Archive for Bernie Williams
I’ve never really been fond of the term “Core Four.” Not because it’s cheesy or because I hate pretty much everything, but because I feel it’s disrespectful to every other player who had a role in the dynasty years. I’m talking about guys like Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Paul O’Neill — the guys who were on the field celebrating Mariano Rivera‘s career yesterday. Even more recent players like Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano, and CC Sabathia deserve to be any kind of “core” talk.
The Core Four or whatever you want to call it is no more at this point. Jorge Posada retired two years ago and both Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will play the final games of their careers within the next week. Derek Jeter is still hanging around and figures to return next year — I have a very, very, very hard time thinking he would go out with a disastrous 2013 being his final season — but otherwise all the on-field ties to the dynasty years are gone. Even if Jeter does return next season, it’s hard to think he’ll be the same player he was just last year, nevermind 1996-2001.
The homegrown core of those dynasty years is not something we’re ever going to see again. Not in our lifetimes. The collection of players who came up through the farm system in the 1990s was historic, more than once in a generation stuff. Just think about it this way: if you were building a team today, from scratch, what types of the players you would target to build around? In no particular order, they’d be:
- A switch-hitter center fielder who hit for average, power, and got on base.
- A switch-hitting catcher with power and patience.
- An elite offensive shortstop who had all the intangibles associated with being a franchise cornerstone.
- A workhorse left-handed starter.
- A durable reliever who was unfazed in the biggest moments.
Those are the five guys you’d want to build your team around, right? Strength up the middle and strength on the mound. Now imagine not only drafting/signing and developing those five guys all at once, but imagine all of them having careers long enough that they turned into this:
- A borderline Hall of Fame center fielder.
- A borderline Hall of Fame catcher.
- A first ballot Hall of Fame shortstop.
- A borderline Hall of Fame left-hander.
- A first ballot Hall of Fame closer and the greatest reliever in baseball history.
That’s the core that came up through the Yankees’ farm system all at once in the 1990s. It’s a historically great crop of players that you’d be thrilled to develop over the span of 25 years, nevermind in just five or six years. In recent memory, I think only the Phillies — Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels — come even remotely close to developing such a high-end core in the same period of time.
The development of that five-player core is not something the Yankees or anyone can repeat. You can’t fire that idiot Brian Cashman and replace him with that genius Gene Michael, wait five years, then have another core with those caliber of players. It doesn’t work like that. The Williams/Posada/Jeter/Pettitte/Rivera core is a combination of both great scouting and historic luck. I’ve been using the word historic a lot because that’s what this is. There’s no other way to describe these guys individually or as a five-player unit.
As amazing as that development was, you know what I find just as fascinating? With the exception of Jeter, all of those guys were dangerously close to being traded at one time or another. Bernie was rumored to be involved in separate deals for Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Jeff Blauser, among others. The Yankees originally wanted to include Posada in the Tino Martinez trade with the Mariners before relenting and giving up Russ Davis. Mariano was almost dealt for Randy Johnson, Felix Fermin, and David Wells at different times. Pettitte was on the trade block all throughout his first tenure in pinstripes it seemed, and the most notable rumor involved the Phillies and Adam Eaton. All it would have taken was one “yes” to dismantle the core of a dynasty.
Rivera and Pettitte saying goodbye to the Yankee Stadium crowd yesterday was about more than just saying goodbye to the fans. It was saying goodbye to one of the greatest runs in franchise history, a historic era that featuring five World Series titles and seven pennants in a 14-year span. We watched Jeter reach 3,000 career hits, Pettitte claim the team’s all-time strikeout crown, Bernie become the all-time leader in postseason RBI, Posada play in more playoff games than any other catcher in history, and Rivera save more games than anyone else in baseball history. It has been a privilege and an honor to watch all five of these guys — as well as anyone else who helped out during the dynasty years — but like everything else at one time or another, this great era of Yankees baseball has reached its end.
I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but at some point recently the Baseball Hall of Fame partnered with the Scout of the Year Foundation to create a free and searchable online database of old scouting reports. The data is very incomplete — it doesn’t include every player and it only goes back so far — and the database itself can be slow and a bit of a pain, but those are minor nuisances compared to the wealth of information available.
Thanks to the database, we can look back at what professional talent evaluators — people who do this for a living — had to say about our favorite players once upon a time. For example, here are some bits and pieces of reports from various teams about a young high school senior from Michigan named Derek Jeter back in 1992:
You can click every image in those post for a larger view, and I highly recommend you do just that.
Within those report snippets, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is described as having:
- a good face
- a hi butt
- an impact both offensively and defensively
- makeup 2b a star
- some hot dog in him
Once upon a time, Jeter was a showoff. Wrap your head around that. All of the reports agreed he was a future star though, and in the end that is what was most important.
