The Fifth Member of the Core Four

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(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
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For most of the last two decades, the Yankees were led by a collection of four homegrown players, two who became first ballot Hall of Famers and two who became borderline Hall of Famers. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada were forces at key up the middle positions while Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera dominated at the start and end of games. It ain’t that hard to build a winner when you have elite players at short, catcher, in the rotation, and in the bullpen.

The term Core Four is a bit disingenuous though because there are 25 guys on the roster and Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera didn’t do it all by themselves. I know it’s not intentional, but “Core Four” does minimize the contributions of everyone else who played for the Yankees in the late-1990s and 2000s. More than anyone else, the term unfairly disparages the career of Bernie Williams, the fifth member of the Core Four.

In 1991, Bernie became the first member of the Core Four to reach the big leagues, when he was called up to fill in for the injured Roberto Kelly in June. “It’s very different. I’ve been dreaming of this since I signed, six years ago … I was nervous out there at first. I didn’t expect this many fans,” said Williams to Filip Bondy after his MLB debut, in which he went 1-for-3 in drove in two of the team’s three runs in their 5-3 loss to the Orioles.

By August of 1992, Williams a big league regular, hitting leadoff and putting up a .280/.354/.406 (114 OPS+) batting line with five homers, 29 walks, and 36 strikeouts in 62 games as a 23-year-old. The following year he slipped down to a 100 OPS+, but in 1994, Bernie hit his stride and started a nine-year peak in which he hit .319/.404/.525 (140 OPS+) in over 5,500 plate appearances with an average of 23 homers and 12 steals per season. From 1997-2002 — the peak of his peak, shall we say — he hit .326/.411/.538 (146 OPS+).

My favorite thing about peak Bernie was his consistency. From age 28-33, Williams sat between 4.8 and 5.1 WAR each and every season. Check it out:


Source: FanGraphsBernie Williams

WAR is sort of dumb, but I find Bernie’s consistency aesthetically pleasing. The guy was one of the best outfielders in baseball year after year and a lynchpin to the late-1990s dynasty. He hit in the middle of the order every year from 1996 through 2002 and received MVP votes in each of those years except 2001. Williams even won a batting title in 1998, hitting .339.

Although his center field defense left a little something to be desired — especially his arm, I love Bernie, but gosh was his arm bad — Williams did it all offensively, drawing walks and hitting for average and producing power from both sides of the plate. And, of course, the Yankees were always considering trading him, because George Steinbrenner was seemingly always looking to trade his good young players.

During the postseason, Williams put up a .275/.371/.480 batting line in 121 games — 121 postseason games! — including .278/.379/.479 during the club’s title runs in 1996 and 1998-2000. In Game Three of the 1995 ALDS against the Mariners, Bernie became the first player in history to go deep from both sides of the plate in a postseason game:

A year later, in Game Four of the 1996 ALDS against the Rangers, Williams homered from both sides of the plate again. It wasn’t until Chipper Jones in 2003 that someone other than Bernie managed to go deep from both sides of the plate in one postseason game. Williams was named the 1996 ALCS MVP and he still holds the all-time record with 80 RBI in the postseason.

The end of Bernie’s career was pretty ugly — he hit .264/.326/.399 (90 OPS+) with awful defense from 2005-06 — though he is hardly unique in that regard. At his best, Bernie was a high impact hitter at the center of a bonafide dynasty. He’s not the best center fielder in Yankees history because Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio existed, but he is undoubtedly one of the best players in franchise history. So why doesn’t he get recognized for it?

For starters, Core Five just doesn’t sound cool. Let’s not kid ourselves here, “Core Four” became a thing because it rhymes. Michael Kay likes to say Bernie isn’t part of the Core Four because he wasn’t there for all five World Series titles from 1996-2009, but Posada had 15 plate appearances with the Yankees in 1996. He wasn’t exactly a key cog in that machine. It’s lazy reasoning. Core Five doesn’t roll off the tongue easily. It really is that simple.

Secondly, I think Bernie gets overlooked because he was never considered the best player at his position. He was stuck playing in the Ken Griffey Jr. era, not to mention the Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton era. Stretch it out to all outfielders and Williams also had to compete against Barry Bonds and Larry Walker and Manny Ramirez as well. There were a ton of great outfielders in the 1990s and 2000s, especially center fielders. That made it easy to overlook someone like Bernie.

Third, he wasn’t even the best player or biggest star on his own team. The late-1990s Yankees were Derek Jeter’s team. And if they weren’t Derek Jeter’s team, they were Paul O’Neill’s team. Then there was David Cone and Roger Clemens and all sorts of other players who grabbed more headlines than Williams. Bernie was a quiet, unassuming guy who didn’t have much flash to his game, didn’t smash water coolers, didn’t do anything like that to draw attention to himself. He produced in a boring way.

That all worked against Williams. But make no mistake, he was a great player — an all-time great Yankee, there’s no doubt about that — who was a major factor in the late-1990s dynasty. He was also the first homegrown player from that era to come up and become a regular with the team. Bernie’s place in recent Yankees history has been undersold because of a gimmicky nickname. He belongs in the Core Four every bit as much as Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera.

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  • bdelbanco

    Have to take small issue with point #3 about being the best player on his own team. I remember very well before the 1996 WS Bobby Cox saying that the key to pitching to the Yankees was to not let Bernie, the best hitter on the team, beat them. And by pretty much every measure, he was the best player on the 96 team by a good margin, even if the spotlight was already shifting to Jeter.

    • Andrew Zercie

      Bernie Williams was The Man on the ’96 team, and was one of the main cogs in the ’98-’01 machine. I’ll never understand why he’s been short-changed in terms of his role in the late 90s run.

