The Bernie saga continues

Yanks close to signing Australian prospect
Bedard headed to Seattle

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.

Yanks close to signing Australian prospect
Bedard headed to Seattle
  • Lanny

    Cashman cant please every player. Someone has to be the bad guy. You cant have emotions when you have his job

  • http://www.baseballhotcorner.blogspot.com Mark

    Cashman has been candid about others (Bernie,Torre,Damon,Abreu) I’d like to hear a public, candid analysis of Pavano,Igawa,Farnsworth… Don’t hold your breath.

  • zack

    Its an interesting question as to why Cashman suddenly opened up on Bernie when he is normally so reserved, but good God, reading the forums at lohud (which I try to avoid usually at all costs) you would think that Cashman was literally falling down drunk and should be taken out back and shot for daring to say something about one of “my guys.” I think its a more interesting question to see how the comments sections of different blogs take on a certain character and tone…

  • http://myspace.com/lincolnsworld Link

    Quiet as kept, Bernie DID suck in ’05 and he DID have a decent season in ’06…so there really wasn’t anything inaccurate about what Cashman said per se…but it is interesting that this was rehashed because as far as I am concerned and as far as they Yankees should be concerned this is a dead issue…

  • Old Ranger

    Cash has stated things time and again of Pavano, Farnworth and Igawa. Need he repeat everything he has said about these and other players. When one doesn’t play well one must look for a reason. Sometimes it is a simple explanation; not being used properly, used to often, out of position, out of shape, to old. There are many reasons. If, as GM, you talk to your manager about things and he does the opposite…you let the manager go! If a player doesn’t do his job…you get rid of him, if you can. This is the GMs job. 27/08

  • huuz

    i’d like to point out that if Hank had made these comments about bernie, people would be all over him for “opening his big mouth”

    regardless, i’m not sure why Cash said it. i’m sure it is pretty much true, but i don’t know what good would come of this.

    i think the above comments are spot-on regarding torre/cash and i think this is further evidence that cash has maintained his power in the organization. at this point, i’m pretty happy both hank and cashman.

  • Robert

    I really would like to know the whole context of the response that Cashman gave at the Q&A that he gave. It’s easy to look at what he said and say he shouldn’t have said that in public, etc. I would much rather like to know what the Tone and context of the answer was because as we all know, you can’t really tell what tone a person’s answer is through paper or the internet.

    Either way, I’m not going to go off on Cashman like the readers over at LoHud were doing. Bernie was bad and he had become a shell of himself. It also didn’t hurt that Cashman had to put up with a stubborn manager in Torre who rode his favorites no matter how tired or bad they were. I think this all really started back when the Yankees signed Lofton to play CF. It was clearly expressed that Cashman was bringing in Lofton to play CF and Bernie would spend time DHing, etc. However, Torre completely disregarded Cashman and what the Front Office expected and continued to trot out Bernie to CF where anyone could see he had become a detriment to the team defensively.

    It becomes real sad when, like Ben said, the GM has to take away players from the manager in order to get through his stubborness and force his had to play the youngsters, etc. I truly believe that this is more an indictment on Torre being as stubborn as they come in the last few years he was here than it is on Bernie. It’s not like Bernie was going to say “No” to playing time.

  • steve (different one)

    i would guess that Cashman has taken a ton of heat from Yankee fans for not bringing Bernie back this year. i am sure it was frustrating for him, b/c he had legitimate reasons, but did not want to air them publicly last winter, as it was too soon.

    i have no idea what prompted him to open up now, or even if he SHOULD have, but i do not doubt that any of the things he was saying were true.

    Bernie should have been moved out of the OF as far back as 2004. had Torre accepted Bernie’s reduced role, it is possible that Bernie could have flourished in that role and possibly could still be around.

  • Relaunch

    I could care less how Bernie feels. He was an asshole when I met him, he can go have fun playing his guitar.

    • http://myspace.com/lincolnsworld Link

      what happened?

