By Jason Schott – BrooklynFans.com Reporter / Assignment Editor – @JESchott19
Bernie Williams, the Yankees center fielder during the 1990s dynasty, will no longer be on the Hall of Fame ballot after he fell short of the 5 percent needed in this year’s vote, topping out at 3.3 percent. A look at his career suggests that this should not be the case.
Williams was on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2012 and received 9.6 percent of the vote.
Williams was one of the Yankees’ most clutch performers through their most recent dynasty, in which they won four World Series and six American League pennants from 1996 to 2003.
Center fielder for the New York Yankees is one of the most hallowed positions in sports, and the fact that he played there for 16 years should have garnered him more support.
In 121 games in 12 postseason appearances, Williams hit .275 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI. His biggest home run was a walk-off in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS against Baltimore, otherwise known as the “Jeffrey Maier game.” He won the MVP for the ALCS, as he hit .474 with nine hits, two home runs and six RBI.
He performed very well in the 1996 playoffs, with 20 hits in 58 at-bats, 6 home runs, and 15 RBI. The Yankees won their first World Series since 1978 that year, coming back from 2-0 down to beat the Atlanta Braves.
In the regular season, Williams had a career average of .297 with 2,336 career hits, 287 home runs and 1257 RBI.
Williams’ prime was 1998 to 2000, when the Yankees won three World Series in a row. In 1998, he won the batting title with a .339 average, and had 26 home runs and 97 RBI. In 1999, he had his best career average at .342 with 25 home runs and 115 RBI. In 2000, he hit .307 with 30 home runs and 121 RBI.
One thing also separating Williams from other nominees should be that he was the starting center fielder for his entire career, and played 131 games in his final season in 2006. That year, he hit .281 with 12 home runs and 61 RBI at the age of 37.
He never really retired, sort of faded away, as Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman did not offer him a contract for the 2007 season. Talks of a comeback never materialized, and the last time he played competitive baseball was in 2009 for Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Bernie made five All-Star teams and won four Gold Gloves.
Williams’ career should be worthy of the Hall of Fame, and the fact that he was never linked to steroids burnishes his credentials even more.
The Yankees should honor Bernie next season by retiring his number 51. It will be seven years since he played for the Yankees, and his number is not in circulation. That was proven when Ichiro, who wore 51 for his entire career in Seattle, had to take 31 when he came to New York. The irony is that Dave Winfield wore 31 in the 1980s, and he is in the Hall of Fame.