  • bdelbanco

    Have to take small issue with point #3 about being the best player on his own team. I remember very well before the 1996 WS Bobby Cox saying that the key to pitching to the Yankees was to not let Bernie, the best hitter on the team, beat them. And by pretty much every measure, he was the best player on the 96 team by a good margin, even if the spotlight was already shifting to Jeter.

  • dkidd

    most underrated player of his generation, imho

  • Literally Figurative

    Bernie was the best position player during the run, Jeter a close second. Bernie hit 4th and was the lynchpin of the offense.

  • Literally Figurative

    Bernie was the best position player during the run, Jeter a close second. Bernie hit 4th and was the lynchpin of the offense.

  • Literally Figurative

    And using michael Kays reasoning for anything other than toilet paper is a sin punishable by execution.

  • Literally Figurative

    And using michael Kays reasoning for anything other than toilet paper is a sin punishable by execution.

  • Stan

    Good to see Bernie getting more recognition. he was a huge cog in the championship run and I think he is not included in the core four more because he predates them by 5 years than the rhyme. (they could have been the Jive 5? Live 5? Prize 5 (not a perfect rhyme) Drive 5… I’m spent… Oh wait.. once more.. the Line Drive Five

  • Stan

    Good to see Bernie getting more recognition. he was a huge cog in the championship run and I think he is not included in the core four more because he predates them by 5 years than the rhyme. (they could have been the Jive 5? Live 5? Prize 5 (not a perfect rhyme) Drive 5… I’m spent… Oh wait.. once more.. the Line Drive Five

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I feel deceived. I thought this was going to be a write-up on Homer Bush after reading the title.

    • Moncada’s Codpiece

      I was hoping for Ricky Ledee.

  • Stan

    Not to take anything from Bernie (who I said was a key cog of the championship run) but…why stop at 5 though? Leyritz was a useful bench piece and Mendoza was an important swing pitcher. The Heaven 7?

    • Drew

      I mean Tino and Paul O’Neill had more to do with it either of the two you listed, but the point is that Bernie wasn’t a useful cog its that he was the best player on the team for most of the 90’s run.

      • Stan

        I know.. That was said more tongue in cheek than anything. Like why did they even need to make a nickname like that for them?

        • Drew

          $$$$$

          • Stan

            Thats probably it but to be honest I don’t remember seeing much Core Four merchandise

            • Drew

              There is a ton at the stadium, at least there was last year. Went into the Steiner Store at the stadium and they wanted $3500 for a signed Core 4 autographed picture.

              • Stan

                Ah to have that kind of disposable income

                • Drew

                  yeah its incredible to see what they are asking for someones signature. The funny part is that after you purchase it, its basically worthless because most shops won’t buy something from a guy off the street even if you have a COA and Steiner isn’t going to buy it back either.

                • Moncada’s Codpiece

                  Ah to have that kind of disposable income.
                  FIFY.
                  Though I should still have a ’98 piece somewhere in my storage. Never did bust out everything to hang on the walls at my current place.

              • Stan

                Ah to have that kind of disposable income

  • Stan

    Not to take anything from Bernie (who I said was a key cog of the championship run) but…why stop at 5 though? Leyritz was a useful bench piece and Mendoza was an important swing pitcher. The Heaven 7?

  • Chip

    He is the fifth Beetle.

  • HoopDreams

    Bern baby Bern

  • https://twitter.com/KramerIndustry Dr. Martin van Nostrand

    Preach, Mike.

  • dach_yanks

    Great post in a great (retro) series of them. Bernie was fantastic and a had a long run as a central force in those powerhouse teams … maybe his only glaring weaknesses were his wet-noodle-arm and oddly ineffective base-running, but a switch-hitting CF with real power who hit in the clutch … pretty rare commodity. Just overshadowed by the big talents on his own teams, and the bevy of fantastic CF talents of his era. But a classy, and genuinely interesting guy, who deserves a place as Core Five.

  • dach_yanks

    Great post in a great (retro) series of them. Bernie was fantastic and a had a long run as a central force in those powerhouse teams … maybe his only glaring weaknesses were his wet-noodle-arm and oddly ineffective base-running, but a switch-hitting CF with real power who hit in the clutch … pretty rare commodity. Just overshadowed by the big talents on his own teams, and the bevy of fantastic CF talents of his era. But a classy, and genuinely interesting guy, who deserves a place as Core Five.

  • blake

    Bernie was the best player of that group…..he didn’t has as good a career as Jeter did but if you look at the dynasty years (1996-2001) Bernie had a slash of .321.407.546.953 144 OPS+.

    Bernie was the best player on one of the best teams in MLB history…..he should not only still be on the HOF ballot….he should be in the HOF IMO

    • Chip

      He was certainly a more complete player than Jorge was.

      Jeter had the charisma

      O’Neill had the fire

      But Bernie was the most talented.

      • blake

        Yea again he didn’t have the best career of those players…..but for the years the Yankees were winning titles and were one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the sport…..he was their best player…..and he’s off the HOF ballot and Jim Rice is in the HOF. It’s ridiculous

      • blake

        Yea again he didn’t have the best career of those players…..but for the years the Yankees were winning titles and were one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the sport…..he was their best player…..and he’s off the HOF ballot and Jim Rice is in the HOF. It’s ridiculous

        • Chip

          The Core Four get their grouping because they all came up around the same time and all retired around the same time…but if you want to talk about the Dynasty Core it was different:

          It was:
          Bernie
          Jeter
          Tino
          O’Neill
          Rivera
          Andy

          Those were the key guys to the championship run. I like Jorge, but I think you could have replaced him with another catcher and not cost yourself much from 96 – 2000. He didn’t play in 96 and was a part time player until 2000.

