Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Outside the Aviary: "To Find Me Gone"

As a Red Sox fan, one of many things that kill me about Yankees fans is their pride in keeping players too long and letting them retire when they are ready (rather than let go of dead weight). I've heard about all the times the Sox have lost out on guys who still played some good seasons-- most notable Jonathan Damon and Roger Clemens. While it is debatable that either of these players were really pushed out the door (Clemens maybe, Damon definitely not), I am not going to discuss that. Instead, I'm here to praise (ahem) the Yanks for letting go of a good player that is well past his prime.

Anyone that doesn't work at the New York Post will tell you it was time to let go of Bernie Williams. While it's true that he was effective against left handers last season, his demeanor and general aptitude were astute failings for the first time in years. I wasn't afraid of him in any game-- postseason or otherwise-- for the past 2 1/2 years. There was no swagger. He reminded me of Jake Taylor-- a teacher with no discernible skill set left to offer a team in need of a numbers man, only you know, nonfictional (so there was no happy ending last year).

All this aside, I am happier, even, to see a team with a glorious past letting go of someone even at the behest of their fans. The Yankees treated Bernie like gold-- keeping him higher in the lineup than he deserved for a short while last season, letting him start amidst injury when they could have traded for someone better or played youngsters, and extending an invitation to Spring Training this year though they could have scoffed him and had their goodbyes and tears already. Just like the Packers have handed a pass to Brett Farve, the Sox will do with Curt Schilling, and the Redskins did with Mark Brunell the Yanks will not do with Bernie any longer.

Sweeping Bernie out is not a disaster situation. This is not a company man who makes little money and cannot do anything else. This is not a factory worker who has spent decades in the industry. This is a aging millionaire baseball player trying to compete with kids who are better than he is. This is a man that has been given everything with little left but stubbornness in his arsenal.

I can't for the life of me imagine one scenario where Bernie fits better than Melky Cabrera in this lineup, nor can I imagine one where Bernie doesn't see this. Bernie doesn't strike me as someone who is naive or much of a dullard. Leaving may sting after all these years, but it cannot shock or wound. If there is gas left in the tank, so be it. There are several teams that need some help and a proven quick-fix warrior that can teach the kids in a weak league. OK, I'll stop beating around the bush. Go to the National League, Bernie. Play in Florida with the kids if they will have you. See what the rest of the country has to offer. Shout at holler at Tampa Bay-- the place where good baseball players go to die. Someone will take you on, and if you play well enough, they will release or trade you for little to no value so you have a shot at another winner.

I just don't see what leg you have to stand on in the Bronx. What do the Yankees owe you? Nothing. In fact, if Yanks are smart, they'll rescind their minor league offer sheet. They will say, "We gave Bernie his chance to make the team, but we have to move on." They've all but done it already. Bernie, don't accept the offer. Move on and then move out. (Pros: You won't have to hear "Disco Inferno" or "YMCA" again, right?) You've done it all, but now it's all done. For once, I'm with the Yanks.

1 comment:

Todd said...

Bernie was never the swaggering type though. I'm a Dodger fan but I'm a baseball fan first and I was glad to see Bernie achieve above and beyond the doubters who thought he was done last year when he had to fill the void left by their injuries to Sheff and Matsui. He once again showed his ability. Perhaps you (as a Red Sock fan) didn't fear him, but I think that's beside the point. Yeah he might not warrant fear, but he exceeded the expectations of most. I hope Bernie doesn't extend his stay in the majors too long. He definitely isn't what he was six years ago and he was always more about grace than power anyway. Hopefully he'll perform to expectations and then retire.