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And Now, the End is Near
2007-02-10 06:47
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

"I think if they wanted me, they would have signed me already," said Williams, who has spent 16 seasons with the Yankees, the only team he has played for. "The option to go to spring training and see what happened — I don't think at this moment it is something I want to consider."

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, reached by telephone Friday night, said there was no space for Williams.

"We love and respect Bernie, but with the dynamic of our roster, there's not a spot," Cashman said. "We had a lot of conversations with him. I understand that he doesn't want to accept a minor league deal."
(N.Y. Times)

Saying good-bye is never easy. Bernie Williams is one of my very favorite Yankees of them all. It's funny, how we love our favorites for different reasons. I love Bernie because I never thought he would become such an accomplished player (and look at him, he's a borderline Hall of Famer). Not bad for a skinny kid who was picked-on, and often looked lost when he first arrived in the Bronx. I'm as proud of him as I have ever been of any Yankee. Regardless of whether or not he has any real value left for the team, I will miss watching him play dearly.

Comments
2007-02-10 07:17:14
1.   wsporter
I hope this doesn't turn nasty and that Bernie goes out with as much class as he has always displayed over the years. He could be maddening at times but he was the hope of the future once during some pretty dark times and a damned good ball player. I'll miss him too. It's tough when the good ones fade away.
2007-02-10 09:16:02
2.   monkeypants
I hope this doesn't turn nasty either. On the other hand, I don't fault Bernie for wanting to squeeze out another year or two. Part of me wouldn't mind if he signed a one-year deal with some stupid team. In a hitter's park he stands a good chance of hitting 13 HR to get to 300 for his career, which would be a nice counting stat goal.

I know that the Yankees are making the rational decision with Bernie, but it is saddening to think about the long-term 'planning' that results in him needing to get bumped to make room for Minky and Cairo.

2007-02-10 10:22:32
3.   Jim Dean
How and why would it turn nasty? What does that even mean? Bernie bad-mouthing the organization? How would that ever fit with what we know about him?

Me, I think Bernie's taking a cue from Donnie Baseball. He may never 'retire'. It sucks that it's against his wishes, but then he could have taken a guaranteed job with another club.

I think the real problem is that he still thinks he can play the OF. When Papi took second on a ground ball to right, he should have realized otherwise then and there.

Thanks for the memories, Bernie. Dimaggio, Mantle, Williams. You're an icon and I'm going to miss you too.

2007-02-10 10:22:34
4.   Sliced Bread
Well said, Alex.

Bernie became my favorite early in his career, '92 or '93.

I caught him at Camden Yards either the year it opened or the following summer.
If I recall correctly he homered from each side of the plate that day, and I went home very excited about him.

A few weeks later I was at Yankee Stadium and he had another great day. Fans around me in the upper deck were all buzzing about him. Spanish, African American, white, everybody around me was buzzing about Bernie.

As wsporter said, Bernie provided hope for the future after some awful years for us Yanks fans. They were getting pretty hard to watch until Bernie came along.
He wasn't a natural by any means, but there was something exciting about this lanky, bookish dude. He was a homegrown gentleman, softspoken, and easy to root for.
By the time the team hit its stride in the mid 90's, Bernie was coming on strong. Bernie and the Yanks peaked together in the late 90's.
I'm going to miss seeing him step up to the plate.
I don't blame him for being bummed about his situation. From his perspective why should the team carry all those pitchers and first basemen, after all he's accomplished for the Yanks? He still knows how to put together a productive at-bat.
It would probably be easier for Bernie to accept his fate, and for his fans to say goodbye if "the roster dyanamic" as Cashman put it, was different.
You can see how Bernie would believe he can offer as much to the team as the 12th pitcher or 3rd first baseman.
I've got a feeling that Bernie, class act that he is, will make this easy on the Yanks and hang up his hat, and wave goodbye.
He's never been one for pity or drama.
Hold your head high, Mr. Bernie Williams. We love you, and thank you, every one of us.

2007-02-10 10:28:31
5.   Chyll Will
2 Not that it would make a difference with him getting into the HoF. Hmph and Phooey.

Bernie should and likely will get a plaque when he officially retires, which is noteworthy enough. He's been a good ambassador of the game for the Yanks, and a revered everyman. When you look at him, you don't see a superhero. You see a man who worked his ass off year after year to stay in the game, and accomplished heroic feats without trying to. The Bobby Murcer of Generation X? No, Bernie Williams deserves a name of his own with us, because he is us. Let that be his baseball legacy.

I'm looking forward to seeing his music career take off much the way he's always done here.

2007-02-10 11:10:28
6.   wsporter
This brings into focus what once seemed a long way off for me and that's the day the Captain hangs 'em up for the last time. Somebody said here a couple of weeks ago that they don't want to think about Jeter playing short in '10. I'm not so sure I want to think about him not playing short in '10. That feeling has very little to do with baseball as an isolated endeavor and everything to do with life.

