Food For Thought: Bernie Williams


Murphy received 73 votes for the Hall of Fame this year, just 12.6% of the total, so he was well short of induction. Bernie will jump on the ballot for the first time next year, and as you can see, his overall career path was very similar to Murphy’s. Both fell off considerably at age 32-33, and both had absurd peaks: Murphy hit .290/.383/.536 from ’83-’87, Bernie hit .324/.410/.551 from ’96-’00. The former can’t match the latter’s postseason exploits and World Series rings, but the latter can’t match the former’s two MVP awards. How do you think Bernie will fare in the voting ext year?

(related graphs) (h/t Jonathan Mitchell)

Categories : Players


  1. JFH says:

    I love Bernie. But, he is not a hall of famer, nor is Dale Murphy.

  2. Chofo says:

    Joe Poz makes te argument that Murphy is HOF worthy. Anxious to read what he has to say about Bernie

    • gc says:

      Poz’ whole week’s worth of articles was such a great read! I also noticed the Murphy reference under his “borderline” guys who probably won’t make it, but have interesting cases to consider. My favorite part about his case for Murphy was in bringing up the infamous Hall of Fame “Character Clause.” So many writers seem to make a bee-line for this vague bit of wording every time they have suspicions about steroids or spitting or gambling or whatever bit of ugliness may tarnish a player’s case for enshrinement. In Murphy’s case, and one can now argue for Bernie’s as well, why not seek out the character clause for use in the opposite direction. Players who played hard, put up solid very good (if not always spectacular) numbers, and who were also beloved and well respected by fans and competitors alike around the league. True ambassadors of the game in every sense of the word. People can debate what that might do to the Hall in terms of legitimacy, but I think it’s an interesting discussion to have, and I’m glad Poznanski brought it up.

    • MikeD says:

      I wouldn’t read too much into Poz’s support of Murphy. He pretty much said he has an emotional attachment to Murphy. If he was a Yankee fan, he’d probably be saying the same thing about Mattingly.

  3. JimmieFoxx says:

    Bernie’s numbers were compiled during the juiced ball/steroids era.
    Some of Murphy’s contemporaries may have been using PEDs as well but he played in a much less stigmatized era.

    • Nuke LaDoosh says:

      Have to say, huge Bernie fan here, but I always wondered on PED’s once the issue became so widespread…do you remember how skinny he was when he broke in ?

      • Mike HC says:

        The question to ask is who was/is not on PED’s. I definitely lean far to the side that thinks just about everyone was doing it, and are basically still doing it to a certain extent.

      • gc says:

        Did you ever see Hank Aaron as a rookie? Skinny as a rail. It’s not like Bernie came to camp one year and all the sudden pulled a Lenny Dykstra and showed up looking like Mr Universe.

        • Mike HC says:

          Steroids were around when Hank Aaron was playing too. It is impossible to know who was using or not though. For me personally, I really don’t care. It is part of the game.

          • gc says:

            Agreed 1000%.

          • Mister Delaware says:

            About the only way I could care about anything PED related is if a team or training staff “forced” players to go on a regimen. Otherwise … whatever.

            • steve (different one) says:

              Well, Lou Merloni did report that the Red Sox FO brought in a doctor to show the players how to properly administer steroids. Surely ESPN made a big deal out of that bombshell. Wait….

              • Mister Delaware says:

                Eh, even that I don’t care about. Seems akin to knowing your 18 year old is going to drink so you may as well let him at home so no one is driving. Its not a great idea, but sometimes a bad idea trumps a horrible one.

  4. Bryan L says:

    I think he gets 15-20% of the ballot next year, but that may even be a stretch…

  5. Doug says:

    think he’ll get about 30% next year because of the weak class, then he’ll settle into the 20% area when the ballot becomes deeper and deeper

  6. Mike HC says:

    Bernie is a Hall of Famer in my book, which is the only one I give a shit about.

