Your annual Bernie Williams sighting

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Bernie Williams.jpgEvery year at about this time Bernie Williams makes a visit to Yankees camp. Every year at this time some reporter plays the “so, is Bernie really retired?” game, even though it’s obvious that he’ll never play again. In a way it’s like a happier version of those guys who keep pounding the “why won’t Mark McGwire admit steroids helped him” thing.  Just because Bernie never actually said that he retired doesn’t mean he isn’t for all practical purposes, and you’d think that writers could simply write what is manifest without having to have a quote to hang it on.

But people keep writing this story. In fact today we get two such stories from the Daily News. The first one is the standard “Bernie was in the clubhouse today” thing. The second one asks whether Bernie Williams is a Hall of Famer:

Williams, a five-time All-Star who won four Gold Gloves, a batting
title and four World Series rings, says he realizes that his numbers
aren’t as overwhelming as those of some others from his era – he hit
.297 with 287 home runs and 1,257 RBI. The question remains: Will
history – and Hall of Fame voters – view his career more favorably now
that so many other players have been busted for using
performance-enhancing drugs?

My suspicion is that the only writers who think that’s a hard question are New York writers. Don’t get me wrong — Bernie had a nice career. Maybe even a little better than you remember. He played an excellent centerfield there for a while and had a bat that could have played quite nicely in left in his prime. And of course all the intangible character stuff helps his case. World Series rings. Great reputation. All of that.

But unless you’re Jim Rice and have a Hall of Fame campaign orchestrated for you by a handful of committed wackos, being really good is just not enough.  Williams never came close to winning an MVP (best finish: 7). His decline came a little quickly and was a little too steep to give him the kind of counting stats (hits, homers) voters like to see. His rate stats (average; slugging) are less than you usually get from a Hall of Famer. He was never considered close to being the best player in baseball. He usually wasn’t even considered the best player on his team, even if he had years more valuable that Derek Jeter’s. Even Jim Rice had that monster 1978 season to point to, and Bernie has nothing equivalent which he can point to on his Hall of fame resume.

In a world where Dale Murphy gets no Hall of Fame love and Jim Edmonds is unlikely to, I think the odds of Williams getting elected are a tad worse than the odds of him not showing up to Yankees camp every spring and having reporters ask him if he’s retired yet.

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.