I've been a nut case Yankees fan for 45 plus years and counting; since my grandfather used to take me to games at the big ball park and since I used to fall asleep as a little boy at his house with the sound of the ball game on in the background. In all that time I don't ever remember a player such as Jeter. He's a great source of pride and of personal humility for me. I only wish I could be as good at what I do as he is at what he does. I only wish I could muster the air of dignity he does in doing his job. He is the favorite player of my life. For me he has come to represent part of the way the game of baseball invades my life and has become part of who I am as a human being. My grandfather didn't express it that way but I know he felt that way about Joe D. That feeling is I think vital to those who choose to understand it; those things we choose to be associated with are part of the important way we choose to be defined as men and women and as human beings. They are, in part, the things we choose to represent and stand for and what we wish to be seen as.

That day, when the Captain retires, will be the sad one in my home. It will also be one filled with memories of the Captain and also of that little boy who years ago sat in the sunshine behind first base watching in awe as Joe Pepitone scooped ground balls and who listened with wrapped attention to his grandfather as he told his tales of the great DiMaggio.

I don't feel that way about Bernie but for those who do and who feel a sense of loss at his leaving I think I understand. Life is a curious thing; there is no escaping the way sadness mingles with our joy and joy with our sadness. How could Baseball ever be just a game?

2007-02-10 11:10:34
7.   DC Yankee
For a long time Bernie was the quiet storm and the point man for the team. He grew into one of the cream and class of the "true Yankees" and deserves his place in the pantheon of the all time Yankee greats. The organization owes him, yes, now that the end is near, a debt of gratitude for his baseball skills, but most of all the dignity and grace he brought every day of his career. Love you Bernie, and the organization best do the right things here.
2007-02-10 12:02:24
8.   yankz
6 Exactly how I feel about DJ, very nice.
2007-02-10 15:54:21
9.   joejoejoe
1) Bernie Williams is still a MLB quality hitter off the bench.

2) The Yankees don't have a roster spot for him.

Both of the above statements are true. If Giambi was an everyday field player then the Yankees could live with Bernie as the odd DH and pinch hitter. But that's not the way the roster is constructed. In the same period that the Yankees signed Damon and Matsui and traded for Abreu they developed Melky AND Giambi shifted from adequate in the field to liability. All of the above work against Bernie and Bernie has done more for the Yankees than all of the above. The same Brian Cashman that found 168 games for Ruben Sierra in '04-'05 (who never had an OB% > .300) can't find a roster spot for Bernie Williams.

Life's not fair but I can see where Bernie is upset with his treatment.

2007-02-10 16:20:35
10.   bronxliaison
Very well put Alex

I think his hopeless humble nature is what made Bernie so relevant to me. I totally agree with your idea of Bernie exceeding expectations and therefore optimizing his fans' appreciation when his career saw great heights. I hadn't really thought of this and so I begrudgingly concede the point.

2007-02-10 17:49:55
11.   C2Coke
6 Bernie, as one of the last four from the 1996 team, retiring is a scary foreshadowing of the days to come. Now Bernie, then Mo, then Jorge and the Captain...I cannot even imagine now how it will be like. I will miss Bernie.
2007-02-10 17:50:02
12.   mikeplugh
I love Bernie, but he's gotta go. Funny thing is, a few years ago I would have been up in arms to think that the Yankees would let him go out in another team's uniform. Now, I think it's on Bernie. We didn't have to sign him the last 2 years. He was fair, sometimes awful, and occasionally heroic. In the end, he is such a pitiful fielder that he can't be expected to earn a job anywhere in the outfield. I mean, anywhere in the sport.

If he got a job somewhere else, I would feel much better in 2007 seeing him fizzle out on someone else's dime, knowing that we gave him a chance to do it with dignity, in pinstripes.

2007-02-10 22:39:46
13.   David
9 -- Cashman isn't supposed to find a roster spot for Bernie, or for any other player. Cashman is supposed to build the best possible team.

I'll be relieved if Bernie formally retires. If he's in camp, there will be too much focus on what the team owes Bernie and what they are supposed to do to fit him in. That entire thought process is a mistake.

2007-02-11 10:43:29
14.   nemecizer
As much as I'll miss him, it's time for Bernie to go. Yes, it signals the impending end of Mo, Jorge and Jeter, but that's baseball.

Go out with class, Bernie, and know that we'll always love you (unless you go to the Red Sox).

2007-02-11 13:45:36
15.   rbj
So long and thanks for all the World Series, Bernie.
2007-02-11 18:21:10
16.   Shaun P
I am more relieved than I am sad. The sadness for me was watching Bernie's skills deteriorate before my eyes. Like MFD said above, Berine was the one real bright spot back in the early 90s, the one guy you could see being a part of the next great Yankees team. Who knew then it would be multiple great Yankees teams?

My childhood dreams of watching the Yanks win and win (and win again) have been fulfilled many times over, often due in no small part to Bernie. I will always be grateful.

But the past is gone, while the future is yet to come - guys like Melky deserve their chance. I'm glad they'll get it, even if it means #51 will be in pinstripes no more.

I'd rather look back on this time and think of it as Bernie's last gift to the fans, than a bitter passing into an almost forced retirement. Knowing how classy Bernie is, I'm not too worried.

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