This Date In Transactions History: Bernie Williams

Icon_15585003It's tough to imagine Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera wearing something other than a Yankees' uniform, and for a long time the same was true for Bernie Williams. The former batting champ and five-time All-Star spent his entire career in pinstripes, but he came very close to joining an AL East rival during the 1998-1999 offseason.

Williams, who had just turned 30, hit .339/.422/.575 with 26 homers during the 1998 season, batting cleanup for a 114-win team. He'd hit .323/.406/.551 with 76 homers in 400 games over the previous three seasons, and was a hot commodity on the free agent market. ESPN's Buster Olney, then with The New York Times, reported that Williams rejected a five-year, $60MM contract offer from New York in mid-November, one year after they offered him a five-year, $37.5MM extension.

The Red Sox, looking to make a splash after winning 92 games but finishing 22 back in the AL East, offered Williams a six-year contract worth $90MM according to Olney. The Yankees had turned their attention to Albert Belle, who was coming off a 49-homer, .328/.399/.655 season with the White Sox. He was two years into a five-year, $55MM deal with Chicago, but a clause in his contract ensured that he would remain one of the three highest paid players in baseball. When the White Sox declined to give him a raise to meet the clause, Belle became a free agent and the Yankees' Plan B.

Williams and agent Scott Boras gave the Yankees a chance to match Boston's offer, and 13 years ago today he agreed to return to New York on a seven-year, $87.5MM contract. It was one of the largest contracts in baseball history at the time, right behind Mike Piazza's seven-year, $91MM deal with the Mets. Belle wound up with the Orioles to the tune of $65MM over five years. Williams hit .298/.386/.480 during the life of the contract, helping the Yankees to four pennants and two World Series titles.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


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66 Comments on "This Date In Transactions History: Bernie Williams"


Fred_G_Sanford
3 years 8 months ago

he played a much better saxophone than joey belle anyway.

Slopeboy
3 years 8 months ago

He plays the guitar, you big Dummy!!!

3 years 8 months ago

What a player! Hall of Fame? Anyone?

MetsMagic
3 years 8 months ago

Eh, not really. It’s not like Bobby Grich or Reggie Smith ever got any consideration, and they were better. He’s more like Tony Oliva than a Hall of Famer. 

YanksFanSince78
3 years 8 months ago

Williams and Smith get a nod for being better because they were better defensively. Williams though was a monster with the bat from a CF position.

Williams- .297/.381/.477 with a .858 lifetime OPSSmith- – .287/.366/.489 with a .855 lifetime OPSGrich- .266/.371/.424 with a .794 OPSIt’s hard to see him getting in if the current writers are the ones voting (not sure if there exists a veterans committee anymore??). His defense just wasn’t as good as it seemed (by eyeball accounts) when he was in his prime. If he were just average his WAR would be a lot higher than it is.However, just for the heck of it, from 1994-2003 he had a .916 OPS. Now that was outshined by about 15 other players or so but that included quite a few steroid users like Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Giambi, Manny, Palmeiro and probably a few others we just don’t know about.But no, I don’t see him getting in. Great hitter though.

Robert5286
3 years 8 months ago

Williams was Tony Oliva, but could draw walks, as well. Oliva didn’t walk much.

Robert5286
3 years 7 months ago

Tony Oliva had HOF talent. Were it not for some serious injuries, he would have been one. Oliva and Killebrew. What a pair.

vtadave
3 years 8 months ago

No chance.

Nice player, but doesn’t really pass the smell test. Zero top-6 MVP finishes for one thing.

Robert5286
3 years 8 months ago

As a Red Sox fan, I can tell you. He should be in the HOF. No other Yankee killed the Sox with such regularity. It seemed like he was always crossing homeplate with that obnoxious pop up slide. (that was his version of Jeter clapping his hands after a big hit.) I was heartbroken when I heard that he was only using the Sox to jack up the price. How much different would history be if he had signed with Boston? Had the Sox re-upped Mo Vaughn, and added Williams, they would have been the team to beat in ’99 and ’00.