  • YankeeJosh

    Let’s narrow down the issue here. Bernie did have a terrible 2005, and rebounded nicely in 2006 and had his best season since 2002. I don’t blame him for thinking he could come back and help the team after his 2006 season. I think Cashman made a bad baseball move by not offering him a contract, but that’s water under the bridge. Even if I disagree with it, it’s part of the normal business of baseball. Cashman thought he had better options with younger players and wanted to run with them. There’s nothing unethical about that. We can argue back and forth whether he was right, but that’s not the point.

    I disagree with Cashman that there were better options in 2006. Matsui and Sheffield were injured in May and didn’t get back to September. Melky was playing everyday in Left and Damon in Center. Bernie was still the best option to spot them a day or play right most times. I loved Aaron Guiel, but it’s not as if Torre was benching some stud prospect to play Bernie in 2006. In fact, once the Abreu trade was made, Bernie really wound up riding the bench a lot more, because Torre said Melky needed to play every day to stay sharp. This still isn’t the issue. It’s Cashman’s opninon and it’s debateable.

    Cashman saying that Bernie’s music career “took away from his play” is the big issue. First, there is no way to know that. Second, that is questioning the heart of a great Yankee who whether he was well past his prime or not, has done a lot to help rebuild the aura of the Yankees. Bernie had to deal with a lot in his last years here, including Kenny Lofton being brought in to replace him, and a clearly not ready Melky Cabrera being given starts over him in 2005 against the Red Sox. Through all the Yankees attempts to run him out of Centerfield and off the team, he never said anything. He did the right thing, and didn’t throw fits with the media or demand playing time. He was a true professional who handled it with class.

    I just wish Cashman could have done it the same way. There’d be no controversy now if he had just said that Bernie was on the tail end of his career, he struggled in 2005, worked hard and had a great 2006 playing more than expected. However, the team thought there were better options in 2007 and ultimately moved on. You could question the moves that way, but it’s all fair in the baseball world.

    Cashman questioning a great Yankees work ethic is totally uncalled for. I do, however, have to agree with Robert above, who wants to know the context of these comments. WE don’t have full quotes, so it is possible this was taken out of context, and I hope it was, since I am a huge Bernie fan and also a big fan of all Cashman has done for this team.

    It’s unfortunate that this seems to be a side effect of the Torre-Cashman rift that was developing by 2006.

    • Brian

      Well said. Bernie was great for so long, and like Ben said, this is a shame. Everyone is at least a little bit right here and we don’t have the full context of the comments nor all the background. We are just a) offended that Bernie looks bad here, or b) offended that Brian looks bad when he is just telling the truth as he sees it. Either way, it reveals what was going on with Torre. I’ll be interested to see if Joe chooses to respond in some way.

    • joni4yankee51

      As a Huge Yankee fan, I feel Cashman has overstepped his authority . By publicily tearing down a Yankee Great like Bernie Williams ,especially in the manner he did only shows his own stupidity. The only thing he did do show everyone is ego again. I’m STILL the Boss.I’m sure he wants us to think he was was only thinking of the team again, maybe he has forgotten of the money he lost in Pavano.Maybe he is just trying to save his own wallet right now, or perhaps call attention away from the big mistake of bringing back Roger Clemens for what??? Saving the Yankees??? Winning a World Series -that did not happen. Maybe Bernie did have a bad year in 2005, but he still showed up with class and diginity. Never once did Bernie throw at bat, or his glove down, mouth off ,or show any knid of disrespect to the Yankee fans or other team fans and that is why he is a fan favorite. Cashman should be a man about this, he buff is really with Joe Torre and, he knows that Bernie ,along with Derek Jeter, were Torre’s special picks , so what. Maybe Cashman should step up to the plate himself, take a real swing. But we Bernie fans and all Yankee fans know that Brian Cashman is not and will not ever be remembered in the statement “Power , Pride and Pinstripes” of the New York Yankees. I think Bernie Williams, the #51 will always be remembered and de deserves the reconigition from his fans and peers.

  • Lanny

    Why would a GM bash a current player publicly?

    You really think its smart to bash Pavano, Farnsworth, Igawa?

