Bernie Williams last played in 2006 but officially announced his retirement on Wednesday. For reasons I don't quite understand, this apparently was needed to be done before May 24, when the New York Yankees will retire his No. 51 and honor him with a plaque in Monument Park. Was Williams contemplating a comeback?
I always liked Williams as a player, felt he was underappreciated a bit during that Yankees dynasty in the late '90s, even by team's fans. He was a terrific postseason a player, a graceful center fielder, and a borderline Hall of Fame candidate if you believe in a big Hall and electing the best players from great teams. So I don't really have an issue with the Yankees' retiring his number or giving him a plaque. Heck, Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez already have plaques and Williams was a better player than either of them (neither has his uniform number retired, however).
The Williams ceremony will come after last year's ceremonies for Martinez, O'Neill, Goose Gossage and Joe Torre. In June, Willie Randolph will have his plaque ceremony, and in August, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.
Celebrating your franchise history and beloved players is fine, and we all know the Yankees have a rich and storied history. Monument Park is a legacy to that history. And to be fair, Williams, Randolph, Posada and Pettitte were all outstanding players.
But doesn't all of this kind of shout, "IT'S OVER!"? There's a little stench of desperation here, with the marketing department coming up with ways to sell a few extra tickets, that it's easier to celebrate the past than promote the present. The Yankees missed the playoffs the past two years. Right now, they're being carried by a 39-year-old designated hitter coming off a year's suspension.
It was an incredible run from 1995 to 2012, with 17 playoff appearances in 18 seasons. All these ceremonies, however, only remind me that those days are gone, and the Yankees are just like any other franchise, scrambling just to finish over .500 and hope you get enough breaks and make the postseason. Those days of Williams. Posada and Pettitte are already starting to look more like a distant past.