I really don’t like this story, and I really want it to go away. I knew this would come out soon enough, but it didn’t have to. The sad tale of Bernie Williams’ last year on the Yankees continues.
Bernie was always a favorite of mine. He was a solid presence on the team and was emblematic of the great Yankee teams in the late 1990s. But he never knew when to quit. After a poor 2005, we all figured Bernie would come back to the Yankees for a farewell tour in 2006. He never saw that season as anything other than just another year, and when Brian Cashman didn’t offer him up a contract for 2007, it seemed that the relationship between number 51 and the Yankees grew a little sour.
Now we didn’t know that it grew a little sour. Or at least we didn’t know until this weekend when Brian Cashman got to talking about it. In discussing baseball with Theo Epstein on Friday, Cashman started opining on Bernie:
Cashman took a few jabs at Bernie Williams, the popular Yankee whose exit from the team was not on friendly terms. Cashman said that Williams was terrible in 2005, but that he brought Williams back as a farewell in 2006. After Williams had a solid year, he wanted to return for 2007. But Cashman did not sign Williams. Cashman said that Williams’s music career “took away from his play.” Interestingly, Cashman said that Joe Torre, who was then the manager, looked for ways to play Williams in 2006 “ahead of guys who could help us win,” so Cashman did not want that to happen in 2007.
We saw this conflict emerge between Cashman and Torre in 2007, and when Torre wasn’t welcomed back for 2008, more than a few thoughts of inevitability ran through my head. The Yankees weren’t going to have Torre back unless he brought that a World Championship no matter what. Cashman had to take Scott Proctor away from Torre; he had to take Miguel Cairo away from Torre. And when the GM starts taking players away from a seemingly stubborn manager, the future does not look good. It’s just too bad that Bernie had to be dragged into this mess.
Meanwhile, Peter Abraham picked up the phone and called Bernie Williams who wasn’t too thrilled with Cashman’s comments. “I don’t think he has any basis to say anything like that,” Bernie said to Abraham about Cashman’s comments. “Let me put it this way: Questioning a person’s commitment to the team is a very serious accusation, at least in my book.”
I don’t blame Bernie was being upset with Cashman, but at the same time, I don’t blame Cashman for not offering Bernie a guaranteed Major League contract for the 2007 season. I just wish this spat hadn’t become so public. I wish Bernie hadn’t been so stubborn. We all hate seeing our favorite players taken down a notch, and that’s what’s happening here.