There was a Yankees captain after Lou Gehrig, and a Yankees captain after Thurman Munson, but general manager Brian Cashman says there shouldn’t be one after Derek Jeter.
“As far as I’m concerned, and I’m not to decision maker on this, that captaincy should be retired with No. 2,” Cashman said in an ESPN Radio interview on Thursday. “I wouldn’t give up another captain’s title to anyone else.”
Just like that, Jeter’s retirement finally became the biggest story in Yankees camp.
While the team was playing to a 2-1 win against the Pirates in Bradenton — with only two everyday big leaguers in the lineup, and Esmil Rogers being the biggest name on the mound — Cashman’s comment resonated, despite the fact he said something similar after Jeter’s final game in September.
“I think there’s leadership that comes a lot of different ways,” Cashman said in the Yankees clubhouse after today’s game. “Derek wore it so well for so long, but we’ve had a number of guys leading this club over the years. Mariano (Rivera) led the relievers, (Andy) Pettitte at times or (Roger) Clemens or whoever led the starters. Leadership comes in different forms or fashions. Joe is obviously the manager. We’ve had it in a lot of different forms and fashions. I don’t think we need a captaincy, personally, but obviously Derek wore it well.”
Jeter was named captain in 2003, and his 10-plus seasons is the longest captaincy in franchise history. With his retirement, the Yankees have no captain this season. Which isn’t unusual.
Gehrig became captain in 1935 and carried the title until he died in 1941. Without Gehrig, the Yankees didn’t have another captain until Munson in 1976. When Munson died in ’79, the Yankees didn’t have another captain until 1982. Before Jeter, the last Yankees captain was Don Mattingly, who retired in 1995, leaving the Yankees without a captain through those late 90s championships.
“I didn’t think we needed a captain this year,” manager Joe Girardi said. “And I think guys need to lead (without it). I don’t think you necessarily have to have a captain to have leaders. … We give the freedom to our guys in the clubhouse, whoever wants to speak up, I don’t care how many days (in the big leagues) you have, you can speak up.”
Another Yankees captain? Even Cashman acknowledged someone worthy of the title might emerge years down the road, but Cashman finds the distinction unnecessary.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily something that’s important for us to fill,” he said. “I think it will fill on its own, naturally. Leadership steps up in different forms and fashions whether you’re on the team plane, in the clubhouse, on the field of play, in the bullpen or in the manager’s office. It just comes in different forms and fashions.”
The Yankees’ media guide lists 16 confirmed former Yankees captains, though the team acknowledges there were probably more than that. For example, the media guide notes that there are several references to Roy Hartzell as a former Yankees captain, but dates of his captaincy can’t be confirmed. The title used to be mandatory for each team before managers began to take on the duty of things like changing pitchers and positioning fielders.
From the media guide, these are the confirmed captains in Yankees history:
1. Clark Griffith 1903-05
2. Norman Elberfeld 1906
3. Willie Keeler 1909
4. Hal Chase 1910-11
5. Frank Chance start 1913 to midseason
6. Rollie Zeider mid 1913 to end of season
7. Roger Peckinpaugh 1914-21
8. Babe Ruth March 13 to May 25, 1922 (only active for six of those games)
9. Everett Scott mid 1922 to June 16, 1925
10. Lou Gehrig April 12, 1935 to June 2, 1941
11. Thurman Munson April 17, 1976 to August 2, 1979
12. Graig Nettles January 29, 1982 to March 30, 1984
13. Willie Randolph March 4, 1986 to October 2, 1988
14. Ron Guidry March 4, 1986 to July 12, 1989
15. Don Mattingly February 28, 1991 through 1995
16. Derek Jeter June 3, 2003 through 2014