After the jump — lots of images and I don’t want to cripple anyone’s computer — are some opinions on Alex Rodriguez back from 1993, when he was a high school senior:
The BBWAA announced the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot today, which is headlined by first-timers Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, and former Yankee Roger Clemens. David Wells and Mike Stanton are also among the first-timers while Don Mattingly is entering his 13th year of eligibility and Bernie Williams is entering his second.
We’ve now entered the PED thunderdome with guys like Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens becoming eligible, and if Mark McGwire’s six years on the ballot are any indication, they’re going to have to wait a while for induction. Hell, there’s zero evidence linking Jeff Bagwell to PEDs and he only received 56% of the vote last year. I count no fewer than eight guys I would definitely vote for plus at least six others I’m on the fence with. The ballots are going to be very crowded the next few years.
Bernie Williams headlines the pack of 13 newcomers on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, though the nerdsheet indicates that he’s unlikely to get inducted. Over at FanGraphs, Jeff Zimmerman looked at Bernie’s case for the Hall by factoring his postseason performance into his career fWAR. He had more than twice as many playoff plate appearances (545) as any other player, and amount that basically equals a full extra season. Ultimately, it’s still not enough for Bernie to be considered a Hall of Fame caliber player, but make no mistake, he was great. Just not great enough for long enough.
The 2012 Hall of Fame inductees will be announced on Monday.
The BBWAA announced the 2012 Hall of Fame Ballot today, with former Yankees star Bernie Williams headlining the group of 13 newcomers. Fellow former Yankees Ruben Sierra, Tony Womack (ha!), and Terry Mulholland are also on the ballot for the first time, joining holdover Don Mattingly. This will be Donnie’s 12th year on the ballot, though he received just 13.9% of the vote last time around. It would take a campaign that would make Jim Rice blush to get Mattingly in the Hall before his 15 years on the ballot are up.
As for Bernie, I don’t expect him to ever get voted into Cooperstown, but I do hope he gets a decent sized vote and maybe spends a few years on the ballot. He was a personal fave, I hope he does well.
It’s kinda hard to believe that it’s been five years since Bernie Williams last played for the Yankees. Maybe it’s just me finding it hard to believe, as I cling hopelessly to one of the last remaining remnants of my childhood. Anyway, today is not one but two milestones for Bernie.
First, it’s his 43rd birthday, so happy birthday to him. Secondly, it’s the 26th anniversary of the day he signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent out of Puerto Rico. Think about that, it’s been 26 years since they signed him as a 17-year-old. Insane. At his peak, which is basically 1996-2000, Bernie was a .324/.410/.551 hitter that posted no more than 5.3 fWAR and no less than 4.9 fWAR. Seriously, check out his WAR Graph, that’s some kind of consistency.
Anywho, happy birthday again to Bernie. Here’s the open thread as we wait for the game to begin later tonight. Former Yankee Chien-Ming Wang returns to New York as a member of the Nationals, and will start against the Mets tonight. MLB Network will broadcast a game as well (teams depend on where you live). Talk about whatever you want here, anything goes.
Via Peter Botte, Bernie Williams will make his first Old Timers’ Day appearance this year on June 26th. Bernie’s been back to the Stadium a few times since unofficially retiring, specifically the final game at the Old Stadium, but this will be his first as an Old Timer. It’s always fun whenever former great makes his first appearance at the event, so I’m excited. Bernie was probably my favorite player during the dynasty years.
I bailed on the mailbag last week for no good reason, but I’ll make up for it today with a bunch of questions and some shorter, punchier answers. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in any questions throughout the week.
eyerishyank asks: Got into a twitter battle today with Tommy Dee of the Knicks blog about Beltran vs Bernie and who is the better player, could make for an interesting blog entry. I think it is Bernie, though defense and baserunning goes to Beltran. Can we quantify Beltran’s decline? Can we measure Bernie’s championships? I think Sabermetricians may go the way of Beltran and “old school” may go Bernie.
Carlos Beltran’s a better player, but that’s not a knock on Bernie Williams. They have identical .371 wOBA‘s for their careers, although Beltran was power while Bernie was batting average and on-base percentage. The difference is in the stolen base department, where Beltran’s 88.1% success rate is the best in baseball history (239 SB, just 39 CS), and on defense. Bernie’s got himself a bunch of Gold Gloves, but Beltran slaughters him in both CF UZR (+32.4 to -90.8) and John Dewan’s +/- system (+59 to -61).
