I love the Baseball Hall of Fame. I visited Cooperstown several times, a trip to the Hall of Fame along with Luke spurred the creation of Bleacher Brawls. 

The painfully long MLB offseason is at a real lull as January begins. Top tier free agents are usually already signed or dragging the process out to the days before spring training in order to ensure a maximal payday.

The Hall of Fame announcement tends to be the only important baseball news of its day. For this baseball fan, as well as my good friend and fellow Bleacher Brawler, Derrick, it’s an exciting day.

A talking point that I truly enjoy when Hall of Fame season rolls around is the borderline players. Everyone knows when a Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, or David Ortiz hits the ballot, their Induction Ceremony is evident. 

The more borderline Hall of Fame candidates, that is the real debate. It’s where opinion (and bleacher brawling) comes into play.

I’ve long been a proponent of keeping the voting list maximum at 15 instead of 10. More players means more debate. It’s better for the fans.

Some players deserve to stay on the ballot, even if they are never inducted into the Hall of Fame, their careers were still good enough to elicit debate on whether or not they deserve your vote. 

We all know how Hall of Fame voting works. We’ll see vote percentages change over the years as players who remain on the ballot gain or lose votes. Just being able to stay on the ballot, still relevant years after retirement is an honor in itself. 

When a player drops off the ballot too soon his career never gets the retrospective attention it deserves. Which is why I hope Bernie Williams gets an opportunity to be presented to the Veterans Committee for the Hall of Fame. Bernie has a unique career and I would imagine many of his peers, those who played against him, would acknowledge that he at least deserves more consideration than he ever received.

Despite having a memorable career in New York, Bernie Williams surprisingly fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after only his second year on the ballot. Why was that?

Bernie Williams was understated which led to him being underrated. Bernie was a quiet and introverted kid when he first signed with the Yankees. A cardinal sin during the reign of The Boss, which is why George loved having so many big personalities on his Yankees teams.

Those 90s – 00s teams that Bernie Williams was a part of were loaded with big stars and big personalities. The quiet Bernie Williams was able to slide under the radar on those teams. 

As great as that probably was for the personal mentality of Bernie Williams, it definitely worked against him in terms of recognition. During that period of time when the Yankees won 4 World Series in 5 years, if you asked a fan of a team outside of the AL East to start naming Yankees, how many do they name before they get to Bernie Williams? Never in Yankees history has the clean up hitter of World Series Yankees teams been able to stay low key, out of the spotlight.

Despite being the switch hitting clean up hitter on World Series winning Yankees teams, racking up a batting title along with 4 Gold Gloves, he was barely recognized despite usually being the second best center fielder in the American League. 

There was a period of time when the only better center fielder in baseball was Ken Griffey Jr. However when the playoffs came around, there was usually no better center fielder playing in October than Bernie Williams. He was a solid and reliable post season player. Yes, obviously those Yankees lineups were strong 1 through 9 so he was never expected to be “the guy” but should that be held against him? Had he not been a good post season player, do the Yankees still win all of those World Series?

After Bernie Williams was, for reasons that will never make sense, not offered a contract after the 2006 season, he was clearly missed in 2007. My father and I would watch games and say how much we missed Bernie. Any time a pinch hit situation arose or an OF replacement was needed, we would mention how miss Bernie. A few years later when Joe Torre published his book, he wrote how much he wished the Yankees hung on to Bernie Williams for the 2007 season. 

Bernie Williams was the favorite player of a slew of a generation of Yankees fans. Barnes will tell you how his all time favorite player is Bernie Williams. Mainly for all the reasons I’ve mentioned so far.

Growing up, the kids a few years younger than me would trade nearly any baseball card they had for a Bernie Williams card. Sure they were easily hustled but it was because they loved Bernie Williams. 

For the record, I was only trading away Bernie Williams duplicate cards. As if you had to ask.

Is Bernie Williams a Hall of Famer? As much as I love Bernie Williams, I realize it’s not a slam dunk. It’s a matter of personal opinion. He was never the greatest player at any one aspect of the game. He was a 5 tool player that was really, really good at all 5 tools. He would get my vote.

If nothing else, Bernie Williams deserves to be in the conversation. I stated above and I stated on our YouTube, part of the fun of the Hall of Fame is the discussion of the borderline cases. I believe in keeping borderline players on the ballot so we can continue to reflect on their careers. Some guys just deserve to be in the conversation.

By JMo

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