Hall of Fame Debate – Bernie Williams

It’s that time of the week again, as Ryan Lester of Lester’s Legends and I team up once again to debate the Hall of Fame credentials of one of the games greats.  This week, we look at the Yankees’ Bernie Williams and if he is deserving of induction or not.  We certainly have two extremely different views, so let’s take a look: 

Numbers:
2076 Games
7869 At Bats
.297 Batting Average
1366 Runs
2336 Hits
449 Doubles
55 Triples
287 Home Runs
1257 RBI
1069 Walks (84th All-time)
147 Stolen Bases

Eight .300 Seasons
Eight 100+ Run Seasons
Six 30+ Double Seasons
One 30+ HR Season
Five 100+ RBI Seasons

Playoffs: 121 Games, 128 hits in 465 at bats (.275), 83 Runs, 29 Doubles, 22 HR, 80 RBI, 71 Walks, 8 Steals, 4 World Series Ring

Awards
1996 ALCS MVP
4 Gold Gloves
2002 Silver Slugger
5 All-Star Game Appearances
MVP Votes in 6 Seasons

Top Ten Finishes
Batting Average – Four Times (Batting Crown in 1998)
On-Base % – Five Times
Slugging % – Twice
OPS – Four Times
Games – Twice
At-Bats – Once
Runs – Three Times
Hits - Three Times
Doubles – Twice
Triples – Four Times
RBI – Once
Walks – Three Times
Intentional Walks – Four Times (Led League in 1999)

Hall of Fame Yardsticks
Black Ink: Batting – 4 (405) (Average HOFer ? 27)
Gray Ink: Batting – 61 (402) (Average HOFer ? 144)
HOF Standards: Batting – 48.3 (82) (Average HOFer ? 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting – 133.0 (100) (Likely HOFer > 100)

My Take
Before I even look at the career numbers of Bernie Williams, my thoughts are that he was a good player, maybe even a very good player, who played for a great team. If he had played for the Rockies or Royals or Rangers or some other run of the mill team, would we be having this discussion? I just don’t believe we should award a player by enshrining him among the all-time greats because some great players who helped him win a few championships surrounded him. Yes, he was a tremendous player in the postseason and certainly played his part in helping the Yankees win 4 titles during his tenure with the team, but he was hardly a superstar. I’m not going to honor him because of what he did over 121 games, as opposed to the 2,076 he played during the regular season where he hit .297 with just 287 home runs and 147 stolen bases. Over 16 major league seasons, he appeared in just 5 All-Star games. Exactly what is special about that? The Yankees should honor him for his career, absolutely. Put up a monument for him or put him into the Yankees Hall of Fame, I really don’t care. He was a great Yankee who brought great prestige to the franchise, but he is far from one of the elite to have ever played the game. That means it is a resounding no for me, he would never get my vote.

Lester’s Take
If I were just considering his regular season accomplishments I would have to shut down Bernie immediately. He was above average with eight years of .300 or better.  He also scored 100 or more Runs eight times and knocked in 100 or more five times.  He was a excellent defensive player and had a little speed (seven seasons with 10+ SBs).  While those are decent numbers, they just don’t scream “Hall of Fame”.   That is until you look at the mark he left in the playoffs.  His playoff totals look like a full season’s worth.  It’s unbelievable.  83 Runs, 128 Hits, 29 Doubles, 22 HRs, 80 RBI.  All Hall of Fames, including Cooperstown have traditionally given extra merit to those who played on dynasties.  You may disagree with that, but that is a factor in Hall of Fame induction.  To me Bernie’s solid regular season and extraordinary postseason are enough to get my vote. 

Previous Hall of Fame Debates
Mark McGwire
Tim Raines

2 comments

  1. big o says:

    well stated , professor .

    (i’m guessing how you felt about the bill mazeroski vote).

  2. Am I missing something here? What exactly was so “unbelievable” or “tremendous” about Bernie’s postseason career? He hit .275/.371/.480 for an .851 OPS. His regular season career slash line? .297/.381/.477 for a nearly identical .858 OPS.

    So basically, he performed during the postseason exactly the way he did during the regular season. Just because he was fortunate enough to play on a great team and accumulate a lot of at-bats, that doesn’t mean he should be given a ticket into the Hall! Then we’re rewarding him for his teammate’s accomplishments and that’s ridiculous.

    Bernie Williams was a good to very good player, but he shouldn’t sniff the HOF.

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