One of the nicest moments at Yankee Stadium's final game was the moment when Bernie Williams was introduced to the crowd and trotted out to center field. It was cathartic for Williams and for the fans who got thrills watching him help the team to four World Series titles. Because Williams' departure wasn't planned, there never was a final moment like Paul O'Neill's in the 2001 World Series that allowed him to bask in the adulation he deserved.
It seemed that night was a precursor for the eventual Bernie Williams Day, when he got a monument and, perhaps, his number retired in thanks for all his good works. Williams, however, isn't quite ready to give up the ghost. "I'm looking to keeping my options open, keep working out,'' Williams said at a party in Manhattan last night. He then added it would be only be a "matter of weeks" before he'd be ready to hit the playing field.
It says a lot about the current Yankee center field options that there's a moment's pause before rejecting the idea of Williams back with the Bombers. Just a moment, though. His final four seasons followed the classic trajectory of a player in decline. A severe drop from above average to average before he plummeted to subpar in his last two seasons. He could still hit right-handed pitching, but couldn't do much else and the writing was on the wall.
Playing past that point would have put a bit of tarnish on a brilliant career, although not much of one. Doing so now, however, would make Williams a sideshow and, quite likely, a joke. That's well beneath him, hopefully we never see it happen.