Bernie Williams technically still hasn’t retired from baseball, although he spends much more time strumming a guitar than picking up a bat these days. It’s clear Williams isn’t going to be stepping up to the plate in the Bronx anytime soon.
Perhaps this will be the year he finally makes it official, opening the door for the Yankees to celebrate his career by retiring No. 51 in Monument Park. No Yankee has worn Williams’ digits since his last at-bat in 2006, and the 42-year-old will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year.
But as Williams watches his remaining Yankees teammates as an interested observer, he acknowledged Saturday that it can be difficult for an aging veteran to accept it when the organization scales back your workload – as they are doing this year by moving Jorge Posada to the designated hitter role.
“You still have this attitude that, ‘I can still do it, I can still do it. I know I can still do it,’” Williams said. “But now they’re sort of putting the brakes on you. It’s like, ‘You know what? Maybe not,’ and it is certainly hard. It’s certainly difficult. I think that the way that I dealt with it was the way that I dealt with everything in my career, which was to shut up and play.”
Williams said that it was tougher being a part-time player at the end of his career because he did not know when the next opportunities were going to come if he did not succeed.
“At the same time, you’re a professional player,” Williams said. “And it is your responsibility to be at the best of your game whenever the team needs you. That’s what you sign your contract for, so that’s the way you’ve got to approach it. And at the end of the day, if the team wins, it’s great. You’re part of a winning team. You have a part of a situation in which you can contribute to that success, that’s all that matters.”
As arguably the strongest first-time candidate on the 2012 ballot for Cooperstown, Williams said that he can’t put much thought into his Hall of Fame candidacy. The voting is out of his hands, but he said it will be “great” to be considered. More immediately, Williams may drop by the Yankees’ Spring Training camp in early March for a few days and said that he could see himself becoming more involved with baseball somewhere down the line.
“I think when I get older,” Williams said. “Right now I’m having too much fun sort of reinventing myself in doing this [music]. 20 to 30 years from now, if I’m lucky enough, they probably will recognize me as this guitar player that used to play for the Yankees, as opposed to this Yankee that plays guitar. You never know.”