Retired in Shame?
What’s the deal with number 21? Nobody has worn it since Roger Clemens left, and I’m not quite sure why.
The Red Sox “held” number 14 after Jim Rice left. I understand that. He was a legitimate (obviously) Hall of Fame candidate. He finished his career with the Red Sox. He was certainly in line to have his number retired. It made sense not to give it out to anyone in the meantime. It’s not like there’s a number shortage.
The Red Sox certainly did not hold number 26 after Wade Boggs left. He didn’t retire with the Sox. He went to the friggin Yankees. Unless he came back to the Red Sox at the last minute to finish his career with the team like Ellis Burks did, he wasn’t up for a number retirement. So, might as well hand it out. It was put right into the rotation.
But, what about Clemens? He also left to another team. He left in just as snooty of a manner as Boggs did. At the time, I doubt they envisioned him returning to the team. His number shouldn’t have been up for retirement consideration. So, why did they hold onto it? Even if you think, at the time, they were holding out some hope of him returning at some point, they don’t hope that any more. Right? Even if the Red Sox decided to pull a Carlton Fisk, and bring him back as an exec in order to retire the number, would they? Would they even consider breaking the rules like they did for Pesky, and retire Roger’s number? I certainly hope not. So, what’s the deal?
The problem is, at this point they’ve made it a deal. In 1998, maybe they could have just handed it off to whichever schmuck came along. But, now, it’ll be a story whenever they do assign it. They’ve really made it so only one of three things can happen with the number.
They can keep it retired in shame forever. Not a terrible idea. Every year, it will be brought up that nobody was given the number of that loser and cheater Roger Clemens. Not a bad legacy.
They can hand it out to some long shot, just to get it out of the way. Hand it to a guy who they only expect to be in camp for a day or two. Get it back into circulation. Then, the next guy won’t face the scrutiny of being the “first guy since Roger” to wear it. Just make a non-issue of it.
Or, they could give it to a star big enough to handle it. I thought they might do that when Josh Beckett came to town. He could have been given 21, and the stories would simply mention that he wore number 21, just like always. Beckett would have had enough bravado to pull it off. The Sox will need someone else like that to come in to break the number back in. Or, I suppose, someone like Manny Ramirez who would be clueless enough that he wouldn’t even be phased by it.
I wonder which avenue the Sox will take. At the moment, it looks like they’re sticking with “retired in shame.” I’m pretty sure I’m OK with that.
21 is for that cheating loser Roger Clemens.