          That said – Tino getting a monument is silly.

          • stanzy13

            This and it was a nickname given to the group of them when they were the 4 remaining players from the dynasty teams. They weren’t called “The Core Four” during those years. And when Andy left for Houston, I recall Kay saying something like “it’s down to the core 3.” It started out as a way of highlighting that only that small group of dynasty players were still on the team and (stupidly, in my opinion) became something else because, as others have said, it rhymed. Calling Jeter “the last remaining member of The Core Four” was stupid, because he was also “the last remaining member of The Core 8 or 9 or 10” depending on where you decide to start and end the dynasty years and how you qualify a player. You could easily add David Cone and Scott Brosius and possibly even Ramiro Mendoza and Jim Leyritz (though they were less “key” pieces) to Chip’s list, since they were there through all those late 90s WS teams.

        • Chip

          The Core Four get their grouping because they all came up around the same time and all retired around the same time…but if you want to talk about the Dynasty Core it was different:

          It was:
          Bernie
          Jeter
          Tino
          O’Neill
          Rivera
          Andy

          Those were the key guys to the championship run. I like Jorge, but I think you could have replaced him with another catcher and not cost yourself much from 96 – 2000. He didn’t play in 96 and was a part time player until 2000.

          That said – Tino getting a monument is silly.

        • dach_yanks

          Well, I love Bernie but he wasn’t even best CF of his era (Jr? Edmonds? Jones?) and Rice was truly terrifying as a hitter … like Ortiz generates our nightmares in recent years.

        • dach_yanks

          Well, I love Bernie but he wasn’t even best CF of his era (Jr? Edmonds? Jones?) and Rice was truly terrifying as a hitter … like Ortiz generates our nightmares in recent years.

          • Chip

            You’re 100% right. Edmonds, Jones, Junior – they were all better than Bernie during the same time period.

            • blake

              Jones has a career OPS + of 111. He fell off even younger than Bernie did and his peak was never as good offensively……even if he was a better defender

            • Scott

              I have a Red Sox fan who said during the dynasty years he was more afraid of Bernie coming to bat with the game on the line than any other Yankee.

              • blake

                that’s what got Arod in trouble for saying

              • dach_yanks

                I agree Bernie was the best bat in the lineups of those times, but the truth about those Yankees teams was that they were filled with stars, but very few superstars (except Rivera and ARod). (even Jeter is 1st ballot HoF cuz of his incredible longevity, consistency as a hitter, and “leadership”/clutch; not cuz he was League MVP type except maybe once).

              • Mayan Brickann

                From 1996-2000, I always felt Williams was their most dangerous offensive player.

          • Chip

            You’re 100% right. Edmonds, Jones, Junior – they were all better than Bernie during the same time period.

          • blake

            Bernie’s numbers are very similar to Rice’s for averages….Rice has more counting stats because his price was a little longer. Point is that there isn’t much difference between Bernie and several of the outfielders in the Hall….and Bernie isn’t even on the ballot anymore. Bernie wouldn’t be in my HOF…..but neither would Rice, Dawson, Puckett and a bunch of other players……

            • dach_yanks

              I don’t know. I’m not going to debate the metrics but my memory of watching them all — Rice was a generational talent as RH hitter, Dawson was extraordinary and never got enough attention buried in Montreal, and Puckett earned special place as true leader for that brief Twinkies run.

              • blake

                If Rice had played when Griffey and others did he probably would have been buried behind them a little more too though.

            • Mayan Brickann

              I know this is a favorite comparison of yours, but it’s a lousy one. Really comes down to how you compare with players of the era one played in. Rice, a borderline guy at best, in Bernie’s era is probably Juan Gonzalez, which means he’s miles from an HOF’er. But in his era, he was genuinely unique, albeit nowhere close to the true studs of the era like Brett, Schmidt, etc. If Bernie played in Rice’s era? Let’s say he’s pre-DH days Fred Lynn, which would make him pretty damn good, but also a pretty good distance from HOF status. HOF voting is undoubtedly weird, but there are countless greater injustices than Rice being in and Bernie Williams not being in. Paging Lou Whitaker.

              • blake

                it’s not so much about him not being in…..it’s about him not even being on the ballot anymore. Carlos Delgado has just as much or more beef that Bernie does…..his career numbers are almost identical to David Oritz…..Delgado is off the ballot and everyone thinks Ortiz will sail in even though he used steroids and was a DH.

                My point isn’t as much about arguing that Bernie is a HOFer…..I think he has a really borderline case and as I said he probably wouldn’t be in my own HOF…..but there is a real problem with perception in the voting. Look at Bernies numbers vs Kirby Pucketts and tell me one guy deserved to be in first ballot and the other didn’t even get the 5% to stay on?

                Same reason Glavine got like 90% of the vote and Mussina only 20% even though every statistic says that Moose was a better pitcher than Glavine.

                • Mayan Brickann

                  I can’t. I find the Puckett/Williams comp a lot more reasonable, and can only say that Puckett shouldn’t be in. That one is as unfathomable as any I can think of.

                  • blake

                    Puckett is a better comp to Bernie and the one I usually use….Rice was just the first guy that came to mind a few minutes ago.

                    I get the “well that guy should be in either” argument….but really thats not a fair one IMO. Everyone has their own opinion on what a HOF is but if we are talking fairness when it comes down the actual voting then you have to use comps of players that are already in the Hall….and if a player is as good as the worst player in then that player deserves to be in as well IMO.