  7. Mike Irish says:

    Bernie was always my favorite player, and still is my all time favorite, so maybe I’m a bit biased. I definitely think he deserves enshrinement. He meant everything to a dynasty team, batting in the clean-up spot playing at a premium defensive position while putting up some incredible all around numbers. He was a great guy, a great ballplayer and maybe an even better musician. He decided to retire rather than drag out a dying career, a lesson that seems to have been lost in today’s sports except for maybe Mike Mussina who also bowed out graciously leaving on top of the world. Bernie is still the best postseason hitter of all time and without him, no dynasty. The Yankees may have been good, may have been a contender, but certainly no dynasty. That earns him a spot in the hall of fame. And if it doesn’t then the Hall is no longer about the dominant player and instead about compiling unnecessary stats over a drawn out career. If Bernie had moved to DH and played another 3 or 4 years we wouldn’t even need to have this discussion. Let me leave by asking is he still the all time postseason RBI leader, I know he lost the HR title to Manny Ramirez.

    • gc says:

      Did Bernie ever officially retire??

      • Ray Fuego says:

        He wanted to play again, I think he would of been fine as a 4th outfielder but he was never called by any team. He’s just living his career as a musician now. He’s featured time to time on Telemundo.

        • Poopy Pants says:

          ‘Musician’ is a strong word.

          • boogie down says:

            You’ve heard him play, right? “Musician” is an appropriate word, IMO.

            • pete says:

              agreed. he’s not a particularly good musician, in my opinion (a decent player, but a little shmaltzy/smooth jazz/muzack-y for my tastes), but he certainly qualifies as a “musician”. Hell, he’s about 49208381 times better than Ke$ha, no?

    • Doug says:

      when was bernie a dominant player? was he ever one of the top 10 players in the game? or one of the 1 or 2 best OFers?

      • Accent Shallow says:


        .321/.406/.531. OPS+ of 142. Gold Glove defense in CF (ok, did he deserve those? Probably not)

        That’s a hell of a peak.

      • Mister Delaware says:

        I’ve never liked this reasoning. Schmidt and Brett are among, what, the top 3 or 4 best 3Bs in the history of baseball? By the “was he ever the best at his position” logic, from their overlap years of 1973 through 1989, one of them wasn’t. Tim Raines might have been the best leadoff hitter in baseball history if Rickey Henderson never played. As it stands, Raines was never “the best leadoff hitter of his era”. And, of course, the flipside of this is naming a “best of his era” in a shallow era. Sometimes greats are contemporaries, sometimes there’s a league-wide lull. Arbitrary “best ever” and “top 2 or 3″ just fuels bad analysis.

        • Zack says:

          “Arbitrary “best ever” and “top 2 or 3? just fuels bad analysis.”

          Exactly, but the new criteria, according to Heyman, will probably mean Smoltz/Glavine shouldn’t get votes. I mean they weren’t even the #1 pitcher on their own staff.

        • bpdelia says:

          I completely agree with your point here. By this ridiculous logic Al Kaline wasn’t even one of the best five players of his era! Stan Musial wasn’t even the best player of his era.
          Frank RObinson etc etc etc.

          But I have to disagree with another aspect I find troubling. Its the tendency of the more sabemetrically obsessed of us to insist that long term stat compilation is no accomplisment at all. OF course it is. If you are able ot get 3000 hits, or 500 hrs it means you were good enough, long enough to be allowed to start and compile those stats.

          Im of the belief that short term dominance is no greater than long term excellence. To me long term consistent statistical compiling is a very good basis for hall enshrinement.

          I don’t like any of these zero sum methods for choosing.

          PS Edgar Martinez not getting more support angers me.

          As for Murphy, I always liked watching him play. TO me he was quite borderline. Not a long enough peak of dominance, and not enough of a compiler. He is what he is. A great ball player who is just a bit short.

          Same with Bernie. Excellent ball player,

          Also Im on board with the idea that almost everyone was doing steroids.

          ANd if you’re going to have a hall of fame without Barry Bonds (arguably one of the 5 best players EVER) ROger Clemens, etc etc what the hell is the point.

          Vote these guys in an just write tghe truth on the plaques. Let the people draw their own conclusions.

          • Mister Delaware says:

            “But I have to disagree with another aspect I find troubling. Its the tendency of the more sabemetrically obsessed of us to insist that long term stat compilation is no accomplisment at all. OF course it is. If you are able ot get 3000 hits, or 500 hrs it means you were good enough, long enough to be allowed to start and compile those stats.”

            I don’t think many are for ignoring the counting stats, just for putting them in proper context. 400 HRs over 13 seasons is more impressive, atleast to me, than 500 HRs over 21 seasons. As for hits … I really wish a true Total Bases stat was used and more valued. Its basically why Tony Gwynn went in first ballot and Tim Raines is still sitting below 50%. Hits alone, Gwynn is up like 500 something. Add in walks and HBP and they’re nearly dead even. Add in net steals and Raines wins in a blowout. Bases via single are more valuable than walks/steals, but not when the gap is that wide. That, to me, is the problem with the auto-in at 3,000, it provides a crutch for why someone else shouldn’t make it. “He didn’t have 3,000 hits”, “he never won 20 games” … those numbers are great, but so is 2,850 hits. So is a 19 win season (if you like wins).

            • bpdelia says:

              fair enough. I agree, but we’re quibbling on the whole round numbers. Raines doesn’t have 3000 hits. But he had a CRAPLOAD of hits. To me I really don’t care about first ballot etc. And Gwynn, Yount etc are excellent examples of compilers who got in solely on the basis of one round number compilation. I just want it acknowleged that compliling stats over a 22 year career is in itself an insane accomplishment. We should all understand that longevity in sports is even rarer than a small period of dominance. There are a ton of guys who put together 3-6 year spurts of greatness (Don Mattingly, Rob Dibble, Rob Nen) but very few guys who managed to be great to good MLers for 20 years. Longevity is very underated by the sabermetric crowd (I myself am a guy who loves sabermetrics for player evaluation) and often guys who were able to produce for years and years are kinda panned.

      • steve (different one) says:


        He was in the top 7 of WAR 3 times, and in the top 10 offensive WAR 6 times. In those same years he was generally in the top 2-3 OFers.

        So the answer to your question is yes.

  8. RollingWave says:

    woooo, that’s about as close to a clone as it gets.

    Like Murphy, if Bernie didn’t drop off so much after his early 30s he probably get in, but after that… I think it’s highly unlikely. especially not with some ridiculas contemporary comming up right after him.

  9. Miles says:

    Bernie compares favorably to Kirby Puckett, too: http://bit.ly/giQNRx

    • Mister Delaware says:

      You could spend all day finding guys who were better than Kirby Puckett. Poster boy for not believing you know anything about the players beyond their stats (and maybe some tangible good and bad deeds). “Puckett is a great guy!”


      • Pat D says:

        My dad believes that Puckett would stand no chance of getting elected if all the stuff about his personal life was known before he was eligible for election.

        I tend to agree. He got in largely due to sympathy over the way his career ended, which was tragic, but if it was also known that he was such a philanderer, let’s call it, some voters would likely not have been as sympathetic to his cause.

  10. Jerome S. says:

    I get the impression that writers will weigh the world series a bit too heavy.

    If I were a writer, my criteria of would be:

    Weighted from heaviest to lightest:
    1. Career statistical excellence.
    2. Longevity (10+ years of elite play)
    3. Single season excellence (black/grey ink)
    4. Awards and honors (rings + MVP’s)

    By that estimate, Bernie almost but doesn’t meet the first one, doesn’t even meet the second, definitely meets the third, and definitely meets the fourth.
    That’d be a no in my book.

    • He comes insanely close to meeting the second criterion. In a 9 year stretch–1994-2002–Bernie had a .929 raw OPS and 140 OPS+.

    • bexarama says:

      I get the impression that writers will weigh the world series a bit too heavy.

      The voters do/did love dynasties – you think Tony Perez would be in there otherwise? It’ll be interesting to see how Bernie does because it’ll probably help in seeing how the borderline guys in the Core 4 will do (though it’ll be so many years from now when even the first of them is eligible, and yes Jeet and Mo are mortal locks).

      • Mister Delaware says:

        Posada’s going to be the interesting one. Jeter and Mariano are in, Pettitte isn’t, Williams I can’t imagine gets in. Posada … right on the border. If you like Fangraphs WAR, he’s already ahead of Carlton Fisk offensively in 3,000 less PAs. If he can put up a solid 2011 then maybe get 2 more years as a plus DH, I think he gets it. If not, its going to be close and probably not good.