    Give me a break

    And Cashman did offer Bernie a deal. Bernie turned it down. His fault. If he takes that offer he gets 400 at bats last yr with the Matsui injury and the teams slow start.

    You really think Torre would have cut Bernie during camp???

    Give me a break 2

  • Barry

    I completely agree with Cash, though he probably should have kept it private.

    Hearing all this just makes me all-the-more glad Torre is gone. This pretty much confirms the speculation regarding Torre enforcing his “circle of trust” above the front-office’s wishes.

  • YankCrank20

    YankeeJosh is right. bernie was a class act and never spoke out despite his diminishing role, and his reaction to cashman’s recent words weren’t even that bad. cashman should have used better words, but in 07 bernie should have swallowed some pride and taken the minor league contract.

  • Brian

    A quick aside: P. Abraham didn’t call Bernie on this one if I’m reading his blog right. Looks like he was seeing Bernie at a charity event in New Rochelle. A couple posts before the Bernie-Cashman Feud piece on LoHud, he asks readers for angles to go in asking Bernie and Paul O’Neill questions. So, in other words, looks like he’s doing his job, reporting something. Now, of course, Cashman started it the other night, but Bernie is not choosing to address the matter on his own. He’s being asked (and told about Cashman’s comments at the same time) point-blank, and I thought he did a decent job of being the gentleman he is. Prior to a charity event. To me, P. Abraham is writing a story….I guess Bernie should have just said “no comment.” Then Peter wouldn’t really have one, and we wouldn’t be dredging up 2005 and whether Bernie is being silly and unwilling to hang it up. Maybe he hasn’t officially retired out of spite, but I’m pretty sure he’s not instigating matters here.

  • Rich

    I think it’s curious, given Cash’s apparent growing frustration with Torre’s player personnel deployment, that he reportedly talked George out of firing him after the 2006 ALDS loss to the Tigers. That would have seemed to be an even better time to have cut the cord. After all, Girardi, who appears to have been Cashman’s first choice to succeed Torre for some time, was available at that point as well, since he had been fired after the 2006 season.

  • Mike D

    It’s really hard to criticize Bernie on any level. He didn’t start this public spat. Regarding his play, he did have a poor 2005, but came back and was productive enough in 2006 to be given a shot by some MLB team in 2007, if that’s what he wanted. If the Yankees didn’t want to bring him back, well, that’s fine. I still have to give Bernie credit for deciding to stay true to the Yankees. He was offered opportunities with other teams and turned them down, although he wasn’t as heavily pursued because he made it clear it was either the Yankees or no team.

    Cashman, for some reason, brought this topic up even though Bernie hasn’t appeared in a game for almost a year and a half. It was uncalled for and surprising coming from a man who rarely, if ever, criticizes players in public, let alone a former player and a Yankee great. What the heck is he trying to gain? To Bernie’s credit, his response was certainly measured and professional.

    There is some part of this story we haven’t heard. Perhaps there was a discussion with Bernie that the Yankees were bringing him back for a farewell tour in ’06 and the Yankees feel he went back on his promise. I truly doubt that, though, because ballplayers rarely know for sure when the end has come. I doubt Bernie ever said for sure that ’06 was going to be his last year, and even if he did, that’s certainly not something that he should be held to. (Rocket, anyone?) The Paul O’Neill-type exit is pretty rare.

    I’m sure I speak for most if not all Yankee fans in being disappointed. Bernie deserves his day and as fans we want to show him our appreciation. He’s a Yankee for life, so the two sides should reach out to each other and figure out how to fix this unfortunate and unnecessary situation.

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  • Alvaro

    Cash was RIGHT to not offer Bernie a contract for 2007 but he was WRONG to make the comments he did. Nothing is served by taking a shot at Bernie after the fact. Can’t blame Bernie for being pissed.

    That said Bernie has nothing to complain about in regards to how the Yankees treated him. They gave him plenty of money and plenty of playing time long after he deserved either.

