We can scream about Bernie Williams' Hall of Fame bonafides for hours, so it helps when someone with a different, less-biased voice opts to do so in our place.
MLB Network's Brian Kenny, a Hall of Fame guru and stat-devoted expert, certainly fits the bill. If he'd like a primer on the Tau of Thurman Munson, we'd be happy to oblige there, too (no, not you, Bill James).
With a new Induction Weekend fast approaching (Kenny will surely be on site at his usual podium, either introducing the returning Hall of Famers or commentating with the rest of the MLB Network crew), it seemed high time for the host to evaluate modern candidates who may have been overlooked in recent cycles.
The shroud of the steroid era candidates (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz) has clouded the conversation since long before Kenny's co-host Mike Lowell retired, obscuring many of the greats he tried to pinpoint from Lowell's days in the game. According to Kenny, these five -- including Williams -- deserve a second look.
Yankees star Bernie Williams deserves Hall of Fame consideration, per MLB Network's Brian Kenny
Orel Hershiser has the longevity argument locked down, as well as a spectacular peak, but he ranks as the clear fifth banana here (and that's nothing to be ashamed of!). Nobody did what Johan Santana did better for a half-decade, but if he's in, so is Jacob deGrom (and that's a conversation).
Williams, Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton represent obvious peripheral '90s stars who deserve a closer look, though. If Scott Rolen and his steady-as-ever 70.1 bWAR are in, then Edmonds' 60.4 bWAR, higher OPS+, 393 homers, and memorable center field defense probably should be, too. Lofton and his 68.4 bWAR have an even better case -- and it's not like these players were starring for the '90s Kansas City Royals, well outside the spotlight. They all mattered. Annually, each fall.
Which brings us to Williams. Again, biased, but while the '90s Yankees Dynasty is well-represented in Cooperstown, it's ironic that half of the Core Four is out in the cold (and that foursome should be a quintet, featuring Williams on guitar). David Cone deserves a head nod, too, especially if Hershiser is getting reconsidered. While key contributors like Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez will never get a shot at the Hall again, Williams teeters right on the borderline between matinee idols like Derek Jeter and crucial role players.
His peak was spectacular, though, and resulted in four titles, five World Series appearances, and five All-Star appearances from 1996-2001 as the best switch-hitting center fielder in baseball. Williams' arm was never very special, dinging his solid range and otherwise impressive defense, and he rarely led the league in any individual category. But the sum of his parts places him as JAWS' 28th-best center fielder of all time, and he merits a 134 on the Hall of Fame monitor (100 represents a likely Hall of Famer).
The evaluation systems are split on Williams, but his October dominance -- and the opinion of an expert like Kenny -- should hold sway. It might take a while, but don't count out No. 51 in the eventual race for a plaque.