Robert5286
3 years 7 months ago

HOF? Yes! I hated this guy, for he was always pestering the Red Sox. I hated his pop up slide and how how always seemed to be sliding across homeplate.  I hated him for wanting to always be a Yankee. Even in todays game, where franchise players walk away from their original teams,homegrown Yankee stars always remain loyal. The Yankees are smart enough to retain home grown stars. (Rivera Posada Jeter Pettite)He was helped by having great players around, as the Yankees care only about winning,and are willing to spend what ever it takes. It doesn’t always work, but at least they are trying. It was a bitter dissapointment to Red Sox nation when Williams used the Sox to up the ante.It changed the course of Baseball history. The Sox made the playoffs in 99,only to lose in 5 games. Bernie could have made the difference There is no telling what Bernie could have meant to the Sox.

Robert5286
3 years 7 months ago

HOF? Yes! I hated this guy, for he was always pestering the Red Sox. I hated his pop up slide and how how always seemed to be sliding across homeplate.  I hated him for wanting to always be a Yankee. Even in todays game, where franchise players walk away from their original teams,homegrown Yankee stars always remain loyal. The Yankees are smart enough to retain home grown stars. (Rivera Posada Jeter Pettite)He was helped by having great players around, as the Yankees care only about winning,and are willing to spend what ever it takes. It doesn’t always work, but at least they are trying. It was a bitter dissapointment to Red Sox nation when Williams used the Sox to up the ante.It changed the course of Baseball history. The Sox made the playoffs in 99,only to lose in 5 games. Bernie could have made the difference There is no telling what Bernie could have meant to the Sox.

3 years 8 months ago

I think he’s a HOF

3 years 8 months ago

So then…Damon, Beltran, Abreu, Magglio are HOF’s too?! 

MetsMagic
3 years 8 months ago

The HoF will probably give him the same treatment they gave Rizzuto and Lazzeri. They use championships as a qualification. 

Braves Fan 85
Braves Fan 85
3 years 8 months ago

Not a hof’er…neither is damon..both good players though

Tired_OF_FakeRumors
3 years 8 months ago

Like or not he WILL go into the hall of fame

LioneeR
3 years 8 months ago

I like how you state something that is completely subjective as fact

Slopeboy
3 years 8 months ago

One of my favorite Yankees of all time, for a lot of reasons. I saw him when he was a skinny kid before he came up to the Yankees and instantly thought ‘this guy’s going to be a star’. I took a lot of ribbing from many of my friends early during his career when he was struggling, but he finally put it altogether. Vindication, baby!

My sister took a photo with him at the Stadium, one of my co-workers sat next to him during a flight to the Virgin Islands and  found him to be humble and down to earth.My nephew has been to his home, as he’s friendly with his son. Everyone meets him but me!!

I love the guy, but he’s no HOFer.

Robert5286
3 years 8 months ago

There had to be more then one occasion where the Yankees could have traded him during his early years,but didn’t. What a shame they didn’t. Similar to Rivera who was almost traded in ’94.

Colin Christopher
3 years 8 months ago

Bernie Williams finished his career with under 2400 hits, under 300 HRs, under 150 SBs, under a .300 BA, never led the league in any category (except for BA in ’98), only played more than 150 games twice and only finished in the top 10 in MVP voting once. 

Like it or not, he will NOT get into the Hall of Fame.

Tired_OF_FakeRumors
3 years 8 months ago

He’s s Yankee and reporters suck those Yankees b….

mwagner26
3 years 8 months ago

Agreed, but I always loved Bernie.

Colin Christopher
3 years 8 months ago

Me too. He’s way cooler than most guys who are already in or who will get into the HoF.

YanksFanSince78
3 years 8 months ago

I agree that he won’t make it in but I just find it odd that you use such random and meaningless stats like how many games he played per season and that he was a CF with less than 300 HRS. 

As for the MVP, keep in mind who those AL MVPs when he was putting up those 7 consecutive .900 OPS years.

