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.

Edwin Encarnacion: “I think [the Blue Jays] got too hasty in making their decision.”

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.

Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:

“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’

Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.

Sammy Sosa compares himself to Jesus Christ

Sammy Sosa
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I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.

The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.

Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.

Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:

It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”

At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.

I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .