Bernie Williams hoping to stay in baseball in “some kind of advisory or coaching capacity”

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Two days ago the Yankees retired No. 51 in honor of Bernie Williams during a wonderful ceremony at Yankee Stadium. Bernie last played in 2006 but he never officially retired, at least not until signing his retirement papers last month. He joked on Sunday that he was hesitant to sign the papers because he may want to come back and play at some point.

Prior to the ceremony, Williams did talk more seriously about wanting to return to baseball in some capacity, perhaps as an instructor or coach. Here’s what he told Kevin Kernan:

“I could see myself one day down the road working in baseball in some kind of advisory or coaching capacity,’’ Williams said. “I think my experience being in the Yankee organization for 20 years, including those early years when we were not so successful on the field, and battling through my own struggles and working so hard to firmly establish myself and become a solid player in this league, to being a part of those championship teams and handling the expectations that winning the World Series was the only acceptable goal, I would be very willing to offer my insight and experience to younger players”

The Yankees have hired several former players to be special instructors over the years — George Steinbrenner used to give all his favorite players coaching jobs for life, it seemed — including Tino Martinez, Hideki Matsui, and Orlando Hernandez. You know others like Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, and Paul O’Neill have jobs waiting for them if interested. I’m sure the same is true with Bernie.

Williams, now 46, has been to Spring Training as a guest instructor a few times over the years. If nothing else, that shows the Yankees are open to having him work with players and have some firsthand knowledge of his ability as an instructor. Bernie loves his music though, so he might not want a full-time coaching position. Who knows, he might not even want to work for the Yankees. Perhaps he wants a new challenge or something. We’ll see.

Game 44: Bernie Williams Day

(AP Photo/Doug Mills)
(AP Photo/Doug Mills)

Prior to tonight’s series finale with the Rangers, the Yankees will honor and retire No. 51 for Bernie Williams with an on-field ceremony. I guess that makes it Bernie Williams night, not day. Whatever. Either way, this is a long time coming. Williams hasn’t played since 2006, but it wasn’t until last month that he officially signed his retirement papers.

Bernie was an integral part of the team’s most recent dynasty, though he often doesn’t get enough respect simply because Core Five doesn’t sound as cool as Core Four. He was as much a part of those late-1990s teams as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, David Cone … anyone. In fact, Bernie was a Yankee long before all those guys, having been called up in 1991.

According to the Yankees, Jeter, Posada, O’Neill, Rivera, Tino, Cone, Willie Randolph, and Joe Torre will be among those in attendance for tonight’s ceremony, which is scheduled to start right around 7pm ET. You’ll be able to watch the entire thing on YES. I’m not sure if it’ll be broadcast online anywhere though.

Following the ceremony, the Yankees will wrap up their ugly series with Texas and try to avoid getting swept for the second straight series. If you’re looking for some good news, I can offer this: the Yankees are 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 28-13 in Sunday night games this year. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Garrett Jones
  7. CF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Jose Pirela
    LHP Chris Capuano

It’s a nice day in New York, a little cloudy but warm. Weather will be fine tonight. Tonight’s game will begin at 8pm ET and you catch watch on ESPN. Enjoy the Bernie ceremony and the game.

Roster Move: As expected, the Yankees have called up Jacob Lindgren from Triple-A. Branden Pinder was send down to clear a 25-man roster spot and Brendan Ryan (calf, hamstring) was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. Ryan’s already been on the DL for 50 days and isn’t close to returning, so the move to the 60-day doesn’t really change anything.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (wrist, forearm) threw a 31-pitch bullpen session this afternoon and felt great. He’s scheduled to make his second Triple-A rehab start on Wednesday … Carlos Beltran is out of the lineup with flu-like symptoms and could miss more than just today.

A Statistically Sentimental Reflection on Bernie Williams

I’ve always consumed baseball in some form for as long as I can remember. I played it growing up (and still play slow-pitch softball today) and my family always made an annual excursion to Yankee Stadium; given the time period–the late 90’s–it seemed like they won every time we went to games. And in this great stretch, despite being too young to fully appreciate what those teams were doing, I obviously enjoyed rooting for the team and the players. And my favorite player among them was Bernie Williams.

Bernie’s glory days with the Yankees were marked by incredible consistency by both him and the team. Once he started rolling and before his precipitous drop-off at the end of his career, Williams was guaranteed to hit near .300; OBP near .400; slug 20 homers; hit 25-35 doubles; and drive in around 100. From 1994-2002, his peak performance, Williams hit .319/.404/.525/.929, averaging 38 doubles, 27 homers, and 90 walks per 162 games. Among outfielders in that time period, his 141 wRC+ tied him with Sammy Sosa for 10th place in the Majors, just ahead of Ken Griffey, Jr. (140). He was 5th in fWAR (43.0), too, just ahead of Manny Ramirez (41.6) and just behind Larry Walker (43.9); everyone trailed Barry Bonds (76.4) by a whole lot.

His finest season came in 1998, when he won the batting title with a .339 average. In addition to that, he also posted a .422 OBP and a career high .575 SLG. He knocked 26 homers and 30 doubles despite playing in only 128 games (578 PA/499 AB). All told, Williams hit .297/.381/.477/.858 for his career, notching a 125 OPS+; a .373 wOBA; and a 126 wRC+. He hit .300 or better eight times; he OBPed .400 or better four times; he slugged at least .500 six times; and he hit .300/.400/.500 or better three times, all in a row from 1997-1999. He now sits in 10th place on the Yankees’ all time bWAR list (49.4); 6th on the Offensive WAR list (62.6); 6th on the games played list (2076); 6th on the runs list (1366); 5th on the hits list (2336); 6th on the total bases list (3756); 3rd on the doubles list (449); 7th on the home run list (287) and the RBI list (1257); and 5th on the walk list (1069). Bern, baby, Bern, indeed.

This all ignores the fact that Williams also shined in the playoffs, smacking 22 homers in 465 postseason at bats (545 PA) and posting a line of .275/.371/.480 with 71 walks, all remarkably similar to his regular season career line. He was the 1996 ALCS MVP, crushing the Orioles to the tune of .474/.583/.947/1.531 with two home runs and three doubles. The ALCS is when Bernie did his most playoff damage, posting a .962 OPS in 41 games.

Those are the statistics and in some ways, for me at least, they represent the sentiment. The teams Bernie played on were some of the best in Yankee history and I was there to watch them and he was my favorite to watch. I even went as far as to model my batting stance after him, his slightly crouched positioning speaking to me more than Paul O’Neill’s, Derek Jeter‘s, and Tino Martinez’s upright stances. Things obviously worked out a lot better for Bernie with that stance than they did for me. Imitation is how I appreciated Bernie and the rest of the team during that time. Now as an adult, a more well-rounded and educated fan, I can look back at these numbers and realize just how damn good Bernie was at hitting.

Bernie Williams to finally sign retirement papers at Yankee Stadium this Friday

(AP Photo/Doug Mills)
(AP Photo/Doug Mills)

More than eight years after playing in his final MLB game, Bernie Williams is finally ready to call it a career. Bernie will officially sign his retirement papers at a press conference at Yankee Stadium this Friday, the Yankees announced. It would be cool if he signs a one-day contract to retire as a member of the team, but I’m not sure if that will happen. He will throw out the ceremonial first pitch though.

The Yankees are set to retire No. 51 in Bernie’s honor later this season, on May 24th. The team will unveil a logo related to the number retirement at Friday’s press conference. There will also be an on-field ceremony to debut a souvenir pin honoring Williams this Friday, which will be sold by Hard Rock Cafe and benefit Hillside Food Outreach.

Williams, now 46, never did officially retire after last playing in 2006. He’s been back at Yankee Stadium a whole bunch of times over the years, for Old Timers’ Day, Mariano Rivera‘s and Derek Jeter‘s retirement ceremonies, all sorts of stuff. Signing the retirement papers is really just a formality at this point.

Bernie hit .297/.381/.477 (125 OPS+) with 449 doubles, 287 home runs, and 147 stolen bases in his 16-year career, all with the Yankees, and he helped them to four World Series titles. He was the fifth member of the Core Four and the first of the bunch to make his MLB debut. Williams was on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2012 and 2013 but didn’t receive enough votes to stay on the ballot.