From 1994-2003 (10 years of his prime seasons)…

Juan Gonzales x 2
Ivan Rodriguez x 1
Jason Giambi x 1
Miguel Tejada x 1
Alex Rodriguez x 1

6 steroid using winners in that 10 year span. I mean how many years did you have 4 or 5 guys posting 40+ hr , 130 RBI years?
In 1998, his highest ranking in the MVP when he finished 7th, there were 7 guys in the AL alone that 40 hr 120 RBI years. What did BW do that year? Just hit .339/.422/.575 with 26 hrs and a .997 OPS. Wow…

ellisburks
3 years 8 months ago

The stats he used are not random and meaningless when it comes to the HoF. At least in the past. He has none of the “milestone” stats where it counts:  hr, hits, avg. While they probably mean less now that there are more modern thinkers in the BBWA there are still enough in there that would look at Bernie’s career stats and say he just didn’t get enough. Nothing really, counting stats wise, that pops out at you. 
A fine player, but over-rated defensively, and helped out by being on great Yankees teams for so long.

Pete
3 years 8 months ago

What a textbook career, his best years (and he had about 3 MVP-level years) were from age 26-33 and he was was merely average-to-poor before and after.

3 years 8 months ago

If he gets in and Edmonds doesnt stuff is effed up. Good player, good yankee, but not a HOF player.

I like the article though as I was 11 when all this was going on….

 

Liam_Ho
3 years 8 months ago

Bernie Williams is a great Yankee but not HOF status.

Pete
3 years 8 months ago

Let me introduce you to this guy Phil Rizzuto, who the Yankees basically bullied Cooperstown and MLB into getting him in. Good player, not a HOFer by any means but he’s in there.

MB923
3 years 8 months ago

He won’t get in the HOF, but I’m sure Monument Park in the new Yankee Stadium will be just fine for him. My favorite Yankee to put on the uniform, but no he is not a HOF. For sure one of the greatest Yankees though.

BaseballFanatic0707
3 years 8 months ago

If we rename the HOF the Hall of Very Good (which, at this point, we really need to do), then sure., he can be in the hall.

tapehead4
3 years 8 months ago

We’d need to first name it the Hall of Great…

JR_Tolls1
3 years 8 months ago

The hall of famous names.

Catchy isn’t it?

dc21892
3 years 8 months ago

Nope.

Robert5286
3 years 8 months ago

The HOF itself, is a joke. How can Pete Rose not be in? There is no proof that he purposly tried to lose a game. That would have been imposibble for a man with is competitiveness.

tapehead4
3 years 8 months ago

Impossible? Not exactly. Trying to lick your elbow – now that’s impossible.

ellisburks
3 years 8 months ago

He violated the rules that he knew were in place. As a student of the game he knew about The Black Sox scandal and what the consequences were. And yet he STILL bet ON HIS OWN TEAM. When he was caught, he signed an agreement with the commissioner agreeing with the ban, then he lied about it and denied that he bet on his own team until he could get the most money out of it and wrote a book about it. He got what was coming to him and therefore does not belong in the HoF. He made his own bed, now he has to lay in it.

levendis
3 years 8 months ago

im sorry im pretty sure he was betting against his own team as a MANAGER. His managerial career and his playing carrer are two different things. Yogi Berra and Babe Ruth didnt get into the HOF for their great jobs managing. The guy did nothing wrong as a player, and thus should go into the HOF as on the te greatest players to play the game.

ellisburks
3 years 8 months ago

He was a player while he was a manager. And he was employed by Major League Baseball as both a player and manager and was betting while both. He does not deserve to be in the HoF. And to top it all off, BETTING IS AGAINST THE RULES IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. He knew it. Didn’t care until he was caught and lied and cheated. He should be nowhere near the Hof.

