Things Seen Coming From A Mile Away: Bernie Williams Wants Back In MLB

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You know what is not an underexplored angle? The plight of the washed up baseball/football/hockey/basketball/foosball/tetherball player that feels they've got "one more in them." I think the reason it keeps being written about is that it's such a relatable emotion, and as such is probably the single quickest way to humanize an athlete.

My reaction to these is almost always a silent "don't do it" followed by a twinge of pity. Especially when a player has a legitimately respectable legacy, like that of our newest Comeback (Not) Kid, Bernie Williams. His return with the Puerto Rican WBC team a couple weeks back was immediately gratifying, as long as we felt it would be a spring time victory lap and nothing more. But of course, we knew that wouldn't be it. From Jack Curry's stellar piece in today's NYT:

"After doing this for 16 or 17 years, you get some of that baseball thing back in your system," he said. "It's like, 'Whoa, maybe I can do this for a couple more years.' I guess that's part of the fantasy that I try not to allow myself to live."

Williams insisted that he was practical about how remote his chances were of playing in the majors, but he did not dismiss the notion. He spoke about it longingly, even suggesting a situation in which he played superbly in the W.B.C., then received an offer to be a reserve outfielder.

Of course, that was Bernie the dreamer talking. That was the one holding two bats near the cage at Charlotte Sports Park, about to play his second game in 29 months and apparently ready to sign a contract immediately.

Bernie is realistic later in the article noting we're currently in a free agent climate that has been harsh to ballplayers that are still in the league, and still producing at that. But Curry's framing of the article paints him as really, truly believing he could do it. It's a sentiment of faith in oneself, and perhaps moreso just a general wistfulness for days gone by. A wistfulness shared by all, athlete or not. His response to Don Zimmer's remarks that he "looks like he's 30" (to be fair, Don Zimmer said that to John Wooden last week) sums that feeling up perfectly.

An excited Williams smiled and said: "Really? I wish, I wish."

You and the rest of us, Bernie. Here's to a place where none of us get older.


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13 Comments

Can he play 3rd base?

@UU

His range as been measured at 4 inches to glove hand, 2 to his throwing hand.

@Kris, sign him up!

@ Kris:

So, better than Jeter?

Comebacks are both sad and frustrating, like dropping your ice cream cone. There's a reason why you retired in the first place. And that reason is never, ever "I'm at the top of my game, but need more time for scrapbooking." You retired because you lost a step and didn't want to play anymore. Sitting at home and playing Lego Star Wars all day won't give you that "step" back. If that was the case, I would be Mickey frigging Mantle.

More good news for the Yanks. Joba got lit up by team Canada. 5ER without getting an out.

The Dodgers should pick him up. Then they'll have The Oldest Outfield Ever!

@bc,

More depressing news about the Yankees. Now I'm definitely going to listen to some Morrissey to cheer me up.

If you have the ability to do what 100% of all kids want to do when they grow up, but only .01% can actually do, you should play until you are 80 years old if possible. Unless you are Brett Favre, then you should die.

Well said Farthammer. Especially the last part

@fartie
Ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to excel at something an then retire with dignity. I doubt I will ever do either, but Bernie Williams could still get the job done.

The only people who should retire in the midst their athletic prime are NFL running backs, because that has to be the most physically damaging job in sports. They're always just one play away from blowing out their knees, being unceremoniously fired like a Burmese sweatshop seamstress (R.I.P. Gene Upshaw), and spending the rest of their days walking down the stairs backwards like a terrified donkey.

@freetzy

Great point. Good thing Bernie didn't retire in 2002.

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