By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
The last couple weeks of the Major League Baseball season will have many MLB fans stressed and at the edge of their seats as the playoff picture heats up and several division and wild card races come to competitive conclusions.
With numerous teams fighting for playoff position, the New York Yankees are in a good position after being among the first teams to punch their playoff ticket by earning their 100th win of the season and clinching the American League East earlier this month. Yanks legend Bernie Williams praised his former team for their efforts in keeping the team at the top of baseball, despite all of the injuries, and even has them as one of his picks to win the World Series.
“I think they are doing a good job making a combination of veteran players and young players coming up,” Williams told WARR Media at a charity walk last week in Chicago.
“In the first two months of the season everyone got hurt in their lineup and they started bringing in people from the minor leagues and they have kept that team afloat. They have one of the best records in baseball right now because they allowed the young players to come in and prove what they can do and they are now in a great position.”
Although the Yankees will always hold dear and close to his heart, a team that currently has his interest is the Houston Astros. He recently claimed the Astros as his favorite team to watch (besides his Yanks) because they are playing for something more than just a championship.
“[The Astros] have a great group of kids and they care about their city,” Williams said.
“When you play for a team you have a window of opportunity. If the team is good, you may have a window of opportunity for 5-6 years that you can build something. Obviously they’ve won a World Series and they are trying to capitalize on that sort of attitude.”
Williams played 16 professional seasons for the Yankees and won numerous accolades and helped power World Series title wins in the Bronx before retiring in 2006. Williams finished his 16-year career with 7,869 at-bats, 1,257 RBIs, 287 home runs, 147 stolen bases, .297 batting average and a .381 on base percentage.
During his playing days, he was always a team guy and always allowed games to police themselves, which contributed to how he took his approach to the game in every circumstance. However, he sees a huge difference in today’s game when it comes to players adjusting their approaches to reach their predestined goals and believes those analytics take away the full concept of team baseball.
“Adding mathematics to the baseball equation has changed the approach players have in the game,” Williams said.
“My career overlapped this old school mentality of working hard and not really worrying about the specifics behind the game. The game will police itself. Adding all the additional details made players more conscious of the kind of numbers they should put up individually. I think it has changed the way the team concept works.”
Williams also believes that it is much easier to brand yourself with social media compared to his era where the team had to promote you. This selective style of branding transferred the game, affecting the way players play the game and re-solidifying the concept of individualism and entertainment over team mentality.
“[MLB Players] are taking a page from basketball and football, being in this individual accolade,” Williams said. “Pointing and all that taunting were never allowed in my day.”
As a baseball fan with an older mentality, Williams is a person that likes players that let their games do the talking and do the little things that may not appear in the box chart, a reason why he called Los Angeles Angels centerfielder Mike Trout one of his favorite players to watch.
“I value players that like to put the ball in play,” Williams said.
“They have this great combination of power and speed like Mike Trout. They play both defense and offense and have great pride on the fundamentals of the game, playing the game the right way and not necessarily the highlights like hitting a homerun or making the spectacular catch. Someone that goes day-by-day and just does his job and things that may not be reflected in numbers are always good in my view.”
Williams has never been a fan of the new age celebration/any individual mental concepts, but one thing he has always been consistent about was his family and giving back to the community, especially in Chicago. Williams has family in East Chicago and Indiana, and often times he would invite some of his family Guaranteed Rate Field (still Comiskey Park back when he played) to see him play the White Sox and would ultimately make a full day of events out of it.
Nowadays he finds himself more on the North Side at Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, due to his relationship with Theo Epstein and his willingness to participate in various charitable events in the city.
“I participate a lot in hot stove/cool music events and things of that nature, so it’s been a great experience to be part of the charity efforts within the city, working in conjunction with the organizations and try to bring what I can bring, whether it’s baseball, ex-baseball, alumni, or even music to make a difference,” Williams said.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media