MetsMagic
3 years 8 months ago

I was reading this thread and I realized that they would probably want to retire his number as he was a lifetime Yankee. If they wait for Jeter to retire to do that, and they retire Torre’s number, no Yankee will ever wear a single digit number again. 

mickblue66
3 years 8 months ago

Oh my god are you people serious??? Bernie Williams hall of fame???? Milk just shot out of my nose and I haven’t laughed that hard in awhile thanks. If Bernie Williams gets in the HOF then Ray freakin Lankford should too, ha. Jim Edmonds must be a first ballot grabbin 95%. My god I’m not usually one to attack Yankee fans at all but you folks are utterly delusional. 

Robert5286
3 years 8 months ago

Come on! Ray langford? Williams ability to win games far out shadow’s his career numbers. The most clutch player I ever saw.

ellisburks
3 years 8 months ago

Clutch is an illusion. And he is not a HoF player. Above average? Yup. Hof? Nope.

mickblue66
3 years 8 months ago

Yes Ray Lankford not langford. And no I don’t think Ray Lankford should be in the Hall that’s the point, he’s quite comparable to Bernie Williams he just didn’t play for the Yankees, neither belong in Coop town.  Like I said if Bernie Williams is a HOF’er then Jim Edmonds should be first ballot. He played for two Championship squads as well and had some pretty darn clutch hits too. Not to mention he was a man amongst boys as a defender in CF

mickblue66
3 years 8 months ago

double post

JR_Tolls1
3 years 8 months ago

Sad how they treated him at the end, he could have had a retirement tour like the two Griffey Jr took.

Ta-Kuan Fuan
3 years 8 months ago

He doesn’t pass the test. Very fine player and part of the clog that helped the Yanks win 4 championships, but he was never one of the best players in the game.

There’s also no reason to vote him in because the Hall made mistakes on less deserving players in the past.

Jason Wolf
3 years 8 months ago

Agree with all the comments that Bernie was a great Yankee, a class gentleman and a quiet leader, but not a Hall of Famer.

Now, if he had played on a fair field where his peers were not using PEDs, he may have emerged as a superstar above his star level.  Maybe he wins an MVP or two and gets a bunch of top 5 or 10 finishes, but we cannot go back and redo that era, and so unfortunately, Bernie doesn’t look like a HoFer…

Pete
3 years 8 months ago

He has 47.5 career WAR, no HOFer should have that few. 

MB923
3 years 8 months ago

Mariano Rivera’s fWAR is 39.0. I guess he isn’t a HOFer either.

Note – I agree Bernie is not a HOFer 

ellisburks
3 years 8 months ago

How are you certain he wasn’t using PEDs? I am not saying he was, but You can’t say that he wasn’t. You have no proof of such.

Robert5286
3 years 8 months ago

he was a fabulous CFder,a great hitter, smart baserunner, had great OBP’s, was a switch hitter, and was Mr. Clutch. Red Sox fans hated his guts,but had to admire his talent.

deadsy
3 years 8 months ago

Well said.

deadsy
3 years 8 months ago

Bernie baseball.

hekafu
3 years 8 months ago

The only other players to lead 3 championship teams in OPS are Ruth, Dimmagio, Mantle, and Jackson, thats prett good company. Based on his regular season stats he probably doesn’t get in, but he was the best player and clean-up hitter on 4 championship teams. He was a great clutch hitter, and sholdn’t be punished because he never took PEDs. If Dawson, and Rice are HOF so is Bernie

Pete
3 years 8 months ago

How does one “lead” a championship team in a team game like baseball? That phrase never sat well with me, we have to quit pushing the team side of the game onto the individual players. This is why only dumb teams still have “captains”. 

Dawson had 62 WAR, anyone with a WAR over 60 is HOF-material. Rice only had 56 and Bernie had 47.5, so those are bad comps you bring up there. His best comp was probably Paul O’Neill, whos not going to HOF ever.

ellisburks
3 years 8 months ago

How are you certain he wasn’t using PEDs? I am not saying he was, but You can’t say that he wasn’t. You have no proof of such.

MB923
3 years 8 months ago

This can apply to any single player to ever play the game