As Hispanic Heritage Month wraps up today, we’ll wrap up our celebration by highlighting one of the greatest Yankees of all time, BernabÃ© Williams Figueroa Jr. There have been many great Hispanic Yankees, but Williams is undoubtedly in the first two. It may or may not surprise you, but Bernie Williams ranks second all-time in fWAR among Yankee players of Latin American descent behind Alex Rodriguez.
Williams has accumulated 43.9 fWAR during his career, while Rodriguez has accumulated 51.7 during his tenure with the Yankees. Statistics indicate that the former center fielder is a Hall of Fame member to the limit. He’s considerably below the 60 WAR threshold, but his career threshold of .297 / .381 / .477 is hugely impressive considering he played in the heyday of the steroid age and was still a great hitter.
A lot of people may have forgotten this, but the Yankees were extremely timid about Bernie Williams’ potential adventure. This article from the New York Times Archives explains exactly what happened. As fans may know, Williams is originally from Puerto Rico and was brought to the MLB system in a typical Latin American amateur way by signing a contract as a teenager. However, led by then-Yankees scouting director Doug Melvin, the team hid Williams from the rest of the league clubs before signing his professional contract.
At the age of 16, Williams moved to a Connecticut baseball camp. It is quite atypical. It was because Melvin and fellow Yankees scout Roberto Rivera wanted to make sure other teams didn’t get the chance to see Williams play. Instead, he trained in Connecticut at a random baseball camp near Melvin’s house. Melvin said he suggested the idea to Williams’s family so he could learn English and get used to playing ball in the United States.
It sounds extremely manipulative. Well, that’s because it probably is, but at the time, no team would have come up with Williams if they hadn’t seen him play and Melvin knew it. Their plot was obviously successful. Williams signed with the Yankees on his 17th birthday when he became eligible and the rest is history.
The dynasty wouldn’t have been possible without Williams raking both sides of the plate for so many years. He had 2,336 hits, 449 doubles and 287 homers while forming five all-star teams, winning the batting crown in 1998 and entering the playoffs 22 times. Williams was in control of the strike zone and gave fits to just about every pitching pitch that came up against him. The Yanks haven’t had a real center pillar since Bernie left, but you never know, maybe another Hispanic hitter has something to say about it (cough cough …. Jasson Dominguez ).
Bernie’s Hall of Fame case fails due to poor defensive measures. His resume is miserable, as the defensive stats get less and less reliable the further you go – they don’t always match the eye tests of the time. At the same time, he has probably played the position for too long due to his status as a player and Joe Torre’s reluctance to move him. Without his drastic defensive downfall at the end of his career, it’s more than possible that he had a stronger record for Hall and would not have been taken off the ballot after just two chances.
For this reason, it is even more important to celebrate his legacy and what he brought to the Yankee dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sometimes we overlook the Hall of Very Good players. Â», But it is clear that we will not allow Bernie to be one of those forgotten!
This concludes our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The history of Hispanic culture runs deep in the big leagues and with the Yankees. It’s always fun to remember and appreciate the players who paved the way for today’s stars like Luis Severino, Gleyber, Torres and Jonathan LoÃ¡isiga. If you missed any of this month’s posts, be sure to go back and check them out!