        • Mister Delaware says:

          (Its really too bad he wasn’t a full-time starter until age 26. Add 2 decent years on the front end and he’s probably a lock.)

        • pete says:

          to me, Posada’s probably the third most valuable Yankee during the dynasty, behind Jeter and Bernie, and over the course of their careers, I think it’s impossible to make a valid argument that Mariano provided the team with more value than Posada. I realize that he was never a great defender, but for a long time he was a perfectly capable defender, and he’s one of the top offensive catchers of all time.

          I think Posada is about as deserving of the HOF as Jeter, although he has a way lower chance of getting in.

        • bexarama says:

          I actually think Pettitte will be (and Posada should be), but what do I know.

          • Pat D says:

            Andy’s got that shiny 3.88 career ERA, however. You know what that means? Jack Morris!

            And, of course, there’s the whole PED thing, so I can’t see Andy ever getting in.

    • pete says:

      I’d probably replace #4 with “Character”, but have that be defined only by obvious traits (one way or another), rather than individual incidents or vague perceptions of gamer-ness. Somebody like Mariano or Granderson or Sabathia, for example, would get points in their favor for character, and a guy like John Rocker would get points against him. Effort would count too, but only where it was patently and in some way empirically evident. I think effort more often than not only shows up in the numbers; it isn’t always visible on the field, and I don’t think it’s fair to call a guy like Cano lazy just because his playing style looks effortless. So maybe if a guy was constantly being reprimanded by his own teams for lack of effort, then I’d take points off.

      • Mister Delaware says:

        But this assumes you know a player when any of the guys you listed could actually be pretty awful people. Probably not, but none of us know. Kirby Puckett was like 2 steps from canonization before the whole “history of sexual and physical abuse” thing came out. You keep guys who should be locks out because you think maybe they used PEDs but put another borderline guy in because he seemed super-nice? Then what?

        • pete says:

          no, not PEDs. No highbrowed moral judgment. I mean like John Rocker/Brett Myers type assholes. And nice needs to have empirical basis, too. Like a long record of giving generously back to the community. Thus you encourage more players to do so, and to essentially compete with one another in a philanthropic sense. It may not be a very pure form of baseball criteria, but implementing such a criteria could have a very positive effect on the world outside of baseball, so I’m sticking to it.

          • Mister Delaware says:

            Oh, that I’m on board with. Character as a minus but not as a plus to supplement iffy stats. Exceptions for super-amazing people (with very tangible character points) like Jackie and Clemente.

    • Mister Delaware says:

      I know #4 is a factor but it shouldn’t be. Awards are already factored in with #1; the voters underrating a player 10-20 years ago shouldn’t be justification for screwing up again. Rings … who cares. You don’t pick your teammates.

  11. I did a HOF post on Bernie about a month or so back and figured that he was just short. He compared decently with some of the HOF CFs, but fell short of most.

  12. Domenic says:

    I’m guessing Williams will get between ten and fifteen percent of the vote, but I don’t think he’ll get particularly close otherwise. I could see him hanging around on the ballot, maybe peaking around twenty-five or thirty percent in weaker years.

    One thing working in Williams’ favor is that next year’s ballot is fairly weak – he’s the best newcomer to the ballot, and Larkin’s really the only threat to make the jump and get in, in my opinion.

  13. NextYankeeDynasty says:

    Loved Bernie but he wont get in…He will likely get a decent amount of votes as he will be the top 1st year ballot player on the ballot next year and the rings will help a bit too….

  14. bexarama says:

    Bernie will and should easily get the most votes in next year’s weak-ass class – I don’t think he’s a one-and-done – but he falls short to me, even though I love him.

  15. MikeD says:

    Bernie’s not a HOFer, yet he’s still a better player than Kirby Puckett, whose hitting was a creation of the MetroDome.

    • Bob Stone says:

      I agree.

    • Domenic says:

      Bernie Williams was a model of consistency:

      Home – .295/.383/.475 – .858 OPS
      Road – .299/.379/.479 – .858 OPS

      Those lines are practically identical – I’m curious to see if there’s another player out there with such similar home/road splits.

