Bernie rejects Yanks' camp invite
Agent tells AP veteran will not accept non-roster offer
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have spoken optimistically this week about hoping to see Bernie Williams walk into their Spring Training clubhouse. They can probably stop waiting.Williams has apparently rejected the Yankees' offer of a non-roster invitation to camp and is not expected to report to the team's Legends Field facility. His agent, Scott Boras, informed The Associated Press of Williams' intentions. "Other than the invite, there wasn't any information that led him to believe he would be a member of the team," Boras told The AP on Tuesday. "He's continuing to work out [and] will wait to see if their position changes." Though the Yankees had still not been officially informed of Williams' decision by late Tuesday afternoon, general manager Brian Cashman said that Williams' absence was already a foregone conclusion. "If he wanted to be here, he'd be here," Cashman said. "You'd have to be stupid not to interpret the answer. He's given us the answer." Yankees manager Joe Torre said that Williams, 38, was hurt by his nearly non-existent standing within the club's blueprints. A 16-year Major League veteran, Williams had spent his entire professional career in the Yankees organization, signing with the club as a free agent in 1985 and making his big-league debut in 1991. A .297 career hitter, Williams developed into a five-time American League All-Star and was a member of four World Series championship teams. He batted .281 with 12 home runs and 61 RBIs in 131 games for New York last season, playing more than expected when outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield went down to injuries. Cashman said this week that the emergence of young outfielder Melky Cabrera contributed to making Williams an expendable piece. The Yankees also intend to carry seven relief pitchers and are entertaining a platoon at first base, filling up roster space that could have gone to Williams as a fifth outfielder. Cashman said he understood Williams' decision but said there was little else he could have offered.
"I respect the fact that he's chosen not to take it," Cashman said. "Now we're focusing on the players who have completed their physicals and are working hard to help this team in '07."Torre said he spoke via telephone with Williams last week and urged him to accept the invitation, promising the outfielder that there was an opportunity to make the club. If there was not a chance, Torre said he told Williams he wouldn't be coaxing him into attendance. "I'm waiting for him to call me, and if he doesn't, then he certainly has the right to make decisions," Torre said on Tuesday. "I feel content that I pretty much told him everything I needed to tell him. We talked for an extensive period of time last week and I don't think I missed anything as far as giving him the ability to make this club." Torre cautioned Williams that, with the Yankees' exhibition opener approaching on March 1, time was essential. Williams has said that he will remain in baseball shape by working out near his Westchester, N.Y., home, but Torre said that is not an acceptable substitute for taking live batting practice and interacting with his Yankees teammates. "The longer it goes -- especially when we start playing games (on March 1) -- the less opportunity he's going to have to show his wares, basically," Torre said. Some Yankees players, like Derek Jeter, have said that they can not relate to what Williams is going through. Catcher Jorge Posada tried repeatedly but was unsuccessful in reaching Williams and said that given a similar consideration, he would have accepted the invitation and attempted to win a job. Torre said that Williams' personality may have played a role in his reluctance to accept the Yankees' invitation. Regarded as a cerebral, studious player, Williams delighted fans with his soft-spoken nature and his creative interests. Already an accomplished jazz guitarist, Williams has released a CD and periodically performs at live concerts. "I don't think there's anything about Bernie that could surprise me -- take that as a plus or a minus," Torre said. "That's just his personality and just him, basically. He's very different in that he's not your typical baseball player, and that's probably why he was a little more sensitive than other players would have been in this situation."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.