With Gary Carter's No. 8 being unveiled on an outfield wall in Citi Field on opening day and Bernard King being passed over for the Hall of Fame recently, we have retired numbers on the mind. When franchises decide to retire a player's number, sentiment may play as much a role as performance and statistics. And every team has their own philosophy on who gets the honor and how many numbers should be retired. The New York Yankees are running out of numbers, as they'll lay to rest a number at the drop of a hat (or helmet), while the New York Mets stubbornly refuse to honor all but one of their players (to go along with two managers). But when perusing all the retired numbers of the nine local teams, there are some glaring omissions. For the purposes of this list, we're not including recently retired guys who have a very good chance of having their numbers honored, as their teams may just be waiting to see how things shake out with the Hall of Fame or are just giving it a few more years. We're thinking of Mike Piazza, Curtis Martin and Michael Strahan. Plus, there are older guys who've been waiting in line longer than those three, so that's who we're concentrating on. And though Carter and King made their mark with their respective teams, neither were really here long enough, with each just having a handful of productive years in New York (though what productive years they were). So without further ado, here are the Top 5 numbers we'd like to see retired (and we're picking from five different teams).
5. John MacLean, No. 15: Sure, he didn't work out very well as the coach of the New Jersey Devils, but MacLean was the greatest offensive player they ever had until Patrik Elias broke all of his records over the past year. He went all the way back to the team's "Mickey Mouse" days, his rookie season of 1983-'84 being the franchise's second year in New Jersey, and eventually won a Stanley Cup with the team. He played 13-plus seasons in New Jersey, made a pair of All-Star Games, is second all-time on the franchise's goal-scoring list (347), third in assists (354), second in points (701), second in power-play goals (92) and fifth in games played (934). He has three of the top 10 best goal-scoring seasons in Devils' history, and netted 40 or more goals in three consecutive seasons. He's sort of the Ed Kranepool of the Devils, but with more talent.
4. Wesley Walker, No. 85: He edges out Wayne Chrebet and Al Toon because we're going with older guys first, as seniority counts here. Walker played his whole career with the New York Jets, from 1977 to 1989. He made two Pro Bowls, was a First-Team All-Pro once, led the league in receiving yards in 1978 and twice led the league in yards-per-catch (in his first two seasons). Walker's second all-time in Jets history for receiving yards (8,306), first in yards-per-reception (19.0), second in touchdown receptions (71) and tied for fifth in receptions (438). And he did it all with impaired vision, as he is legally blind in one eye. More than a great player, the gracious Walker was (and still is) a true gentleman.
3. Harry Carson, No. 53: The tough middle/inside linebacker was the bridge between the dark ages of the 1970s and the glory years of the '80s for the New York Giants. Carson was a member of the linebacking Crunch Bunch, and was the leader of a dominating defense. He spent all of his 13 seasons with Big Blue (1976 to 1988), won a Super Bowl, played in nine Pro Bowls and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Carson is everything the Giants stand for. What are they waiting for?
2. Keith Hernandez, No. 17: The trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for the perennial Gold Glover was the pivotal move that turned the New York Mets into winners in the 1980s. His stats aren't the impetus for retiring his number but how he helped transform the team from laughable losers to dominating powerhouse. Hernandez's numbers weren't bad, though, of course: He's sixth in franchise history in WAR (26.5), second in defense WAR (5.7), third in on-base percentage (.387), third in batting average (.297), ninth in RBIs (468) and sixth in walks (471), all in only parts of seven seasons playing for the Mets. He hit 80 home runs in his time in Queens, with 159 doubles and 10 triples, scored 455 runs and had an OPS+ of 129. He played in three All-Star Games as a Met, and won six Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger award. He's also cementing his legend in the announcing booth. And besides, he's Keith Hernandez.
1. Jean Ratelle, No. 19: Why do the New York Rangers keep ignoring their great center? He is the second-leading goal-scorer in franchise history (336), third in assists (481), third in points (817), sixth in games played (862) and fourth in plus/minus (plus-168). Ratelle has the second-highest single-season point total in Ranger history (109 in only 63 games in 1971-'72, on 46 goals and 63 assists) and second-highest single-season plus/minus (plus-61, also in 1971-'72). In his 15-plus seasons with the Blueshirts, the Hall of Famer played in four All-Star Games, was an NHL Second-Team All-Star and won the Lady Byng and Bill Masterton awards. Was it his fault the Rangers foolishly traded him? Or never won a Stanley Cup? Eddie Giacomin, Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell all finished their careers outside of New York and didn't win a Cup, so that can't be the criteria for having a number retired. Ratelle was the epitome of class, and the Rangers should do the right thing before it's too late.