Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Who's To Blame pt1: Jacoby Ellsbury

When Andrew McCutchen debuted in the majors in 2009, he was given #22 as his uniform choice.  The number was previously worn by Xavier Nady.  Cutch has gone on record saying he would have liked to have number 24 as it was the number of his childhood hero, Ken Griffey Jr. At the time of Cutch's debut Tom Gorzelanny had been wearing #24 for three seasons. 

The number 22 hasn't been worn in Pittsburgh since 2017 when Cutch was traded to San Francisco prior to the start of the 2018 season. 

Cutch has become very associated with the number 22 and has it as part of his social media handles and sometimes will still sign ACutch22 while a member of the Brewers.  

I thought it may be fun to show off some cards I have featuring guys who have prevented Cutch from wearing #22 in a MLB uniform.  

After spending 9 seasons in Pittsburgh and collecting 4 SS, 5ASG, 1 GG, 1 MVP, the Roberto Clemente award, Baseball America's ROY, and bringing the Pirates back to the postseason for the first time in 20 years, Cutch was traded to San Francisco.  The Giants had #22 available for Cutch and it was announced during the 2018 season that #22 would be retired to honor Will Clark.  Cutch would be the last Giant to wear #22.  With the Giants slipping out of playoff contention and the Yankees having outfield injury concerns the two teams made a late August waver wire trade deadline and Cutch was sent to the clean shaven NY Yankees.

One of those outfielders who was injured was Jacoby Ellsbury, who took a monster 2011 season and a healthy 2013 season which he lead the AL in stolen bases and turned it into a 7 year $153 million contract with the Yankees to start the 2014 season.  

Jacoby debuted with the Boston Red Sox and had established himself as a high contact, high speed threat atop the Boston lineup.
He was becoming one of the young stars of the game by showing an ability to hit for high average (all his full seasons were .280+) while also leading the league in steals in 3 of his 4 full seasons. 

Injuries took their toll on Ellsbury in 2010 and he was limited to only 18 games. 

Ellsbury had a breakout season with the Red Sox in 2011 where he finished second in MVP voting along with winning the Comeback Player of the Year.
Ellsbury improved his power numbers by smashing 32 HR in 158 games.  His previous 4 seasons (2 full seasons) had only 20 HR combined.  
Ellsbury maintained his high batting average (.321) and high SB (39) in the 2011 season.

He would again suffer injuries in 2012 and that would limit him to only 74 games.

He bounced back in 2013 though, leading the American League in stolen bases yet again with 52 swipes and maintaining that .298 batting average.

After the season was over, he switched rivals going from Beantown to the Bronx.  

Ellsbury wouldn't reach 150 games played again in his career, coming closest in 2014 (149) and 2016 (148).  His batting average in NY would never reach the heights they were in Boston and his SBs while still very good would average only 24 a season, a far cry from the 50-70 range he was putting up in Boston.  

Ellsbury suffered injuries and his last game played was September 30th, 2017.  However because he was on the 40 man roster he still had to have a uniform number.  That uniform number was 22.

This prevented Cutch from getting #22 and Cutch was ultimately assigned #26.
Cutch would play 25 regular season games with the Yankees September 2018 and help the team get to 100 wins.  In that month long sample he had an .892 OPS and a 145 OPS+ 

When Cutch left NY for free agency in Philadelphia his #26 was assigned to DJ LeMahieu who has worn it since the 2019 season and has become a fan favorite among Yankees fans. 

Since Jacoby's #22 uniform became available after his 2019 release, two other players have worn the number not available to Andrew McCutchen.  They are Jordy Mercer and Greg Allen. 

What athletes look different wearing a number they're not usually wearing?

Do you think if Jacoby could have stayed healthy, he would have been in discussion for being a great of the 2010s?


  1. Another reason to not like Ellsbury! It was a travesty Cutch didn’t wear 22 during his short Yankees stay.

  2. Ah Jacoby Ellsbury! Started his Red Sox career with a World Series ring, ended his time in Boston with a ring, then became a drain on NY for years! However, as every Red Sox fan knew when he signed with NY, he was never a star level player, his runner up MVP season was an outlier. Had he stayed healthy, he would have continued to be a very good player, but not the perennial All-Star the Yankees were expecting.

  3. Obiwan Jacoby! Love it. As for the jersey number thing... two came to mind. It's weird not seeing Rickey wear #24. I actually remember him wearing #35 when I was younger, but over the years I got used to #24. Ichiro is the other guy. He's #51 to me. Seeing him wear #31 in NY was weird.