’Connor, writer of “The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter,” it was then-Yankees supervisor Buck Showalter’s thought to present Jeter No. 2. The subsequent spring, after Showalter had been fired, New York’s gear supervisor tried to present Jeter No. 17. Jeter wasn’t having it.
The remainder, as they are saying, is historical past.
Baseball gamers are infamously superstitious, however given Jeter’s unique choice for sporting his father’s No. 13, he seems to be unconcerned about supernatural interference. Loads of others have tempted destiny with No. 13 and accomplished simply effective, particularly within the greenback column. Jeter’s most notable No. 13-wearing teammate in New York was Alex Rodriguez, who made a lot cash on and off the sphere that he’s now a co-owner of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. Manny Machado, an early front-runner on this season’s NL MVP race, is one other well-compensated No. 13 blazing a path to Cooperstown-worthy statistics regardless of carrying the unluckiest of numbers on his again.
Uniform No. 13 remains to be not precisely the variety of alternative amongst huge leaguers, nevertheless it’s grow to be steadily extra acceptable over the many years. Through the Nineteen Thirties, when the carrying of numbers turned embedded as a part of the sport’s cloth, solely 0.4% of participant seasons have been accounted for by gamers carrying No. 13.
After a short rise within the Forties, the determine dropped again to 0.4% within the Fifties, maybe as a consequence of Bobby Thomson’s historic pennant-winning homer in 1951 off of No. 13-wearing Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca. However the utilization climbed after that, growing every decade to the 2010s, when 1.5% of participant seasons went to bearers of No. 13.
Shortstop seems to be the place of alternative for individuals who wave a dismissive hand at superstition. The 4 all-time leaders in WAR amongst No. 13s all spent at the least one full season as an enormous league shortstop: A-Rod, Machado, Omar Vizquel and Dave Concepcion.
Solely three gamers have posted a season of at the least 8 WAR whereas carrying No. 13. The primary was former Crimson Sox shortstop John Valentin, who put up 8.3 WAR in 1995, the season of Jeter’s debut. The opposite two have been posted by A-Rod (2005, 2007), who was named AL MVP in each seasons performed subsequent to Jeter. Rodriguez had six different seasons of at the least 8 WAR earlier than he joined the Yankees however he wore No. 3 throughout these campaigns for Seattle and Texas. No. 3, after all, is the area of Ruth within the Bronx.
By means of the Fourth of July, the most well-liked uniform quantity within the main leagues this season was No. 28, with 25 gamers that includes it up to now this marketing campaign. That was additionally the most well-liked quantity final season, when 32 gamers wore it, yet one more than the 31 gamers who wore No. 48. This yr encompasses a equally fierce battle, with No. 50 this yr’s main contender to twenty-eight’s recognition crown. By means of July 4, 24 gamers had worn the quantity this season. With a few of this yr’s division races already turning into runaways, possibly that is the race we’ll find yourself watching over the second half of the season.
The resurgence of No. 28 wearers is a return to type for the jersey. After being essentially the most worn quantity throughout each the Nineteen Nineties and 2000s (when it comes to whole participant seasons), it fell to No. 18 in the course of the 2010s.
No. 28 could be in vogue now, however the mantle of “hottest quantity” is without end altering fingers. Through the Nineteen Thirties, it was No. 24 that raced out to the lead, although it was extra a query of amount than high quality. Through the Forties, No. 17 took the lead, adopted by No. 15 within the Fifties. Since then it has been No. 23 (Nineteen Sixties), No. 25 (Seventies and 80s) earlier than the reign of No. 28 started.
It is adorned listing encompasses a a number of Cy Younger winner (Kluber) and loads of Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winners, like Arenado, Baez, Donaldson, Martinez and Olson. Jeter did not win any Cy Youngs, although there are most likely some Yankees followers who assume he may have if given the possibility. However he did win 5 Gold Gloves and 5 Silver Sluggers.
Jeter was one member of a wave of homegrown stars who fashioned the inspiration of the championship Yankees groups of the late Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s. He was joined by Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, amongst others. Rivera and Jeter are two of solely 54 one-team Corridor of Famers in baseball historical past, having gone into the Corridor in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
As of late, among the AL’s prime younger gamers are additionally homegrown abilities, starring for the crew that developed them. An uncommon variety of these standouts occur to put on No. 11, a determine that’s possible going to be featured on among the iconic jerseys of this period.
There’s something to this notion of homegrown expertise, at the least when it comes to profitable on the highest degree. 9 of the previous 11 World Sequence champs have featured a homegrown WAR chief. For the Yankees, it has been a digital necessity to characteristic a homegrown participant because the cornerstone on a title crew.