Yankees to retire Nos. 20, 46, 51 this season, honor Willie Randolph with plaque in Monument Park

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Gosh. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

After about 24 hours of rumors, the Yankees have made it official this afternoon. Nos. 20, 46, and 51 will be retired this season in honor of Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Bernie Williams, the team announced. Willie Randolph will also be honored with a plaque in Monument Park. The Yankees didn’t say anything about Derek Jeter in the press release. His day is probably coming in 2016.

Here are the dates for the individual ceremonies this summer:

  • Williams: Sunday, May 24th
  • Randolph: Saturday, June 20th (Old Timers’ Day)
  • Posada: Saturday, August 22nd
  • Pettitte: Sunday, August 23rd

We heard Pettitte’s number was being retired yesterday, when his son Josh spilled the beans. Earlier today we heard Posada and Williams were “likely” to have their numbers retired as well. The Yankees retired Joe Torre’s No. 6 last year, and when they made the official announcement, they said Bernie would be honored in some way this season. Now we know the details.

It goes without saying Posada, Bernie, and Pettitte are all deserving of having their numbers retired. All three are borderline Hall of Famers — Williams has already fallen off the ballot, however, and I think Posada has a better chance of getting in than Pettitte, personally — and were linchpins during the most recent Yankees dynasty. They’re all homegrown, they were all star-caliber performers … what’s not to love about that?

(Getty)
(Getty)

As for Randolph, it’s about damn time he is being honored. He was a catalyst atop New York’s lineup from 1976-88 and is the franchise’s all-time leader in games (1,694) and WAR (53.6) by a second baseman. As I wrote during Retro Week two weeks ago, Randolph’s path to greatness was unique for his era — he was an on-base guy and a defense-first player — but he was he was great nonetheless. The team isn’t retiring his old No. 30 but a plaque is a fine honor.

Once Jeter’s No. 2 is inevitably retired in a year or two, the Yankees will have officially closed the book on the most recent dynasty and honored all the deserving members in some way. Mariano Rivera and Torre had their numbers retired the last two years and both Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill received plaques in Monument Park last year. Once No. 2 is taken out of circulation, it figures to be a while until another number is retired or another plaque is added to Monument Park.

Nos. 51, 20, and 46 will be the 18th, 19th, and 20th retired numbers in team history, respectively. Nos. 1 (Billy Martin), 3 (Babe Ruth), 4 (Lou Gehrig), 5 (Joe DiMaggio), 6 (Torre), 7 (Mickey Mantle), 8 (Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey), 9 (Roger Maris), 10 (Phil Rizzuto), 15 (Thurman Munson), 16 (Whitey Ford), 23 (Don Mattingly), 32 (Elston Howard), 37 (Casey Stengel), 42 (Rivera and Jackie Robinson), 44 (Reggie Jackson), 49 (Ron Guidry) are all retired.

Reports: Yankees “likely” to retire Nos. 51 and 20 soon

(Primera Hora)
(Primera Hora)

Over the weekend, word got out the Yankees are planning to retire No. 46 and honor Andy Pettitte with a plaque in Monument Park this August. According to both Mark Feinsand and Andrew Marchand, the team is also planning to honor Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada at some point and are “likely” to retire Nos. 51 and 20.

The Yankees retired Joe Torre’s No. 6 last year and also dedicated monuments to Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, and Goose Gossage. When they made those official announcements, the team said the “ceremonies are part of a recognition series that will include Bernie Williams in 2015,” so the Bernie news isn’t surprising. It’s unclear when Posada will be honored. Perhaps that won’t be until 2016.

Needless to say, both Williams and Posada are very deserving of having their numbers retired as homegrown star players, with Posada being a borderline Hall of Famer. (I’m not sure he’ll get in, but he has a case.) Both were key pieces of the most recent Yankees dynasty and all-around awesome players who helped create a generation of success for the franchise.

At some point soon the Yankees will retire No. 2 in honor of Derek Jeter. With Nos. 6 and 42 recently retired, Jeter, Pettitte, Bernie, and Posada are the team’s only obvious remaining candidates to have their numbers retired. (There’s zero chance No. 13 will be retired.) So while there are will be several ceremonies bunched together in the span of two or three years, they figure to be the last number retirement ceremonies for a while.

The Fifth Member of the Core Four

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

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.