Willie Randolph 1992 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 15, 2017

2017-04-11 07.48.49

The Yankees retired Derek Jeter’s number last night. There is little debate to whether or not number 2 should be hanging in Monument Park. Over the recent years, the Yankees have been a little “Retirement Happy” with their jerseys.

Sure, Torre, Rivera and Jeter deserve it. Ron Guidry… OK fine. Bernie Williams? Alright, he was underrated and it isn’t like players are clamoring to wear 51.

But Jorge Posada? Andy Pettitte? Really?

No single digit jerseys are left. Only 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18 and 19 exist for numbers below 20. So what I am saying is that there is no need for the Yankees to retire any more numbers.

BUT, if you MUST consider retiring another number (besides 13 for A-Rod), perhaps one of the top 12 in Yankee history for WAR should be considered. That would be Willie Randolph.

Randolph may have been born in the Carolinas but he grew up in Brooklyn and was a classic New York success story. A star at Tilden High School, he was drafted by the Pirates in the 7th round of the 1972 draft.

By 1975, he had his first taste of big league ball in Pittsburgh. Surrounded by veterans like Al Oliver and Willie Stargell as well as rising stars like John Candelaria and Dave Parker, Randolph might have fit in perfectly with the squad that ultimately became the World Champion “Fam A Lee” of 1979.

He even made his first post season appearance in the 1975 NLCS with Pittsburgh. But that off season, the Pirates made a truly terrible trade. The sent Randolph and Dock Ellis packing to the Yankees for Doc Medich. Ellis had a fine season and helped the Yankees win the pennant.

Randolph became a steady presence in the Bronx for the next 13 seasons. His solid play and stolen base total put him in the All Star team for 1976 and again appeared in the post season. This time, as a starter, he made it all the way to the World Series.

In 1977, he was an All Star again, having a better all around offensive season. In the post season, with the Yankees trailing in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the ALCS, facing elimination, Randolph hit the game tying sacrifice fly and eventually the Yankees would win the pennant.

He reached base 3 times, including a homer, in the Yankees Game 1 victory in the World Series, one the Yankees would eventually win.

Randolph was en route to maybe his best season ever when injuries derailed his 1978. He didn’t play in the post season but his fill in Brian Doyle did admirably and the Yankees won again.

In 1980, Randolph led the league in walks, won his first Silver Slugger and became one of the leaders on the team in the wake of Thurman Munson’s death the year before. The 1981 post season saw an unexpected power surge from Randolph who clubbed 3 homers that October.

After 1981, the post season runs dried up in the Bronx and the turmoil continued. Managers were fired at a quicker pace than one a year. Superstars came and went and despite putting up winning seasons year after year, the Yankees seemed rudderless.

Along with Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, Randolph became one of the steady forces on the team. Ultimately he and Ron Guidry, the last remaining members of the World Championship teams on the roster, were named Co-Captains. His steady play led to another All Star appearance in 1987 but no more playoff spots.

As was Steinbrenner’s way in the 1980’s, he coveted other people’s stars more than respecting his own. Just as he feuded with Mattingly and sent private investigators to snoop on Winfield, Steinbrenner became infatuated with Steve Sax, the second baseman of the World Champion L. A. Dodgers.

Sax was signed to a long term deal shortly after the 1988 World Series and Randolph, whose contract had also expired, suddenly saw himself no longer a member of the team he was supposed be the captain of.

The Dodgers, now with a new hole at second base, signed Randolph and he returned the favor by making the 1989 All Star team.

In 1990, when injuries ravaged the World Champion Oakland A’s infield, Randolph was sent packing to Northern California and wound up playing in the 1990 ALCS and World Series.

As this Topps Card shows, he wound up with Milwaukee in 1991 and had his final excellent season. The 36 year old Randolph batted .327 with an OPS of .798 over 512 plate appearances. He played 1992 for the Mets before retiring.

Almost right away, he became a fixture in the Yankees coaching staff, winning more World Series rings with the 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 Yankees as well as the 2001 and 2003 pennant winners.

He finally got his managing chance with the Mets and led them to Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006. Had Carlos Beltran doubled off of Adam Wainwright in the 9th, the Mets would have won the pennant and probably won the World Series. Randolph would have been the prince of New York the way Joe Torre had been a decade earlier.

Instead they fell short and had their epic collapse in 2007 leading to his firing midway through the 2008 season. He later coached for the Brewers and Orioles.

Randolph has great success with the Yankees as a player and a coach, being one of the most respected figures in the team’s history and having links to many different Yankee legends. As it stands, he has a plaque in Monument Park, as well he should.

But should number 30 be retired? Is it right that Posada, Pettitte or Roger Maris have their numbers up there and Randolph doesn’t? His co captain Ron Guidry has been honored but not Randolph?

It is worth a thought.