Williams was the center fielder in the second halves of 1991 and 1992, then took over the position through last season, when he surpassed Mantle to become the Yankee with the most games played in center – 1,828 to 1,745.
Still, as important as longevity and popularity may be, they don’t earn Williams a place in the line of royal succession.
Williams has been a solid player – he hit better than .300 for eight consecutive seasons – and he contributed significantly to the Yankees’ postseason successes. But he was not the Gold Glove outfielder he was voted to be from 1997 to 2000, and he was not a dominant hitter in the American League.
Williams was never a great fielder but he was the Yankees’ best offensive player during their 1996-01 championship run (you could look it up). Of course, he’s not as great as DiMaggio or Mantle, but he’s a boderline Hall of Fame candidate at worst. Other than Ken Griffey Jr and Jim Edmonds, who has been a better center fielder than Williams over the last 10-15 years (and yeah, Andruw Jones was a great fielder but he hasn’t even been close to Williams as an offensive player)?