Riddle me this: if the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is a shrine meant to “tell the story of baseball,” then why are we all just blindly accepting that the New York Yankees, the greatest modern dynasty in the sport, only had a pair of Hall of Famers on their roster in Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera?
OK, fine, Tim Raines in 1996. Wade Boggs that same year. Mike Mussina after the finished winning all those rings. Technically. But that list feels equally ludicrous, especially when you factor in the additional non-dynasty years from 2002-2012 where the Bombers largely overwhelmed the competition. Certainly, those names don’t solve the problem I was getting at.
Where’s the love for the most successful core in modern history? And, if there was never going to be any love at the end of the road, we’re at least clamoring for a conversation.
Andy Pettitte, currently in his fourth season on the ballot, could possibly stick around for his entire allotted decade (to what end, though?), and that’s at least something. We’d love for him to gain enshrinement someday, fully aware that it will probably take until the Veterans Committee can weigh in to make it happen. And that’s perfectly alright. At least the conversation is still moving.
That’s not the case for several other beloved, important and accomplished Yankees from the past two decades of excellence.
Do all three of these names pass the Hall of Fame threshold? Probably not — but, in our opinion, at least two of them do. And all three were struck from the record before anyone really even got to properly evaluate the landscape. The masses were too distracted by the sheer number of very intimidating steroid users on the ballot, as well as the difficult decision, “Should we stop voting for Curt Schilling, the worst man alive who begged us to stop voting for him? Or should we just … keep doing it?”
Apologies to Kenny Lofton, who also merits mention here and definitely deserves a Hall of Fame reexamining, but isn’t quite “Yankee” enough to beat out the other three names. Hire me to blog Guardians and I’ll do it all over again, with Orel Hershiser and Albert Belle segments, too.
These three Yankees might not be slam-dunk Hall of Famers, but to dismiss them outright and delay their cases 20 years — like the voters did — is fairly embarrassing.
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These 3 modern Yankees did not deserve to fall off the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.
3. Bernie Williams
Going to yell it from the rooftops: why is Bernie Williams only invited to Cooperstown when they need someone to play guitar?!
He’s damn good at it. But he was a damn good switch-hitting center fielder, too.
Williams’ career features an extremely high peak, but very little else, lessening the momentum of his case. He also retired after the 2006 season, while Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens hung ’em up after 2007 — that’s a fairly simplistic explanation for his first-year vote total of 9.6% decreasing to 3.3% in his second year, knocking him right off the ballot after 2013. Understandably, we had more things to discuss.
He also doesn’t score well in the Black (just “4,” while an average Hall of Famer would have accrued 27) or Gray Ink (61 vs. a 144 average) tests, indicating a dearth of league-leading statistics and hardware. But according to the Hall of Fame Monitor, he’s well beyond the threshold (134 vs. a 100 “likely Hall of Famer” score), and right up against the average (48 vs. 50) on the Hall of Fame Standards assessment.
How about just parsing the peak instead of throwing cumulative scores at you? Finishing with a career 125 OPS+ with sterling defense (no, not including his arm), Williams’ 1995-2002 (ages 26-33) was upper-echelon. He made five consecutive All-Star teams from 1997-2001. He never hit below .305 (in ’96) and never posted an OPS+ mark below 129 (in ’95) during an era of unprecedented offensive inflation.
In other words, during the most bloated offensive era we’ve ever seen, Williams was elite with the glove and bat for eight straight seasons, also posting above-100 OPS+ marks in 1994, 2003 and 2004 for good measure.
It took Williams longer to arrive than it probably should’ve; bullied by veteran Mel Hall during his younger days with the Bombers, he didn’t crack the lineup for a full season until age 24 in 1993 (.268/.333/.400 with a 100 OPS+), then only played through age-37, quickly breaking down after 2004 (didn’t we all?).
All this was enough to rank him as JAWS’ 28th-best center fielder of all time, placing him among popular Hall of Fame candidates Fred Lynn and Dale Murphy (26th and 27th) and ahead of Yankees Hall of Famer Earle Combs (37th).
All three men should be in, in my opinion. If you disagree, more power to you! But regardless of which side you fall on, we should’ve had longer than two years to suss it out.