In a neat turn of events, the Yankees are balking at the “hallowed” single-digit lore, and allowing reliever Adam Ottavino to don his number 0 as the newest member of the team. Ottavino, a native New Yorker and a former childhood teammate of Dellin Betances, has worn the number since 2013 with the Rockies, and will thankfully be able to keep it despite a brief uncertainty given the Yankees’ strict adherence to unnecessary traditions.
First, the single-digit narrative hasn’t exactly been followed strictly over the decades, even after the majority of the single digit uniform numbers were taken by would-be Yankee Hall of Famers. Paul Blair wore number two with the Yankees before Derek Jeter, and the most memorable moment of Blair’s career in pinstripes was probably the sight of him jogging out to right field to replace Reggie Jackson, sparking an entertaining dugout feud with Billy Martin (yes, I know he hit a game-winning single in the 1977 World Series, but face it, you remember Blair more for the Reggie/Martin bout).
With that in mind, it was refreshing to see the Yankees realize that while many franchise legends have worn single digits on their backs, it hasn’t been an airtight tradition, and doesn’t need to be. Hence, Ottavino getting his goose egg. Good on the Yankees showing that they have the capability to be reasonable and have fun.
Based on their stances regarding a number of other traditions, the organization’s ability to be fun has often been brought into question. But hey, let’s leave that in the past and use the Ottavino announcement as a springboard to nix some other tired traditions that need scrapping.
First, I’ll say that the franchise has shown the ability to come up with some cool ideas that break tradition. For example, the Judge’s Chambers was a good idea brought to the Stadium in 2017, regardless of the small tradition-crazed part of the fanbase that fumed at the idea of a rookie garnering that kind of attention, fearing the added fanfare could distract him from his historic rookie season. After all, “He’s no Mickey Mantle!!”
Anyway, that was 2017. Let’s go ahead and get rid of some other traditions before the 2019 season starts, and become a more fun team. First, can the Yankees please start letting their players sport beards if they want to? I don’t know about you, but I was incredibly excited to see the Yankees go out and get an awesome personality like Andrew McCutchen last summer, considering he’s one of the most likable players in the league. It was heartbreaking to see him forced to shave his beard off for the first time in forever, and baby-faced Cutch was a sight that took a lot of time getting used to.
While we’re on that note, had Cutch still had his dreadlocks, he would have had to cut those too. Darnell McDonald did in 2012, after coming over from the Red Sox and eliminating 2 1⁄2 years of work with a few snips of the scissor, only to leave the team months later. More recently, Clint Frazier was forced to cut his long red hair, and now we’ve learned via Twitter that he enjoys the nickname “The Wildling” instead of “Red Thunder.” Maybe it’s time to let Frazier grow that hair out and really look like a Widling.
So much noise is made about the MLB’s inability to market players. Marketing players is easier when said players are allowed to show their personalities, and plenty of major-leaguers like to so through their physical appearance. The Yankees should let them. Go ahead and let the beards dangle, the hair poke through the hats and show off those tattoos. Who knows, the fans might find themselves connecting to the players even more, which is more fulfilling than staying stuck on tired tradition that serves little purpose.