When I heard that today is Bernie WIlliams’ 42nd birthday, I thought it would be interesting to look back at his career and the possibility of his reaching the Hall of Fame. Another angle I considered was his bitter split with the Yankees at the end of his career, as it may be instructive when considering the aging veterans on the Yankees who are approaching free agency. However, a quick look back through the archives showed that both have been tackled in recent months, so I will just excerpt those posts.
Steve S. tackled the bad breakup:
Bernie’s contract expired at the end of the 2006 season, and he had hoped to return to the Yanks the following year. He was willing to accept a role as a bench player, but the Yankee brass had some reservations about how well he would perform in that role, feeling he needed regular ABs to be effective. The Yankees offered Bernie a spring training invite as a non-roster invitee, giving him an opportunity to compete for a job. But Bernie wanted a guaranteed roster spot and turned them down. He was noticeably absent from Old Timer’s Day and other Yankee ceremonies in the subsequent two seasons. But on September 21, 2008, Williams made his first return to Yankee Stadium for the ceremonies preceding the final game at the stadium. He was the last former player to be introduced and received a standing ovation that lasted a minute and 42 seconds. The Yanks have also made overtures that they will give him a day and retire his number once Bernie makes his retirement official, but Bernie still thinks he can play and has declined to formally retire from Baseball.
I took a brief look at his career statistics, amazing prime, and Hall of Fame case:
The uncomfortable way that his time with the Yankees ended partially obscured the fact that Bernie put together a fantastic career that will likely keep him on the Hall of Fame ballot for a while, although I doubt he gets in. His prime was simply spectacular, as he had an 8 year period in middle of his career during which he was a superstar…Over that span, he hit .321/.406/.531, with an OPS+ of 141, and was one of the best players in baseball each year. Now, Bernie likely does not have the counting stats to make the HOF, as his career hitting a wall at 34 likely cost him any chance that he might have had. He finished with 47.1 total WAR, in the same ballpark as players such as Fred Lynn and Mike Cameron. Furthermore, his defense was fairly shaky at times, and Total Zone had him at -8 or worse 7 times in his career (of course, he won Gold Gloves in 3 of those years). He often made mistakes on the basepaths, and was simply not a very instinctive player. However, it is important to remember that for an 8 year period, Bernie was the best player on a great Yankee team, and was among the best players in baseball. Considering the Yankee centerfielders since he left, he has been missed.
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