                    Yea that’ll continue to water down the hall…..but it’s already watered down and the only way to fix that is to probably give actual objective criteria that have to be met…..like a career WAR number or something…..maybe that’ll happen one day but we aren’t there yet.

                    • Mayan Brickann

                      and if a player is as good as the worst player in then that player deserves to be in as well IMO.

                      ==============================

                      No legit way of measuring that, IMO.

                    • Tom_hamsandwich

                      I don’t agree with that way of doing. Sure Jeff Kent is better than Bill Mazeroski, but I don’t think everyone who was better than Bill Mazeroski should be in the HOF.
                      Not to say that Mazeroski is the worst player in the HOF.

                    • blake

                      No 100% accurate way no…..but there are statistics. At the end of the day its subjective still sure.

                • Tom_hamsandwich

                  Its Don Mattingly syndrome. If you were in love with Mattingly then he was a no brainer HOFer, but if you just loved him but weren’t IN LOVE with him than he was not Hall worthy. The fact that Mattingly stayed on is an honor in itself. The fact that Delgado and Bernie couldn’t stay on is ridiculous.

                  • blake

                    yea….Mattingly really has less of a case than either Bernie or Delgado IMO. I love Donnie but he just didn’t play long enough….and historically as a 1B you have to be pretty studly for a long time to stack up

                    • Tom_hamsandwich

                      I don’t think Mattingly, Bernie, Puckett or Delgado are HOFers; no offense intended, but of the 4 I would have Delgado #1.

                    • blake

                      I don’t either personally…..

                • Mayan Brickann

                  Also on Delgado/Ortiz, two things come to mind. 1) Wouldn’t bet on Ortiz getting in. Unless E. Martinez does first. 2) Ortiz is going to get some rhythm from the voters due to the postseason stuff, but I agree we’re largely talking about the same kind of hitter from basically the same era.

      • ScottinSJ

        Jeter had the charisma? Consistent, clutch, a winner, a leader? All yes. But Jeter is not charismatic.

        • Tom_hamsandwich

          haha, have you seen the Derek Jeter SNL? I would take his defensive range over his acting range.

        • Tom_hamsandwich

          haha, have you seen the Derek Jeter SNL? I would take his defensive range over his acting range.

        • blake

          really? he’s dated virtually every attractive woman in hollywood. He was the most marketable player by like 500% or something ……

      • ScottinSJ

        Jeter had the charisma? Consistent, clutch, a winner, a leader? All yes. But Jeter is not charismatic.

    • Chip

      He was certainly a more complete player than Jorge was.

      Jeter had the charisma

      O’Neill had the fire

      But Bernie was the most talented.

  • Wave Your Hat

    I have to take issue with the late 90’s Yanks being “Jeter’s team”. They weren’t. Even Yankee fans kind of acknowledged that ARod and (at the time) possibly Garciaparra were better, and that Jeter was one of a number of excellent parts, without one overarching star.

    • dach_yanks

      ARod, Nomar and Jetes … and that guy Ripken who set the mold of big-bodied SS with heavy bat.

    • dach_yanks

      ARod, Nomar and Jetes … and that guy Ripken who set the mold of big-bodied SS with heavy bat.

    • Chip

      What always confused me about people comparing Jeter to Alex, Nomar and Tejada was that Jeter was nothing like any of those players. Yes, they were all about the same age and yes they all played SS but their games – especially their offensive games – were so completely different.

      Alex, Nomar and Tejada were middle of the order bats – Jeter wasn’t.

      • Tom_hamsandwich

        You’re confused? America needs to rank…THINGS. Ranking things is America’s new pastime. Go on MSN or any other “news” site, they’re filled with lists and rankings of Fast Food Restaurants, Shampoos, Feminine Hygiene products, etc. We’re American of course we had to compare and rank them.

      • Drew

        People are going to compare for that exact reason you pointed out. They came out at the same time and were all around the same age. The best baseball discussion comes from who you think is better and why. Jeter didn’t distinguish from this group because of his bat which was nothing to slouch at but was nowhere near Alex at the time, he stood out because of the rings.

    • Scott

      What does A-Rod and Garciaparra have to do with the Yankees? Apples and Oranges. If you wanted to say the Yanks weren’t Jeter’s team because of O’Neill, or Mo, Clemens or whoever, you could make that argument but saying they weren’t Jeter’s team because A-Rod and Nomaaaaaah played SS makes no sense.

      • Wave Your Hat

        Were you there Scott? It wasn’t O”Neill’s team or Mo’s team or anything like that. And it wasn’t Jeter’s team because he wasn’t the best at his position then and he was young and it never even occurred to anyone that the Yanks were his team.

        • Scott

          You missed my point by a mile. I guess that clears up why your first post made no sense either.

          • Wave Your Hat

            I tried to explain but there’s no point talking to someone who doesn’t want to listen I guess.

            • Scott

              Okay, logic. You’re point was that Mike’s comment about the 90’s Yanks being Jeter’s team is incorrect. I’m not arguing that. I didn’t say they were or weren’t Jeter’s team.
              But to prove your point you bring up A-Rod (who played for the Rangers and Mariners) and Nomar who played for the Sox. What does that have to do with the Yanks being Jeter’s team or not being Jeter’s team?
              My point was your example to your argument doesn’t fit. As I stated in my first response, a correct example to use what have been to say “they weren’t Jeter’s team because of O’Niell, or Clemens, etc, etc, etc.” You don’t bring up players from another team.