  • Donnie Baseball…

    Cashman was dead on the money. I have more respect for Cashman now that this was made public. Bernie playing hurt the team the last few years and I thought that was partly Cashman’s fault, and party Torre’s fault (as well as Bernie taking some of the blame)

    Now I see it more on Bernie and Joe, and possibly other higher ups in the Yanks org.

    Yankees fans of this generation usually over rate Bernie something crazy. Bernie at best was never the best at his position in baseball. He did a great job for a few years at the plate when we happened to win WS titles.

    Bernie NEVER EVER EVER played as hard as he could. Bernie was a soft player and not a good outfielder, but made up for it at times with the great speed he ONCE had. Bernie was a great cog in the WS teams but never the catalyst, and he never played hard.

    Other people get over rated from those teams: Scotty B (one of my favs on those teams), Paulie (very good hitter who was traded for one of my fav but flawed Yanks who could also hit in Roberto Kelly), Tino (as good as he was, and as good of a guy as he is, he came up short alot in big situations, but he had great regular seasons with the bat sometimes, again one of my favs)

  • LiveFromNewYork

    I saw Bernie light up the place a few times in 2006 even though he sucked in 2005. His play in 2006, offensively, was very good.

    I think that Bernie was one of those pawns in the power stuggle between Torre and Cashman.

    I think that with all the negative crap swirling round the Yankees, esp the dynasty teams (steroids, homicide DUIs) that Cashman should not be taking pot shots at a Yankee icon.

    I respected the decision to not bring Bernie back. I can see how Torre frustrated the crap out of Cashman.

    But I can’t support his remarks about Bernie. Not fair and the timing sucks.

    • steve (different one)

      i like bernie a lot, but let’s not go crazy. he was not “very good” offensively in 2006. he hit 281/.332/.436, which is about average, but WAY below average for a poor defensive corner OFer.

      now, the one thing he could do was hit lefties. as as such, he MAY have had a spot on the 2007 team as a RH bat off the bench, very occasional OFer/DH. 150-200 ABS, only against LHP.

      but Torre could not be trusted to keep one of “his guys” on the bench. he was signed to fill that role in 2006, and even before Sheffield and Matsui got hurt, he was playing almost every day. they needed “Bernie Rules”.

      none of this means Cashman should have said what he said in public, but i can’t really disagree with what he said.

      • Count Zero

        QFT

      • LiveFromNewYork

        I agree there should have been Bernie rules and that he didn’t hang it up early enough. But I think Cashman’s comments were out of line. Maybe true but out of line. And Torre just mismanaged the 2006 playoffs completely.

    • joni4yankee51

      Bernie Williams, a true Yankee icon, who has played his whole career with the Yankees , a player with heart. And that is what he gave to the Yankees and to the game , Heart. What happened to the game of baseball, the Great All American sport? It’s lost it’s heart .It’s now just a game of who has more money and how to spend it and of course who can be bought. A Pawn , yes, Cashman played Bernie as a pawn to win a power struggle with Joe Torre. With all the craps with the issue of Steroids going on, I don’t think Cashman should run his mouth, but maybe that’s his way of excusing his self of this matter. Bernie Williams was and will never be on that list. The timing does stink. Why now?? Does he not want a true Yankee icon (Bernie Williams)to be remembered at the new stadium or be a part of something that he worked for. Or is it that he doesnt have the guts to have to admit his own short comings on who really suffered in his gain of power between himself and Joe Torre. I know I never saw Cashman hit a home run in Yankee Stadium or dive and catch a ball out in center field. Truthfully, Mr. Steinbrenner should consider benching Cashman or maybe suspend him without pay for his stupidity. Maybe Cashman hasn’t figured it out yet he’s NO player. I think Joe Torre was a great ball player and was a great coach and will continue to be. He has led the Yankees to more World Series than any other manager. At least, Bernie Williams can be proud of what he has done. I think Bernie would make a great addition to the Yankee roster now, even if he was only a designated hitter or even if were to come back and assist any part of the staff. But we can thank Cashman for NO chance of that.

      • steve (different one)

        well there is 2 minutes of my life i’ll never get back.