It did not begin out that method, as the primary 4 Yankees championships featured Ruth as their WAR chief. That was the aftermath of baseball’s most well-known transaction — the one through which the Crimson Sox bought Ruth to their rivals in New York. Nevertheless, the Yankees have received 23 titles since Ruth retired. All however two of these championship golf equipment have featured a homegrown Yankee atop its WAR leaderboard.
The exceptions have been Crimson Ruffing (1938 WAR chief, got here up with the Crimson Sox) and Graig Nettles (1977, performed for Minnesota and Cleveland earlier than shifting to the Yankees). Every of the 21 different post-Ruth champions featured a WAR chief who made his MLB debut in a Yankees uniform. 3 times it was Jeter filling that position (1998, 1999 and 2009).
All of this bodes effectively for this yr’s Yankees, who’re on a file tempo for wins. Their WAR chief is AL MVP candidate Aaron Decide, who was a first-round draft choose by New York in 2013.
As Jeter neared the tip of his profession and finally retired, a brand new era of stars have been making their very own methods to the highest of the MLB pecking order. Whereas it won’t be a case of merely doubling up on Jeter’s No. 2, the double-deuce has risen in prominence maybe greater than some other because the introduction of Jeter. Whereas numbers within the single digits and youths have historically been the area of hitters, pitchers have dominated uniforms bearing numbers within the 30s and 40s. No. 22 has grow to be more and more a mixture of each. Ten of the 13 30-homer seasons from No. 22s have come since Jeter debuted, whereas 17 of the 18 200-strikeout seasons have come in the course of the Captain’s period.
Whereas among the adorned No. 22s of current classic have made their marks within the postseason, none of them have constructed something near the playoff resume that Jeter compiled over 16 postseasons with the Yankees. That is not an insult to them as a result of Jeter’s playoff file is likely one of the extra staggering parts of his Corridor of Fame profession.
Jeter performed a whole further season simply in playoff video games, showing in a file 158 postseason contests, 33 greater than some other participant. He is additionally the all-time playoff chief in hits, runs, whole bases and doubles. It wasn’t simply quantity. Jeter compiled a .817 OPS throughout his regular-season profession. At playoff time, towards harder competitors and when the stakes have been at their highest, that determine was .838.
The 22s cannot match Jeter in October but. Soto has a title beneath his belt already after hitting three homers for Washington within the 2019 Fall Basic. Heyward will without end be remembered for the ring he received with the 2016 Cubs. And Kershaw? Positive, his postseason profession has been filled with ups and downs, however he’s the all-time playoff chief in strikeouts.
For causes that go method past baseball and merchandise gross sales, No. 42 is baseball’s most iconic quantity, the one retired jersey in each MLB ballpark. Jackie Robinson, the person accountable for that, is fittingly additionally the all-time WAR chief for gamers carrying that quantity, adopted by Corridor of Famer Mariano Rivera. Now that the final of No. 42 bearers is retired, that is one leaderboard that’s by no means going to vary. That is accurately.
The heyday for No. 42 within the years after Robinson retired was the Seventies, when gamers carrying the historic quantity accounted for 166 participant seasons. As was the conference of the day, it was largely a pitcher’s quantity throughout these years, however some non-pitchers wore it, like slugger Greg Luzinski and future supervisor Tony La Russa.
There was additionally a participant who wore No. 42 in six video games for Cleveland in 1974. That participant’s title was Johnny Jeter. Sadly, there isn’t any relation.
No. 24 has seen three greats pile up greater than 100 profession WAR, together with Barry Bonds, fourth all time, fifth-place Willie Mays and Rickey Henderson (nineteenth). Nevertheless, whereas Mays spent almost his complete profession making No. 24 well-known, Bonds switched to No. 25 after he signed with the Giants, and Henderson switched numbers a number of instances throughout his unending profession.
Nonetheless, No. 24 has featured an uncommon frequency of All-Star-level seasons, with 104 seasons of at the least 5 WAR being posted by gamers whereas carrying that quantity. That is second amongst all numbers, surpassed solely by No. 5.
A kind of All-Stars was Ken Griffey Jr., whose No. 24 is retired in any respect ranges of the Seattle Mariners group. On the fiftieth anniversary of Robinson’s main league debut, April 15, 1997, and once more on the identical day in 2007, Griffey honored Robinson by switching his 24 to 42. The gesture cast the trail for each participant to put on 42 on his again each April fifteenth.
Produced by ESPN Artistic Studio: Michelle Bashaw, Matt Becker, Dominique DeMoe, Heather Donahue, Jarret Gabel, Alecia Hamm, Sean Hintz, Luke Knox, Rylee McIver and Beth Stojkov.
Written by Bradford Doolittle.
Illustrations by Brandon Loving. Extra visuals from AP Photos, Getty Photos, Imagn.