              • Wave Your Hat

                No, my point was that in the late 90s Jeter was still a kid, was only one among many excellent Yankees, and he didn’t have the chops yet, to a large degree because he was overshadowed by ARod and to a lesser extent, Garciaparra, for it to be his team. That all happened later. And you didn’t answer my question, which is, were you there?

                • Tom_hamsandwich

                  is the question was he watching baseball at the time or was he on the Yankees at the time?

                  • Wave Your Hat

                    Who, Scott, or Jeter?

                    • Moncada’s Codpiece

                      Jeter was actually in a Fort Lee motel watching Jerry Springer and munching on funyuns.

                    • Wave Your Hat

                      No, that was Jeter’s evil twin.

                    • Moncada’s Codpiece

                      I hear Mr. Jerek Deter discovered Gritner and Bardner.

                • Scott

                  Then you did a horrible job of making and arguing a point.
                  As for was I there, while that has nothing to do with my point about DJ, because again, I’m not advocating for either position of the Yanks being Jeter’s team, no I wasn’t there.

                  Were you? Did you play for the Yanks? Were you in the locker room? My guess would be no because your logic skills are too flawed for you to be old enough to formulate a valid argument. But on the flip side, maybe you were because you got drafted out of high school and never went to college because clearly you missed out on how to create an argument for a point.

                  • Wave Your Hat

                    So you still didn’t answer my question.

                    • Scott

                      Except that I said no in paragraph one above in the last sentence in which I said “no I wasn’t there.”

                    • Wave Your Hat

                      Ah, I did miss that. Mea maxima culpa. But your not being there explains a lot.

                    • W.B. Mason Williams

                      Considering none of us were there, I don’t think that point really stands.

                      I wasn’t at Pompeii but I’m pretty sure the volcano did it.

                    • Wave Your Hat

                      By there, I simply meant a Yankee fan at that time and of sufficient age. I thought that went without saying, but I guess clearly not.

                    • W.B. Mason Williams

                      Based on the way he’s been talking, I think it’s pretty clear this guy’s not 16.

                      Then again I’ve been around here a lot and maybe am more used to commenters’ personalities.

                    • vicki

                      he made a geraldine ferraro yesterday. if he’s sixteen, he’s a verrrry precocious sixteen year-old.

                    • Wave Your Hat

                      I’m thinking you’d needed to have been 16 in 1999.

                    • W.B. Mason Williams

                      To do what exactly? Get wrapped up in the dynasty?

                    • Wave Your Hat

                      Well, you brought up 16, so whatever you brought it up for works for me.

                    • W.B. Mason Williams

                      I’m not really sure where you’re going with this. I think I’ll just smile, nod, and stop replying.

                    • Wave Your Hat

                      That’s kind of a passive aggressive reply, isn’t it? I mean, you reply saying you won’t reply.

                      But, I didn’t mean anything nefarious. All I meant was that you originally brought up age 16, and I just meant if that was the age of reason for you it worked for me.

                    • Scott

                      Reading is fundamental.

        • Moncada’s Codpiece

          You don’t have to be the absolute best at your position league-wide to be a field general on the team, acknowledged as such when Jeter became captain in 2003 (yes? I think).

          • Wave Your Hat

            But that was 2003. My original point was about the late 90s. By 2003 there was a lot of other stuff in the Jeter legend.

            • Moncada’s Codpiece

              I’m mostly being pedantic. I think the great thing about those Yankees teams was that there wasn’t just one guy and all his pets. I did want to dispute that one had to be the best at a position to lead and define a team.

              • Wave Your Hat

                That’s right in concept, I don’t disagree. But remember, Jeter was hardly 25 in 1999. You can’t lead a team like the Yanks were, at that age, unless you have a real claim to fame like being the best at your position, or at least being the best player on the team, and he was neither. Then.

                • Moncada’s Codpiece

                  I’ll agree. On the field, Jeter still had a lot of folks to look up to, though he was quite precocious. Though outside the stadium, he was rapidly becoming the face of the team. Endorsement deals, handsome young guy, and all. It’s what got him a lot of the hate from fans of other teams (particularly the BoSox).

                  But, being as I am, I mostly watched the field. What a group of folks. Though Chad Curtis can go straight to hell.

                  • Wave Your Hat

                    Yeah, he was the “most eligible bachelor” in the City by all accounts.

          • Scott

            See WYH, that is a valid argument that Moncada brings up.

            • Wave Your Hat

              See below.

      • John in Forest

        In the late 90s the Yankees were talked about as The Team Without Stars; nobody on the team could be pointed to as the best player or pitcher in the league. They weren’t anybody’s team; they were everybody’s team.

    • stanzy13

      I’d call those teams Paul O’Neill’s teams. Because even though he didn’t dominate those Yankees statistically, he was the heart and soul of those teams. He epitomized the way those teams played: hard, professionally, with no BS — though most of the other guys on the teams didn’t beat up water coolers. He was the de facto leader of those teams. And it’s why he got such an incredible send-off from the fans at the Stadium.

  • Wave Your Hat

    I have to take issue with the late 90’s Yanks being “Jeter’s team”. They weren’t. Even Yankee fans kind of acknowledged that ARod and (at the time) possibly Garciaparra were better, and that Jeter was one of a number of excellent parts, without one overarching star.