  • Old Ranger

    The hardest thing for an athlete to come to grips with is the time to fold’um. Bernie didn’t think it was time to fold’um, hence…trouble in Yankee land. How many great baseball players make good coaches let alone managers…like, NONE. There is a great difference between being a good athlete and a good ball player. Bernie was a world class sprinter who happened to become (see: athlete) a baseball player. Many young baseball players come through the system where someone says; “He needs to take better routes to the ball, but he’ll learn”. That’s an athlete becoming a baseball player, just like Bernie did.
    Athletes grow old faster then a true baseball player, just a fact. Bernie was done back in 02/03, Joe nor he would admit it.

    • Ivan

      Old Ranger what are you talking about?

      I understand that yeah Bernie wasn’t gifted with the greatest feel or IQ in baseball and made up for his pure athleticism,

      but to say that bernie was done in 02/03 is incorrect really. He was still a productive hitter in 02/03 and 04. (hello the guy did hit over .340 in 2002)

      So I thought you were off there.

  • Ivan

    check that in 02 he hit .333 that year.

  • dan

    I have no idea if this is true or not, and it’s gonna sound really far fetched, so if you don’t believe it then just ignore me…

    My friend’s dad’s friend knows someone in the Mets’ front office who said to him that a deal for Johan has been agreed upon in principle and could be announced next week.

    And what’s with the margins?

    • Realist

      I wouldn’t be suprised as the NYMs have seemed to be the front runners the past couple of weeks and quite frankly the best move for the NYYs and Santana. He will eat the NL alive!

      I also have to ask what is up with the margins?????????????

  • Ivan

    Just got reports that Erik Bedard has been traded to the Mariners for Adam Jones and other prospects.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    Torre was phoning it in at the end and sleeping on the bench. I am one person glad he is gone.

    Bernie should have retired gracefully and maybe come into the Yankees organization.

    Cashman should keep his mouth shut but he doesn’t deserve to be fired for his remarks.

  • Mike D

    I hope this margin issue is a technical glitch and not an attempted improvement!

    BTW Regarding Torre’s infatuation with Bernie, let’s all remember that Torre wanted the Yankees to sign Albert Belle after the 1998 season and let Bernie go. If not for the Orioles stepping in and making a bigger offer, Bernie would have went to the Red Sox, and the Yankees would have had an angry baseball player with a bad hip starting in 1999.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      That actually had nothing to do with the Orioles and more to do with the Yanks. Stay tuned this week for more on that one.

  • Mike D

    Oddly, Johan going to the Mets might be one of the few times, if ever, that the Yankees will be happy their cross-town rivals beat them to the big-name player. In fact, this might be one situation where both the Yankees and Red Sox are happy. Johan will be out of the league and not on one of the arch-rival’s teams.

  • ikl

    I like Cashman a lot, but this was not classy at all and totally unnecessary.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

    Margins are fixed. Someone’s commenter name was much too long.

    • steve (different one)

      nice going, dan.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

        HAH! That made me laugh. Good one, steve.

      • dan

        lol, my bad…. i’ll try and shorten the name

  • Rob_in_CT

    Ugh.

    If only he’d left out the bit about music taking away from his play. First, even if true, there’s no need to go there. Second, I don’t think that was true. I just think Bernie was done.

    Much better to have simply said that Bernie wasn’t what he used to be and the club felt they had better internal options, so they let him go (or rather were only prepared to offer him a minor league deal).

    Mistake by Cash. Not in player evaluation or strategy, but in PR.

  • Gary

    Torre never once slept on the bench.

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  • wayne’s world

    Whether Cashman was right or wrong is not the issue. Bernie is out of baseball and he was a great Yankee. Now, despite the bumps in the road that attended his final season and departure, he should be embraced by the organization and treated with the respect that his career as a great Yankee and good citizen warrants. As the senior executive who is the face of the team, Cashman should embrace that role for Bernie and conduct himself with more dignity and respect for the history of the team and Bernie’s contribution to it. To dredge up this stuff is simply beneath him.