It appears that the ongoing saga between Bernie Williams and the New York Yankees has finally come to an end.
Yankee manager Joe Torre said that it was “a very, very long shot” that Williams would return to the team. Williams, one of the all-time Yankee greats, was offered a minor league contract early in February. Williams declined the offer and instead decided to wait for a guaranteed contract.
The offer never came from the Yankees.
Williams began last season as a backup to Johnny Damon. Damon received the starting role in the outfield for the Yankees after he signed with them in the off season. When Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield were injured Williams saw more playing time. He ended with 12 home runs, 61 RBIs and a .281 average in 420 total at-bats.
Torre’s comments yesterday almost definitely put an end to a situation that has dragged on throughout the off season. Roughly two months ago reports surfaced that Williams would not receive a guaranteed contract from the Yankees. The club invited him to spring training but Williams declined to report without any guarantee from New York.
Williams let it be known through his agent Scott Boras that he wanted to remian a Yankee. Both Boras and Williams seemed surprised when the club decided not to offer Williams a contract. “Bernie told me he had talked with Joe. Other than the invite, there wasn’t any information that led him to believe he would be a member of the team,” according to Boras. After Torre’s statement yesterday it appears as if Williams’ days with the Yankees are over.
If Williams were to return to the club it would not be in a starting role. With Matsui, Damon, and Bobby Abreu on the Yankees there is no room for Williams in the starting outfield. The club seems content to keep Melky Cabrera, Kevin Reese, and Kevin Thompson on the bench rather than the aging Williams.
If the 38-year old decided to test the market he would most likely receive an offer from numerous teams before the start of the season. Williams has let it be known that he is not interested in heading to another team. “He certainly feels he can be a helpful contributor in ’07. He wants to remain loyal to the Yankees and doesn’t feel it’s appropriate for him to play for another club,” according to a Boras quote that ran in an AP story released three weeks ago.
Bernie Williams has spent his entire career with the Yankees. He was a vital member of every Yankee team that won a World Series between 1996 and 2000. Williams was the ALCS Most Valuable Player in 1996 and won a Gold Glove every year between 1997 and 2000.
All quotes credited to espn.com and AP