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Does Kirby Puckett Open up the HOF for Bernie Williams?



By Mike Silva ~ January 8th, 2011. Filed under: Hall of Fame, Mike Silva.

NYBD reader “Russ” posted a comment the other day comparing Bernie Williams to other Hall of Fame centerfielders, like Kirby Puckett. It inspired me to take a deeper look at the former Yankee, who will be eligible for induction next year.

If you sort using Baseball Reference “Wins Above Replacement,” these are the top 18 centerfielders in the Hall of Fame.

Rk Player WAR/pos G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB BA OPS
1 Ty Cobb 159.4 3034 11434 2246 4189 724 295 117 1938 1249 357 897 .366 .945
2 Willie Mays 154.7 2992 10881 2062 3283 523 140 660 1903 1464 1526 338 .302 .941
3 Tris Speaker 133.0 2789 10195 1882 3514 792 222 117 1529 1381 220 436 .345 .928
4 Mickey Mantle 120.2 2401 8102 1676 2415 344 72 536 1509 1733 1710 153 .298 .977
5 Joe DiMaggio 83.6 1736 6821 1390 2214 389 131 361 1537 790 369 30 .325 .977
6 Duke Snider 67.5 2143 7161 1259 2116 358 85 407 1333 971 1237 99 .295 .919
7 Richie Ashburn 58.0 2189 8365 1322 2574 317 109 29 586 1198 571 234 .308 .778
8 Max Carey 50.6 2476 9363 1545 2665 419 159 70 800 1040 695 738 .285 .747
9 Larry Doby 47.4 1533 5348 960 1515 243 52 253 970 871 1011 47 .283 .876
10 Edd Roush 46.5 1967 7363 1099 2376 339 182 68 981 484 260 268 .323 .815
11 Earl Averill 45.0 1669 6353 1224 2019 401 128 238 1164 774 518 70 .318 .928
12 Kirby Puckett 44.8 1783 7244 1071 2304 414 57 207 1085 450 965 134 .318 .837
13 Earle Combs 44.7 1455 5746 1186 1866 309 154 58 632 670 278 98 .325 .859
14 Hack Wilson 39.1 1348 4760 884 1461 266 67 244 1063 674 713 52 .307 .940
15 Lloyd Waner 24.3 1993 7772 1201 2459 281 118 27 598 420 173 67 .316 .747
16 Billy Hamilton 2.6 102 348 71 100 11 2 3 38 64 0 20 .287 .760
17 Hugh Duffy 1.5 113 372 57 111 18 11 2 53 30 0 15 .298 .774
18 Jocko Conlan -0.7 128 365 55 96 18 4 0 31 33 13 5 .263 .662
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/7/2011.

Clearly Williams is not at the level of Mantle, Cobb, Mays, Snider, and DiMaggio. He is, however, right there with the second tier like Kirby Puckett, Hack Wilson, and Larry Doby.

Puckett is a particularly interesting comparison, as he has similar numbers T. Williams, and also missed several career benchmarks. I believe Puckett was given a boost for a career that was shortened due to eye issues, and having big moments on the World Series stage. We can see, as is the case with Jack Morris, many writers hold stock in those historic moments. I do as well.

I would vote “no” on Williams because he just didn’t compile quite enough numbers for my taste. He had had a consistent stretch of 8 Hall of Fame seasons, but the years before and after fall just short. Russ does point out his postseason resume (22, 80 RBI, .850 OPS), but Williams comes a across as a very good complementary player on a great team. Consider that Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, and even Scott Brosius had big seasons hitting in that Yankee lineup. Bernie’s game winning homers just don’t rank up there with other Yankee moments from the nineties

With that said, Williams has a more compelling case than I thought, and perhaps could benefit from the BBWAA “steroid grudge” that might keep the stars of his era out of Cooperstown. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got more support, and perhaps gained election later on during his eligibility ala Andre Dawson.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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5 Responses to Does Kirby Puckett Open up the HOF for Bernie Williams?

  1. Joe

    Bernie’s WAR places him at number 10 all time for CF’s. Add that with his rings/gold gloves/batting title. He looks good to me. He is the only player to win a gold glove, batting title, and world series ring in the same year. In my eyes, that makes him the best player on the best team that year.

  2. Ben Cartwright

    I have Bernie behind Puckett, Jones, Edmonds, and Beltran for his era, and ahead of Lofton and Hunter.
    He is borderline IMO.

  3. Joe

    Bernie is my all time favorite Yankee. Check out http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/1996.shtml
    and go through to about 2001. He is the offensive leader for the team during their late 90′s championship runs. He is often overlooked and under-rated because of bigger personalities on the team (O’Neil, Tino, Boggs,etc).

  4. Joe

    ^^^^
    I’m sure you will find his stats suprising. Don’t forget those Yankee teams are considered some of the best all time teams in baseball history.

  5. David Allan

    How about we just put anyone that ever put on a Yankee Uniform in the Hall of Fame and make it easy.16 seasons, .297/.381/.477, 287 homeruns, 2336 hits and four gold gloves, one silver slugger, five times an allstar and never in the top 5 in MVP voting in a given year. A really nice career, but all time great come on.
    Will Clark – 15 seasons, .303/.384/.479, 284 homeruns, 2176 hits and a gold glove, two silver sluggers six times an all star and 4 times top 5 in MVP voting. (didn’t make it two years on the ballot)

    This every yankee is a hall of famer has to stop. Guys like Williams and Mattingly were very good players in a big market, no more to no less, all time greats? No way.

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