ESPN's Mike Greenberg explains why Yankees icon Derek Jeter owns No. 2

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

As any Yankees fan with their Twitter mentions open knows, sports debate is alive and well in 2023. While questions like, "Who's earned a roster spot?" and "Who should be batting ninth?" rage on in the early days of a new MLB season, they ultimately pale in comparison to discussions of historical greatness.

Luckily for ESPN's Mike Greenberg, he's got the credibility to both spark these debates and serve as their ultimate arbiter.

In Greenberg's new book Got Your Number, written in collaboration with stats whiz Paul Hembekides, the vaunted host assigns "ownership" to the numbers 1-through-100, giving sports icons their due and awarding them with newly-minted metaphorical "trophies".

As you might expect, given the franchise's proclivity to retire jersey numbers, the Yankees dominate the single digits of Greenberg's assessment.

Greeny awarded Derek Jeter with the No. 2 for all time, and explained to Yanks Go Yard's Adam Weinrib why this wasn't exactly among his toughest calls.

ESPN's Mike Greenberg explains why Yankees icons Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, Babe Ruth own their numbers

"At the start of 2022, Derek Jeter remained the most popular player in baseball, according to the ESPN Fan & Media intelligence group [seven] years after his last game," Greenberg stated. Sorry, Mike Trout. Postseason experience helps here, no doubt, but Jeter still owns not just his number, but the eyes of baseball fans (and casuals) across the country.

"I can't tell you when he clinched [No. 2], but I can tell you he was as easy a choice as any other number was," Greenberg continued.

Additional Yankees who've earned spots in the book include Babe Ruth at No. 3, whom Greenberg calls "The Originator of Swag," and Joe DiMaggio at No. 5, a number with iconography passed down through generations (specifically of the host's family). Whenever he "participates in baseball activity" (first pitch, softball, etc.), Greenberg wears No. 5 to pay tribute to his father's hero. That's what the Yankees mean to so many, and why (sorry, haters!) they own the low numbers of the sporting universe.

For the emotions baked into No. 5 alone, we'll forgive Greenberg for bestowing No. 7 upon John Elway instead of Mickey Mantle. Four Yankees out of seven is a lot, even if George Costanza will be furious with the decision.

Need another reason to grab the book and learn Greenberg's full rankings? The author admitted to Yanks Go Yard that, whenever the next edition drops, getting Aaron Judge ownership of a number is among his top priorities.

Probably No. 62, but who knows? Maybe the AL home run record sits even higher by the time the sequel is ready.