The underappreciated Bernie Williams

Bernie Williams helped the Yankees win four World Series titles during his 16 seasons. Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images

I was never a big "Bernie Williams for the Hall of Fame" guy, but then Joe Sheehan made an offhand comment about how the Hall of Fame voters have been tough on center fielders. So I checked, and sure enough, the Hall of Fame voters have been tough on center fielders.

Below you'll see all the Hall of Fame outfielders, broken down by position, and whether they were elected by the BBWAA or the Veterans Committee (or Old-Timers Committee). The BBWAA has elected 11 left fielders and 13 right fielders, but only seven center fielders. Doesn't that seem a little unfair, especially since center field is the more demanding defensive position? I think two things have happened:

1. Voters haven't properly accounted for the idea that center field -- like second base and shortstop -- is a defensive position as well as an offensive position. Center fielders don't have to put up the offensive numbers of corner outfielders to be just as valuable.

2. The standards of the great center fielders -- Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Tris Speaker -- are so high that voters hold center fielders to unrealistic comparisons.

Anyway, Joe made the point that Williams is a good Hall of Fame candidate, especially when factoring in his excellent postseason numbers (.275/.371/.480) that helped the Yankees win four World Series titles. After all, isn't winning the ultimate goal?

Sabermetrically, Williams' case falls a little short -- 45.9 career WAR on Baseball-Reference. (Despite winning four Gold Gloves, his defense is evaluated as being poor, perhaps because of his notorious weak throwing arm.) He was certainly a great player from 1995 to 2002, but didn't age particularly well so his counting stats (2,336 hits, 287 HR, 1257 RBI) don't impress the voters.

Some would argue Kenny Lofton has a better Hall of Fame case (or even Dale Murphy). The sad part is, both Williams and Lofton may fail to receive the 5 percent needed to remain on the ballot and have their cases discussed further. And center fielders will continue to get short-changed in the Hall of Fame voting.

Left fielders

1. Lou Brock (BBWAA)

2. Rickey Henderson (BBWAA)

3. Ralph Kiner (BBWAA)

4. Joe Medwick (BBWAA)

5. Stan Musial (BBWAA)

6. Jim Rice (BBWAA)

7. Al Simmons (BBWAA)

8. Willie Stargell (BBWAA)

9. Billy Williams (BBWAA)

10. Ted Williams (BBWAA)

11. Carl Yastrzemski (BBWAA)

12. Jesse Burkett (VC)

13. Fred Clarke (VC)

14. Ed Delahanty (VC)

15. Goose Goslin (VC)

16. Chick Hafey (VC)

17. Joe Kelley (VC)

18. Heinie Manush (VC)

19. Jim O'Rourke (VC)

20. Zack Wheat (VC)

(Musial played more games at first base than any single position, but more games in the outfield than first base, with the majority of those as a left fielder. He's usually considered a left fielder for these kinds of things.)

Right fielders

1. Hank Aaron (BBWAA)

2. Roberto Clemente (BBWAA)

3. Andre Dawson (BBWAA)

4. Tony Gwynn (BBWAA)

5. Harry Heilmann (BBWAA)

6. Reggie Jackson (BBWAA)

7. Al Kaline (BBWAA)

8. Willie Keeler (BBWAA)

9. Mel Ott (BBWAA)

10. Frank Robinson (BBWAA)

11. Babe Ruth (BBWAA)

12. Paul Waner (BBWAA)

13. Dave Winfield (BBWAA)

13. Sam Crawford (VC)

14. Kiki Cuyler (VC)

15. Elmer Flick (VC)

16. Harry Hooper (VC)

17. Chuck Klein (VC)

18. Tommy McCarthy (VC)

19. Sam Rice (VC)

20. Enos Slaughter (VC)

21. Sam Thompson (VC)

22. Ross Youngs (VC)

(Dawson played more games in right field, so I listed him here; his best years came as a center fielder, though he won his MVP Award as a right fielder. Cuyler also played a lot in center field, but had more career games in right.)

Center fielders

1. Ty Cobb (BBWAA)

2. Joe DiMaggio (BBWAA)

3. Mickey Mantle (BBWAA)

4. Willie Mays (BBWAA)

5. Kirby Puckett (BBWAA)

6. Duke Snider (BBWAA)

7. Tris Speaker (BBWAA)

8. Richie Ashburn (VC)

9. Earl Averill (VC)

10. Max Carey (VC)

11. Earle Combs (VC)

12. Larry Doby (VC)

13. Hugh Duffy (VC)

14. Billy Hamilton (VC)

15. Edd Roush (VC)

16. Lloyd Waner (VC)