The New York Yankees, one of MLB's most storied and successful franchises, have a high-end problem: They're running out of uniform numbers to give to players. They've retired 22 numbers (including Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera's No. 42), at least eight more than any other team in the majors, and they're holding three more out of rotation. That leaves 75 numbers to issue to players and coaches, which seems like a lot — until you realize the Yankees invited 69 players to spring training this year.
Lou Cucuzza, the Yankees' director of clubhouse operations, feels the crunch every year at this time, especially since the rare lower numbers are always in high demand. But he told The Athletic that he has a solution: Stop giving numbers to managers and coaches because they rarely wear their full uniforms in the dugout anymore.
“Nobody’s wearing the jerseys anymore,” Cucuzza said. “They wear them because it’s Opening Day. They’ll wear them in the postseason during introductions. That’s really it. The coaches today are probably a lot different than the coaches of yesteryear.”
Cucuzza took the idea to Michael Hill, MLB's vice president for on-field operations, but they're still looking into it. According to The Athletic, MLB "doesn’t want to authorize such a change just yet" but hasn't said no, indicating that the league might be considering it for the future.
Another thing to consider is that no other team is having this issue right now. It's only the Yankees because they've retired so many numbers. In fact, loudly talking about this "problem" is more of a humblebrag than anything else. The Yankees love their own history, more than most teams do, and they love celebrating it. That's why they have by far the most retired numbers in the league. (The fact that some of the best players of all time suited up for the Yankees might also have something to do with it.)
While they've come up with a serviceable solution to this problem, it's a problem the Yankees created for themselves. It's difficult to feel much sympathy for a team that has had that much historical success, especially when the problem is "oh no, we've had so many incredible, memorable, phenomenal players come through here that we don't have enough unretired uniform numbers! Please change the rules for us!"
Yahoo Sports' own Hannah Keyser posted the perfect take on the Yankees' "problem" on Thursday. Despite how annoying it can be to hear about the Yankees' first-world problems (especially for non-Yankees fans), every team should wish they had the same issue.
The Yankees bemoaning that they are simply so great it’s actually a problem, so great that they are greater than the all the numbers that EXIST, greater than all the stars in the universe is exactly the kind of consistent narrative building all teams should aspire to. https://t.co/x1AVLERXs9
— Hannah Keyser (@HannahRKeyser) March 30, 2023