I hesitate to give Bernie credit for the titles because that’s a team thing, and although he certainly contributed to the cause, it’s wrong to punish Beltran for his sucky Royals teammates for all those years. If you want to compare postseason stats, then Bernie hit .275/.371/.480 (545 PA) in October, Beltran .366/.485/.817 (101 PA). Yeah. Their career arcs are similar, right down to the decline at age 32-33, but when you have two players with similar offensive ability, the guy with the crazy stolen base rate and brilliant defense wins.
Evan asks: With Soriano set to be the primary setup guy, if there is any overlap in batters that he and Mo would both face, is it possible that the batters that faced Soriano’s cutter would be better equipped to deal with Mo’s? Could there be a noticeable negative effect in Mo’s performance this coming season as a result?
I don’t think so. Theoretically they won’t be facing the same batters in the same game, unless something bad happens along the way. Batters see fastball after fastball at-bat after at-bat, game after game, season after season, and I suspect that as long as Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera aren’t leaving their cutter in the happy zone, they’ll be perfectly fine. Would we ask the same question about a curveball or changeup?
Daniel asks: Does it seem strange to anyone else how many interviews Cashman has done this offseason? Feel its a little out of the ordinary. Could it be that maybe he is advertising himself for a new job next season? No matter what the reason I’m sure there is some strategy to it. What do you think?
It seems odd but I think it’s just a coincidence more than anything. They had the Soriano press conference, then he was doing the WFAN breakfast, then it was the Foley’s thing, then today it’ll be Andy Pettitte‘s presser, all one right after the other. I don’t think there’s much to it, other teams won’t hire him based on what he says to the media.
Pounder asks: Just wondering, what if Jorge is floundering, or is in some other way unhappy with his situation come July, would he be open for a mid year trade?
Can’t see it. And besides, if he’s floundering, he’s untradeable with that contract. The Yankees would have to eat a ton of his salary, and in that case I just say keep him and hope he rebounds late in the year.
Tucker asks: I know you have already discussed Ben Sheets, but assuming Pettitte doesn’t come back and with how thin the market is right now, could he start to become a more intriguing target? It seems like at the right price, he could become the epitome of low-risk, high-reward.
Obviously this question was sent in before the andy Pettitte news broke. Anyway, Sheets had Tommy John surgery late last year and is out until August at the earliest. Considering that it usually takes guys 18 months or so to get their old command back, he probably won’t be ready and effective until Opening Day 2012. I’d pass unless he’s willing to play for dirt cheap, though I suspect he just won’t be ready in time to make a meaningful contribution.
Sheepmeister asks: Do you think Orlando Cabrera or David Eckstein would be worth looking at for the utility inf position at a cheap price?
Nope, both are just names. Cabrera hasn’t topped a .316 wOBA in any of the last three years, and he’s never played a position other than shortstop in the big leagues. Eckstein is slightly worse, topping out at .313 wOBA over the last three years (.296 over the last two years) and being relegated to second base because he literally can’t make the throw from shortstop anymore. I have little faith in Eduardo Nunez, but seriously, he could outperform these two next year.
Michael asks: How did you guys start this blog/know each other and how did you get in on the YES Network.com?
Before RAB, the three of us were blogging at our own sites scattered across the web. I knew who Ben and Joe were but we weren’t anything more than casual acquaintances, exchanging the occasional email. Eventually we all ended up writing at the now defunct MVP, me on the minor league side and them on the big league side, and then one day I got an email from Ben saying the he and Joe were starting a site and asking if I wanted to come along. The rest, as they say, is history.
As far as YES, then contacted us about two years ago about a potential partnership, and it was a pretty easy decision on our part to tag along. That’s pretty much it, they link to our stuff from time to time and we retain full editorial control of the site. We wouldn’t have partnered up without that last part.
Well, it’s done. The Yankees have signed Rafael Soriano for three years and $35 million dollars. Given that Cashman said he was not interested in giving up the first round pick, it came as a bit of a surprise. In retrospect, though, everyone should have expected this.
Two words: Scott Boras. Boras and the New York Yankees have a long history, tied together by big numbers made by superstar players. This isn’t the first time Boras (with some help from the Yankees ownership) has managed to wiggle his grubby little hands deep into pinstriped pockets. As a matter of fact, it’s happened over and over. It makes perfect sense that the team with enormous financial power spends a lot of time dealing with the agent known for record-breaking contracts. Two powerhouses with complementary results should go hand-in-hand, but most of the time, both sides can’t win in a negotiation.
