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Twins' Joe Ryan was going to give Carlos Santana No. 41, until MLB charged $225,000

Phil Miller, Star Tribune on

Published in Baseball

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Carlos Santana has played for six different major league teams in his career, and at each stop, he wore No. 41. It's a tribute, he said, to five-time All-Star Victor Martinez, the Venezuelan slugger who played for 16 seasons, most of them also with No. 41 on his back.

"In the minor leagues [while with Cleveland], he taught me a lot, every year. He was my favorite player," Santana said, so when he arrived in the majors the year after Martinez had moved on to Boston, he asked for his friend's old number. "The last time I saw him, we talked about that. And he was very proud and happy for it, and for me."

Who could put a price on that kind of loyalty, on respect so sincere?

Turns out, Major League Baseball can. And in this case, the tab runs to more than $225,000.

That's the estimated value of all the Twins jerseys, caps, T-shirts and replica uniforms in MLB Licensing's inventory, and those of the sport's retail partners, that already have No. 41 on them.

The problem is, all that merchandise has Joe Ryan's name on it, too, since Ryan, one of the team's most popular and marketable players, has worn the number for the past two seasons.

 

Buy those thousands of Joe Ryan souvenirs and make us whole, MLB told Santana, or find a new number. Ryan has to keep wearing the number that's in the program and on the team store's shelves.

"It's the first time that's happened to me," said Santana, who, though he has changed teams six times over the past six seasons, has always landed with a team that had his preferred number available. "I don't want to pay all that money for using 41. But it's OK. [Ryan] has played here for a while. I'm not upset."

Still, it's embarrassing for a team not to be able to fulfill the preferences of their veteran players, especially one with 14 years of experience like Santana.

But MLB, which charges $354.99 on the Twins website for authentic jerseys, is mindful of the cost of obsolete inventory on shelves, not to mention the cost of annoying fans whose expensive wearable is suddenly rendered inaccurate. The league in recent years began enforcing its rule that number changes must be requested by Jan. 31, and billing players for who ask for exceptions.

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