  16. ken (O.R.) says:

    Bernie has never really retired as of yet.
    Players such as Jeter, Ripkin, etc., may set records but, played years past the time they should have retired.
    Anyone paying attention to baseball and players could have and did see the signs of last year for Jeter. Many ball players (in later years) have the big year (see Bernie/Jeter), then they go into a tail-spin. Let’s be honest, Jeter will make the HOF but, as of last year to the year 2013 he is not the .300 #1-2 hitter for this team. I would love to be wrong but, I don’t see him with a big come back left in him anymore
    In Bernie’s case, he was a very very good athlete playing baseball, a game he never really had the instincts for. How many times have we heard “Bernie pulled a Bernie”. When asked about what Bernie thinks when he is hitting Tino (I think) once said; “Bernie doesn’t think”!
    Loved him as a Yankee but, not in the HOF, there are too many in already that don’t belong as it is…Rice, no way!

    • Mister Delaware says:

      Looks like someone needs a little injection of fear.

    • pete says:

      Nobody thinks when they’re hitting; there’s no time to. Players train their bodies to react to what they see, without the intermediary of conscious thought. Any player who says different is confused.

      And I’ve never, ever heard of Bernie as a player who didn’t have “the instincts” for the game. There’s certainly nothing in his numbers that would suggest something was amiss. He was a good fielder, a good baserunner, and a great (even if not quite HOF-worthy) hitter.

      • ken (O.R.) says:

        With respect, you are wrong. Bernie was a fast base-runner but, a very poor base-runner.
        His fielding was just like Mickey Mantles, speed and more speed. Speed made up for all the bad starts they made.
        Bernie and A-Jax have this thing in common…they are/were great Athletes that became baseball players, unlike the Jeter/A-Rod types that have great baseball instincts.
        Don’t get me wrong, I do like Bernie and what he did with the team but, be honest, he was not that great in CF…bad routes and a weak arm.
        As for thinking at the plate…what I (and Tino) meant was, going to the plate with a plain in mind for the situation.

        • pete says:

          I’ll take your word for the defense, since I was pretty young back then and may not have known any better, but…if Bernie lacked instincts offensively, then what kind of player would he have been with instincts? He’s absolutely nothing like Austin Jackson; he was a very patient hitter who drew a ton of walks and hit for a great deal of power (especially for a CF). His numbers certainly suggest that he had great instincts offensively, and went to the plate with a plan. Either that or he was basically as naturally talented as Willy Mays or Barry Bonds and just lacked the instincts. I’d guess the former.

          • ken (O.R.) says:

            You got it Pete but, it’s the later!
            He had raw athletic talent, as A-Jax has. I doubt if A-Jax will ever reach the level of Bernie (very few do) offensively.
            As you said, if Bernie had baseball instincts, he would be a shoe-in for the HOF. Remember the Johnny D base-running play in the WS? Bernie would never have made that run…Jeter, A-Rod, Brett, Cisco and maybe Granderson would have done the same as JD.
            Bernie was one of my favorite players, don’t think I’m trying to denigrate him or his playing, I’m not!

  17. bpdelia says:

    Honestly out of all the yankees of the dynasty I think Jeter and Rivera are the only two HOFers.

    Posada is close being one of the top offensive catchers of the era (especially considering that it’s becoming clear that Piazza will get screwed ala Bagwell).

    Williams is, again, in the middle. Not a long enough peak of dominance, and not enough of a compiler of stats.

    He goes down as one of the many great great players who aren’t quite HOFers.

    • steve (different one) says:

      If I had a vote, I would vote for Piazza, but I would be SHOCKED if he was clean.

      • bpdelia says:

        yeah but I would be shocked if anyone was clean. Who cares. Piazza’s career stacks him up as one of the top 3 catchers in the history of the game. You’re probably going to take Bench because the defense was as definite plus and you can argue on Campy’s prime. But otherwise Piazza put up numbers that simply cannot be ignored. But he’s not going to make it.

        I’ve said all along because the minute Barry Bonds does not make it into the hall is the minute I officially stop giving a damn about the hall of fame.

  18. pete says:

    I think I would make my criteria the following:

    1. Career WAR of at least 65.0

    2. At least fifteen seasons of a WAR of 2.0 or better

    3. At least ten seasons of 4.0 or better

    4. At least five seasons of 6.0 or better

    5. At least three of 7.0 or better

    6. At least one season over 8.0 WAR

    7. Only allowed to be a total dick if career WAR is over 100.

    • pete says:

      *criteria for the HOF

    • steve (different one) says:

      i like it

    • Pat D says:

      If you want to limit yourself to just WAR, fine. But, of course, which WAR? B-Ref or Fangraphs?