Exhibit A: In 1998, Bernie Williams was coming off a .328/.408/.544 season where he banged 21 homers and 100 RBIs. The offseason started off pretty bleak, though: George Steinbrenner had made it quite clear that his highest offer for the beloved center fielder was five years and $60M and not a dime more. Boras insisted that he had seven- and eight-year offers from mystery teams. There were plenty of people who thought this was a load of bull, but Boras held his ground, so the Yankees eyed Albert Belle instead. But Boras fought. He brought up meetings with both the Diamondbacks and the much-hated Boston Red Sox, who had were rumored to offer our dear Bernie seven years and $90M. When Belle signed with the Orioles, Boras pounced, and before anyone knew it, Williams was a Yankee to the tune of seven years and $87.5M, way above what Steinbrenner originally wanted to pay. In the end, the contract was a pretty good one: Belle suffered hip issues that knocked him out of baseball just two years later, and Bernie hit .298/.386/.480 and signed on for one last year in 2006.
Exhibit B: Alex Rodriguez. People could write books about the Rodriguez-Boras relationship, to say the least. In another example of shrewd Boras negotiating, Alex Rodriguez snapped himself up a 10-year, $252M contract from the Rangers. The franchise seemed to have forgotten they actually had to have that money to pay it, and began searching for trade options. In 2003, there was an attempt to trade Rodriguez to the Red Sox, but the complicated negotiation would have involved losing $30M. Interestingly enough, the trade fell through not because of Boras (who was fine with Rodriguez losing the cash), but the MLBPA, who felt that losing guaranteed contract money set a bad precedent. As per usual though, Red Sox loss was Yankee gain, and the Yankees acquired Rodriguez in February of 2004. But where Boras really showed off his skills was when Rodriguez opted out of the remaining three years and $72M of his contract in 2007 in favor of renegotiation. This decision, as I’m sure you all remember, was leaked during the 2007 World Series and I bet the New York Post had some really, really good front covers discussing the matter in their, ah, unique way. To calm the storm of New York rage, Rodriguez tried to soothe things by contacting the Yankees office directly, at the advice of Warren Buffet. As Rodriguez attempted to repair his public image (never his strong front) Boras took advantage of the fluctuations of the Yankees front office to secure the absolutely insanely absurd 10 year/$275M contract Rodriguez plays under today. He had a bigger hand in the incentives: each time Rodriguez passes a person on the all-time home run list, it’s an additional $6M in his pocket. If Rodriguez becomes the all-time home run leader, his contract will exceed $300M, the first ever in professional sports. I’m sure I’m not the only one who grimaces and tries to ignore how much we’re paying A-Rod in favor of the numbers he puts up, but Boras will be Boras. Truly the best worst contract ever.
I’m glad to say that the story for Johnny Damon is much shorter and sweeter. It was December 2005 and the Boston Red Sox refused to budge on their 3-year contract offer for their center fielder, the caveman-like Johnny Damon. Damon, who had already admitted that he doesn’t want to be a Yankee, was looking for more than three years, and the Sox would not negotiate down from Boras‘ five-year plan. Boras even tried to get in contact with the Sox’s owner, Larry Luchino, but to no avail, and soon enough, Damon was a Yankee to the tune of four years and $52M. He would go on to hit .285/.363/.458 in the pinstripes and looked significantly less like a yeti, both great things about his tenure in the Bronx. I’m pretty sure I’ll always remember his 2009 double steal against the Phillies. The story has a sad note for everyone who loved Damon as a Yankee, though, and for once Boras’ demand for cash came back to bite his client. Damon demanded no less than the $13M he was paid for any further deals, and the Yankees said no. When they refused to budge, Damon was forced to take a one year, $8M offer for the Tigers. He’s a free agent now, so we’ll have to see how that ends up.
The story continues. In 2008-09 offseason, the Yankees were coming off their first season without October baseball since the strike, and they were out for blood. What do you do when you’re the New York Yankees and you want to win? You use your biggest advantage: in a mindboggling display of financial might, the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and AJ Burnett. Teixeira, another Boras client, picked up the record for highest paid first baseman with an eight year, $180M contract of his own. While Teixeira’s 2009 numbers were strong (he lead the league in RBIs and home runs), his glacially slow start in 2010 contributed to a down season. Here’s hoping that he’ll be make himself close to worth the $22.5M he’ll be getting in 2011.
Soriano is only another chapter in the long story between Boras and the Yankees. “Like Williams and Rodriguez, he secured himself an exorbitant amount of money; his numbers from the previous year were stellar enough to pretend to justify both the years and the cost, at least for the Yankees. think it’s safe to say that Soriano and his three year, $35M contract won’t be the last time these two powerhouses meet. Andrew Brackman, for example, is a Boras client, and I’m interested to see how he develops as a pitcher and what Boras can do for him. While Boras clients almost never completely live up to their contracts, there is no doubt many of his clients have been incredibly important and still quite valuable to the current Yankees and those of the recent past. Let’s hope Soriano continues this trend.
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?