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Somehow, 4's on Marshall Street Doesn't Have The Same Ring To It

Syracuse University is going to retire the jersey of Rony Seikaly on January 13 when the Orange host Villanova. the school will also be saluting the 1965-66 Syracuse squad, which featured a fresh-faced Jimmy Boeheim, that earned an NCAA Tournament invitation. Seikaly will join Dave Bing, Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, Vic Hanson, Wilmeth Sadat-Singh and Dwayne "Pearl" Washington as the only players to have a jersey retired.

There's a lively discussion going on at the blogs
to factor in who else deserves a retired jersey, and if Rony himself is even worthy. The merits of any of these arguments is sound but excuse me if I sound disinterested. Personally, I don't like the idea of retiring jerseys...pretty much for the same reason I don't like our Hall of Fame systems for the major sports. Long story short...its all too easy.

Allow me to extrapolate here but we have no sense of our place in time. We treat bygone eras (the 1950's, 1960's, not Renaissance times) which such hallowed respect and awe that we make it seem that there isn't much of a future ahead that will ever compare. Plus, we let passing time dictate how we see the world and the people who lived in. When Babe Ruth retired, there wasn't a baseball pundit who didn't believe Ty Cobb was the best player that ever lived. Now? Could you find someone any one person who still believes that? In that time, Babe Ruth did nothing except grow more "legendary.

Just look at Hall of Fame voting the last few years. Every year its the same thing...Goose Gossage, Ryne Sandburg, Dave Winfield, Gary Carter, Ron Santo, Jim Rice. Some get in, some don't. But they all have something in common. They were great players, if even for short times. But they weren't immortals. They weren't larger than life. If there was a Hall of Great, we would line the walls with their accomplishments, making room for impending arrivals such as Albert Belle, Moises Alou, Todd Helton and Hideo Nomo. But sadly, there is no Hall of Great. There's only a Hall of Fame. And a Hall of Fame, in my humble opinion, is reserved for the icons, the truly amazing players who were larger than life, statistically and in the flesh. The Hall of Fame should be so revered that maybe one guy gets into it once every 2-3 years, not 2-3 guys every year. There's a reason the Gary Carters and Dave Winfields of 1890 aren't in the Hall of Fame today.

So why do we choose to remember Great But Not Immortal players as being better than they were? For some reason that I can't quantify, we look at the world via the past instead of the future. Subconsciously, we assume that there will never be players ahead like the ones who came before and every generation will be lesser than the one before it. We retire numbers and put "good-enough" players in the HOF under the auspice of "well, its not like THAT MANY better players than that guy are gonna come along...and even if they do, it won't be as impressive in 2028 as it was in 1972.

OrangeHoops had a passionate post recently about not losing sight of the importance of stats when making decisions like this, noting that many people are blinded by "Jeter Effect." While I agree that statistics are ultimately our main form of measurement for determining how good a player is or was, I have to take note and say that there is some credence to the "Jeter Effect" in a sense.

Let's take Mr. Jeter and put him up against, say, Rafael Palmeiro and lets remove all the steroids stuff from the equation. Stats vs Stats, its no contest. Palmiero is a clear-cut Hall of Famer and Jeter isn't. It's crystal clear on paper and in the records. But now let me ask you a question...can you name your top 5 favorite Rafael Palmerio moments? Can you even name TWO memorable Rafael Palmerio moments? Chances are if you aren't a Rangers or Orioles fan, you can't. Now let me ask your Top 5 Derek Jeter moments. Tough, isn't it? Even for non-Yankee fans, the guys got too many big time moments to narrow down to five.
Stats matter, but is that the essence of a Hall of Famer? A legend? An immortal? Or is it someone who seemingly took over the game when it mattered and did so on a recurring basis? His stats alone don't qualify him, but isn't Derek Jeter's career the very definition of a Hall-of-Famer? Hell, I'm a Mets fan and I have to say yes.

Maybe its me...I watch the Sports Reporters and I see grown men debate the attributes of fringe HOF players with passion and vigor, dissecting their stats like frogs in 7th grade. But isn't your gut reaction usually what tells you if you believe it. I grew up with the Mets of the late 80's. The '86 Mets were my first understanding of what a great baseball team was. I watched Gary Carter and followed his career with passion and unyielding interest. And yet...I can honestly say to you that at no point in my 28 years on this Earth have I ever considered Gary Carter a Hall of Famer. I mean...he was good and all, and he was great for a couple years, but...Hall of Fame? Immortality along side Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Nolan Ryan? No friggin' way. That's ludicrous. But, what do I know?

It's too late to turn back the clock. We started letting in "Great" players a long time ago so that we no longer hold incoming players up to the standard of Ty Cobb or Honus Wagner but rather we compare them to Orlando Cepeda, Gary Carter and Dave Winfield, cause "if he got in then FILL IN NAME OF GUY WHO WAS GREAT FOR THREE YEARS AND GOOD THE REST OF THE TIME has to get in. It's too late to take it back. That's why I don't care about that stuff anymore (as this impassioned diatribe clearly shows).

What does this have to do with Rony Seikely's retired jersey? I guess maybe if the Hall of Fame's of the world did what they were supposed to do (reward immortals), then the retiring of a jersey would make more sense to me (reward the truly great). Instead, since HOF's reward the great, we're left rewarding the "good, better than average" by retiring their numbers for the rest of eternity. We get that, right? That there will come a time when a basketball team will no longer be able to give out numbers 1-10 because they are retired. We've only been playing these games for a hundred years or so, its not like we're wrapping up all of existence in a few years (unless you're fundamentalist).

So back to this whole Rony Seikely thing. Alright fine, retire his number. Then retire John Wallace's. And Gerry McNamara's. And Hakim Warrick's. And Mike Jones' (well...). Whatever. Things like retiring numbers have become value-less entities that do not serve to honor the truly great but exist in order to provide publicity hits, not unlike the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In theory, these events should be reminders of those chosen FEW who elevated their games to levels rarely seen before, or assumedly after. But we don't live life in theory now, do we?