  • Looser Trader FotD™

    Amen. One of my all time favorite players. Did it all with grace to boot. I’ve not rolled up my sleeves on the HoF analysis, but that 9 year peak was extraordinary. I’d vote him in :)

  • Looser Trader FotD™

    Amen. One of my all time favorite players. Did it all with grace to boot. I’ve not rolled up my sleeves on the HoF analysis, but that 9 year peak was extraordinary. I’d vote him in :)

  • Snooty Babitt

    It’s undoubtedly true that Bernie Williams is a central figure to the Yankee dynasty. Worthy of inclusion in any group of players larger than one when describing the team. However, the element that’s missing here is an accurate account of the origin of the term Core Four, which was specifically created to describe the four members of the 2009 Yankees that were links to the glorious dynasty teams. When you consider why the term was created, it’s entirely appropriate the Bernie was not included as he was already gone from Major League Baseball.

    • RetroRob

      That’s understood, but it also a marketing term, making it kind of meaningless, and in the greater scheme of things people like Kay lazily latch onto it as if it somehow elevates these players above others, and it does lock out Bernie. Yankee fans basically view Bernie, Jeter, Andy, Mo and Jorge together as the core group of homegrown players that fueled a dynasty.

  • Snooty Babitt

    It’s undoubtedly true that Bernie Williams is a central figure to the Yankee dynasty. Worthy of inclusion in any group of players larger than one when describing the team. However, the element that’s missing here is an accurate account of the origin of the term Core Four, which was specifically created to describe the four members of the 2009 Yankees that were links to the glorious dynasty teams. When you consider why the term was created, it’s entirely appropriate the Bernie was not included as he was already gone from Major League Baseball.

  • Farewell Mo and Jeet

    I think this Core 4 stuff is much ado about nothing. The phrase was coined long after Bernie retired at a time when the only remaining “core” players” from the very beginning were 4 players (Jeter, Mo, Posada and Pettitte.) The fact that is rhymed and was catchy made is stick but I don’t think it was meant to minimized Bernie in any way.
    As for the comment about George always wanting to trade his young players, from the early to mid 90s until his death, I don’t recall him making any really rash moves trading his young players. He certainly could have traded any and every one of them had he really wanted to but had the restraint to defer to his baseball people and hold back. IMO, that’s a feather in George’s hat, not a negative because he may or may not have entertained thoughts about trading some of them.

  • Farewell Mo and Jeet

    I think this Core 4 stuff is much ado about nothing. The phrase was coined long after Bernie retired at a time when the only remaining “core” players” from the very beginning were 4 players (Jeter, Mo, Posada and Pettitte.) The fact that is rhymed and was catchy made is stick but I don’t think it was meant to minimized Bernie in any way.
    As for the comment about George always wanting to trade his young players, from the early to mid 90s until his death, I don’t recall him making any really rash moves trading his young players. He certainly could have traded any and every one of them had he really wanted to but had the restraint to defer to his baseball people and hold back. IMO, that’s a feather in George’s hat, not a negative because he may or may not have entertained thoughts about trading some of them.

  • bernbabybern

    Bern Baby Bern!

    I have this username because Bernie seems to be left out a little due to the core four stuff.

  • Scott

    Loved Bernie Williams. I used to get angry when rumors started flying that the Boss was trying to ship him away.

  • LiamInAlbany

    Good article, always loved Bernie growing up.

    Just out of curiosity Mike, why do you think WAR is kind of dumb? I know it has it’s limitations as a statistic and all, but I thought you subscribed to the idea that it somewhat accurately measures players.

    • Drew

      WAR puts a ton of stock in defensive statistics, which by most standards don’t pass the sniff test yet.

  • W.B. Mason Williams

    A fan favorite, which in the long run I suppose is more important than the HOF. I look to monument park before I look to Cooperstown, honestly.

    Billy Martin is a constant source of entertainment.

  • Moncada’s Codpiece

    Bernie, the man. One of my favorites. Still have one of those Bernie Williams Yankees t-shirts from Modell’s from sometime in junior high.

    And if anyone’s going to talk about a homegrown cabal that formed the backbone of the Yankee teams, Williams definitely has to be there.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    Thank you for this write up. I’ve griped with many an individual about my frustration of the lack of attention and respect Bernie has seemed to receive over the years. Noone’s lack of flare in the dugout or on the field or in front of the media should ever preclude them from being mentioned in the appropriate context of greatness. I personally wish the Core Four term had never been implemented because it is so disingenuous to players like Bernie, who was arguably the best hitter on the team every year, and central to so much success. The term Core Four also devalues the input that so many other great players and even average players played to the building and success of the dynasty. Without Bernie’s success from minors to majors at the time that he did, perhaps the franchise wouldn’t have had had some faith in some of the players coming up the pipeline. Bernie was the table setter for great things to come and in the end walked away essentially as quiet as he played the game. Bernie played the game the right way and respected the game. Nothing should ever be taken away from him because he wasn’t enough of a personality or a media superstar. Unfortunately, he’ll probably go down as one of the most easily forgotten and most underappreciated great Yankee players of his generation or in any generation for that matter. Bern baby Bern! Thanks for being who you were Bernie!

    • Yanks fix

      Absofreakinglutely! I have never understood the core four mentions because we don’t win without Bernie period. Just a great ball player. Shouldve coined the Fantastic Five instead of the core four

      • Moncada’s Codpiece

        Or the Sexy Six.
        (wet sloppy kiss to Dion James)

  • Monterocouldstillbedinero
    • SweetSpot

      Thank you! What a great article, Waldstein is just superb.

    • Mandy Stankiewicz

      Great piece, thanks.

    • HoopDreams

      Sounds like a great kid, less go Ref

    • Sir Didi Odell Nakamura Jr

      Sir Didi will be 1st, sorry. Refs will be 2nd, but it’s not a race!