      That’s why I can’t use WAR as a defining point, let alone sole criteria, for judging HOF players. Until there’s a unified WAR everyone agrees to, it’s just another stat.

      • pete says:

        Eh, I’d allow for some breathing room on each of the individual season marks. Both bWAR and fWAR should be over 70 though for their careers.

        • Pat D says:


          So your HOF excludes:
          Roberto Alomar
          Hank Greenberg
          Tony Gwynn
          Dave Winfield
          Frank Baker
          Bill Dickey
          George Sisler
          Jackie Robinson
          Ryne Sandberg
          Gabby Hartnett
          Mickey Cochrane
          Harry Heilmann
          Luke Appling
          Brooks Robinson
          Duke Snider
          Carlton Fisk
          Red Ruffing
          Gary Carter
          Willie McCovey
          Ozzie Smith
          Ernie Banks
          Carl Hubbell
          Al Simmons
          Bob Feller
          Jim Palmer
          Joe Cronin
          Juan Marichal
          Yogi Berra

          Roughly, only about 60 players qualify for your HOF. Thank you for proving my point.

          • Pat D says:

            Oh, and also due to Fangraphs not having WAR for pitchers prior to 1980, it once again shows that WAR is unreliable.

    • Doug says:

      and how does bernie stack up?

  19. Pat D says:

    As far as Bernie’s HOF chances are concerned, I think Dale Murphy is a great comp. Dave Parker, too.

    He’ll get votes from a certain number of people no matter what, so he’ll likely always fall in that 10-20% area.

    Murphy has polled between 8.5% (2004, 6th year on ballot, 1st year of Eckersley/Molitor, also featured Sandberg, Sutter, Gossage, Rice, Dawson still on ballot) and 23.2% (2000, 2nd year on ballot, 1st year for Morris and Gossage who combined for just over 50%, year Fisk and Perez were elected).

    Parker polled between 10.3% (2003, 7th year on ballot, year of Murray and Carter) and 24.5% (1998, 2nd year on ballot, 1st year of Carter and Blyleven who both did less than 50%, year that Sutton was elected).

    Now the big thing that could hurt Bernie is all the candidates who will be joining the ballot between 2013-2015, being that most of them have some kind of PED whispers/connections with them. If some of those guys don’t get elected, then Bernie could suffer from not being able to squeeze in on a voter’s 10 man ballot. The guys on ESPN.com discussed this the other day.

    The 2015 ballot, conceivably, could feature Larkin, L.Smith, Bagwell, Raines, E.Martinez, Trammell, Walker, McGwire, McGriff, Palmeiro, Bonds, Clemens, R.Johnson, Maddux, Pedro, Piazza, Sosa, F.Thomas, Glavine, Schilling, Biggio, Smoltz, Sheffield, Bernie, Kent, Mussina, Lofton, D.Wells, M.Alou, Nomar, Delgado, L.Gonzalez.

    How are you supposed to vote for just 10 of those guys if you’re not going to bother being one of the morality police?

    • bpdelia says:

      easy first off I’ll eliminate anyone I don’t “like”

      Second I’ll eliminate any player with links to PED.

      Third I’ll eliminate any player who played with a player who was linked to PED.

      Lastly I’ll eliminate any player who played with a player who gained any weight at all between the years of 1992-2003.

      Problem solved so then I’m left with. . . .Alan Trammel.

      Seriously, it’s time for the Hall to step up and say “listen VOTE FOR THE BEST PLAYERS.” LEave the PED issue to us. We will adress in the museum as part of these players plaques. GUys with definite PED links will have that explained in their exhibit, guys like Piazza will have it said that there we accusations of possible use and every other player will have it noted that he played in an era of enhanced offensive statistics that “some people” have attributed at least in part to the use of PEDs”.

      A Hall without Bonds, Piazza, Bagwell, Clemens et al is idiotic. It’s a museum about the greatest players not a religous shrine to morality for pete’s sake.

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