  • Yankenstein

    Bernie Williams – Quiet Intensity

  • Brad

    Bernie is my all-time favorite Yankee and what I consider to be the best and most important player on the dynasty teams. His combo of switch hitting for both average and power held that linbeup together from the clean-up spot. The Yanks honored TIno and O’Neill last year, but gave neither the ultimate Yankee honor…a plaque in Monument Park. The team alluded to the fact that it’s Bernie’s turn in 2015, and I think #51 will be retired and on a plaque shortly. And rightfully so.

    • Conni Spellman

      Tino and O’Neill both have plaques in Monument Field. I’ve seen them both.

  • Tom_hamsandwich

    Bernie was the leadoff hitter early in his career; he then moved to the middle of the order for obvious reasons. (He was fast but couldn’t steal bases and he was too good of a hitter to lead off.)
    **If he stayed in the leadoff spot his entire career would that have helped his HOF chances?

    • RetroRob

      I don’t think so. Being one of the big bats in the heart of the order for a dynasty run is probably worth more points towards getting into the HOF.

    • Moncada’s Codpiece

      I doubt it, because counting stats.

    • Mayan Brickann

      I don’t see how. Don’t think there is any such thing as a hitter too good to lead off, but in Bernie’s case I think he was slotted appropriately given the personnel on the team.

      • Tom_hamsandwich

        It wouldn’t have made sense to have him lead off, but I’m just wondering if history would look at him differently if he put up his numbers from the leadoff spot for those teams rather then being one of the guys in the middle with Tino and O’Neil.

        • Mayan Brickann

          I doubt they’d look at him too much differently. Maybe a few more runs and few less rbi, but I don’t really think much else changes.

    • Sir Didi Odell Nakamura Jr

      I’d like to think position in the lineup has little to no bearing on HOF chances. What does it matter if a guy hit 500 home runs from the 4 spot or the 9 spot? Doubt it.

      • vicki

        it would likely boost hits, but dock rbi.

  • Y’s Guy

    Bernie is also going to be on WFAN today, Cash is on now, Buck and Girardi also coming up. Too bad Francessa’s on Francessa….

    • Moncada’s Codpiece

      I lol’d at that last sentence. Is it also retro week on WFAN?

    • TripleShortOfACycle

      If he wasn’t on you wouldn’t hear any Yankee talk

  • I talked to Barzini

    Just an amazing and graceful athlete. It’s hard to see how anyone else could have been so consistent at the plate with that crazy step-in toe tap drop hands load that he had. But he did, and from both sides of the plate no less. I still have the Jeter-ONeill-Bernie-Tino ‘heart of the order’ poster….somewhere.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      A gazelle in the outfield. I know his arm was crap and he declined severely later in his career, but in his youth it was so entertaining to watch him run down everything hit in his direction.

  • Fernandito Andujar

    +1,000,000 for this article. Much respect and love for Bernie Williams, the man was a class act on and off the field. Glad to say that two of the Core Five are Puerto Rican (PR Power!) and three are Latino if you add Mariano.

  • SweetSpot

    Stick sounds old but still sharp as a tack.

    • Y’s Guy

      When discussing prospects with Mike, there were enough ‘from what I’ve heard’s’ and ‘I’ve only seen him on video’ to make it clear that Stick isn’t much involved in talent evaluation anymore.

      • SweetSpot

        True. I imagine age and practicality has something to do with that.

  • vicki

    not coincidentally, he features prominently in also-underrated bobby abreu’s similarity scores.

    • W.B. Mason Williams

      Ah, Bobby Abreu. The man who rightfully feared the power of a solid wall. Take notes, Harper and Beltran.

  • Bubba Crosby

    Bernie is so criminally underrated. Best hitter by quite a bit in the dynasty years. I think some of that is because he stuck around way too long (03-04 playing morbid defense in CF, 05-06 combining that morbid defense with bad hitting too).

    But I don’t understand why WAR is “kind of dumb”. The defensive metrics may be sketchy in small samples, but the concept of calculating a player’s runs above average in hitting, baserunning and defense and then adding in replacement runs is extremely sound to me.

    • Wave Your Hat

      WAR is at its finest when it ranks Yankees highly.

    • RetroRob

      The concept is fine, but many people (and it appears Mike is one of them) question the formula, with bad input resulting in bad output. I know Joe has mentioned in the newsletter that he has issues with the fact WAR uses replacement level players as a baseline. Someone can be sabermetric oriented, as Mike certainly is, and I certainly am, and still question WAR. I certainly look at WAR, but more directional. The defensive element of the formula is also a big problem.

      The overall idea is great, yet if I look at a player with a WAR of 5.5 and another with 4.5, I don’t necessarily assume the player with a 5.5 is definitely better.

      • Bubba Crosby

        The formula is just: Batting Runs + Baserunning Runs + Fielding Runs + Replacement. The replacement is just accounting for playing time so that a guy who gets one at bat in a whole season and somehow hits a HR isn’t more valuable than a slightly below average guy who plays 162 games. But if you question the inputs, just create your own for fielding. (+5 for good, -5 for bad, etc.)

        • RetroRob

          I understand WAR. When it comes to player evaluation it is not very sophisticated. I’ll leave it at that.

  • John in Forest

    Bernie kind of created the Core Four; when he left, there were just four guys remaining from the dynasty team. Nobody called them the Core Four in 1999, or in 2005 for that matter. Regarding Bernie’s defense — he could go get the ball in the ’90s. In David Cone’s first game back after his arm surgery in 1996 he pitched seven no-nit innings; in the 7th inning he nearly lost the no-hitter and the shutout when Geronimo Berroa hit the ball over the CF fence. But Bernie got there just before the ball and pulled it back in. The Yankees won the game 5-0, but some young guy named Rivera gave up a hit in the ninth.

    • John

      hey lets not forget when he robbed greer of a hr in game 3 of the 1996 division series against texas. sure he had no arm but he could go get them back then

  • Y’s Guy

    Correction…The First Member of the Core Five.

    • RetroRob

      The Fab Five?

      • Fernandito Andujar

        I thought the same thing. Probably since it had been taken by the Michigan basketball team earlier, though there was also Fab Five Freddy (hip hop pioneer).

      • http://www.weliveamonyou.com/ ralph rivera

        Yea bball has that one tied up but we could have “Fantastic Five.”

  • OldYanksFan

    No… Bernie was not a member of the Core Four. But as RetroRob says below, he was a big part of the Fab Five… arguably, based on production, maybe the biggest part.
    I’m glad you wrote this up, because it has always pissed me off that Bernie was always ‘left out of the discussion’. He WAS a great player, who was prematurely derailed by 2 bad shoulders.
    Bernie had a career 125 OPS+, Posada a 121 and Jeter a 115. I know position plays a factor here, but I think he was the highest impact batter of the 3…. and Jeter and Posada weren’t exactly great on defense either.
    I have to ask. Where does a 125 OPS+ play against other CF’ers in the HOF?

    • John

      Bernie is 22 all time in career OPS as CF and as OPS+ he is 44 but its not accurate because there are guys with like 100 career games who have higher OPS+. Finally in WAR he is 28 with 49.4 but obviously his defense hurts him here as he was not the greatest defensive CF. still for all time CF i would say its pretty damn good

  • Dale Mohorcic

    Bernie was my favorite player for years and I really wish he was honored a little bit more by the team. I also can’t remember ever hearing the term core four until 2009, so I’ve always felt like this was a made up thing at the time of that world series.

    • Mister D

      It was invented around 2009 because it really wasn’t that remarkable in 1996-2000. Oh, the rings were without question, but not the idea of 4 guys who stayed together for 5 seasons. By the time you got to 2009, we were 9 years after the last Yankees ring, and yet there were the same 4 guys, in the same roles, on the same team. It became hard to ignore.

  • disqus_SYUi2KdNZk

    The concept of core four is a slap in the face to Bernie. It was the FIVE GUYS.

  • John

    maybe i am a little biased bc Bernie is my favorite baseball player of all time but to me he was the best Yankee player during those dynasty years. Honestly i think the injuries really hurt his HOF chances because after that injury in 2003 he was never the same. The year before he had a 200 plus hit season and if im correct he had one stretch where he hit in like 11 at bats in a row. Anyways he hit for power, avg, and drew lots of walks and he was a switch hitter. Sure Jeter was the captain and Oneill broke coolers but bernie was always consistent. hey there is a reason why he leads the all time postseason leaders in RBI and he also led it in hrs for a bit … so why he doesnt even get consideration to retire his 51 blows my mind when he is as deserving. Lets not forget in 1996 that he single handedly beat the Texas Rangers not only by hitting but also by robbing Greer on a hr in game 3 of the division series.

  • Jarak

    Nice piece. But you forgot to mention when George wanted to ship Bernie out of town early on and Stick lied to Steinbrenner’s face and said no one was interested in him. Remember without Howard Spira, George’s banishment, and Stick Michael there’s no Bernie, Pettitte is gone to Seattle, no Core Four and no Dynasty.

  • Drew

    Michael Kay is an insufferable ass. Hey Michael – Bernie wasn’t part of all five World Series winning Yankee teams after ’95 because HE STARTED HIS CAREER FOUR YEARS EARLIER THAN THE SO-CALLED “CORE FOUR”. And like Mike said Posada was barely part of the ’96 Yankees. Also someone ought to remind that fathead that Bernie was part of two AL pennant winners.

    “The Core Four” is an insult to Bernie thus I refuse to acknowledge that nickname.

    George wanted to trade Bernie to Boston for Darren Lewis – true story.

    Bernie had the coolest nickname of the five (Bern Baby Burn.)

    • Drew

      Fathead being Kay not Mike LOL.

      Btw isn’t it time for a piece on Kay? What an insufferable blowhard he is? Remember when he used to ALWAYS bring up how a Texas Ranger’s head was the biggest in MLB? I guess he wanted everyone to know someone had a bigger head than him LOL.

      It’s plain to hear Leiter, Flaherty, and O’Neill can’t stand him.

  • http://www.weliveamonyou.com/ ralph rivera

    I’m so sick of “Core four!” It should be amazing five, or fab five. This is terrible disrespect to Bernie who was an amazing part of those rings. The Yankee org should be ashamed of not doing something to correct this.

  • Mister D

    I used to be pro-Core Five, but I’ve come around to recognize Bernie doesn’t belong. It’s not because I don’t value Bernie – I love him more than any Yankee of the past 30 years- but Core Four has more to do with the players than the fans, the team or the dynasty. Remember Bernie broke into the majors in 1991, a year before Jeter was drafted, and four years before any of the core would make their own debuts in the Bronx. The Core Four were in the minors together, and came up together (all four getting called up in 1995). Bernie was an established vet by the time they put on pinstripes, and really wasn’t part of their social group. This isn’t a slight to him – I’d argue he was more important over the 96-2000 period than any of the C4 – any more than it is a slight to Paulie or Cone or El Duque.

  • http://slugball.com/ matthughes

    Bernie is the man.

    Real talk: where was Andy Pettitte in 2004 when the Yankees needed him the most?

  • C Brooks

    My favorite Yankee, that’s for sure. He is an even better musician than he was a baseball player. Can you imagine that? Considering he was an amazing ball player.