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HBT Poll: Is Johnny Damon a Hall of Famer?

Jul 7, 2010, 9:25 AM EDT

If ESPN can turn LeBron James' free agency choice into an hour-long TV show, I can turn Johnny Damon's Hall of Fame case into a quickie Internet poll.

Johnny Damon got his 2,500th hit last night.  I don’t know if I’d bet the farm on it, but there’s at least a chance he hits 3,000 before he’s done.  If he does that — or if he even gets close — someone’s going to make the Hall of Fame case for him.  Heck, some people who overvalue World Series rings may be making the case already.

My view: Damon has probably been an underrated player for most of his career, but if things break right for him, he may wind up being the test case for a guy with 3,000 hits not making the Hall.  But that’s just, like, my opinion man.  I want to know what you think.

And yes, I know this isn’t scientific, but I bet I’m drawing from a smarter sample than that which comprises the actual Hall of Fame electorate:


  1. The Common Man - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    Where’s the “He’ll get in, but probably won’t deserve it” option?

  2. Anon - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    If he hadn’t have left the Yankees, the Veteran’s Committee would eventually put him in. See, eg, Phil Rizzutto.

  3. HardwareGeek - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    Yes he is but not on his first year. He is another Gary Carter IMO

  4. Detroit Michael - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    I would have gone for an “I don’t know — it’s too close to call” option, but I chose the “no” from the ones presented. Sometimes it really does help to have some perspective, waiting until a guy’s career actually ends.

  5. Simon DelMonte - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Not quite there. If you could enshrine plays, then The Double Steal gets in. But not him.

  6. Steve C - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    41.4 WAR
    For comparison Jim Rice who is a pretty terrible hall of famer is at 56. He would have to pull some serious Barr Bond’s type performance during his final two years to be a HOFer.

  7. Bill@TDS - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    Gary Carter >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Johnny Damon.
    I like Damon, but aside from a couple early years with the Royals, he’s never been anything more than a pretty good little player. With or without 3000 hits, I don’t see how he gets in but Jimmy Wynn, Reggie Smith, Kenny Lofton, Cesar Cedeno, Larry Walker, Jim Edmonds, Bobby Bonds, Jack Clark, Fred Lynn, and Dale Murphy do not. Even if, say, Walker and Edmonds get in eventually, Damon’s pretty far back in the line behind those guys.
    Of course, all that applies to Jim Rice and Andre Dawson too (except the “little” part). But three wrongs don’t make a right…

  8. Paper Lions - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    Realizing that OPS+ has its flaws…..a career 105 OPS+ for an average defensive OF turned DH doesn’t resemble a HOF career.

  9. nps6724 - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    For WAR year-to-year, 5+ signifies an All-Star caliber player and 8+ signifies an MVP-caliber player. Damon topped 5 once (6.6 in ’00). He had 5 years with a 4+ WAR, so he has been a fairly good player throughout his career but never elite or even close to it. His name value was increased by playing for Boston and New York and winning titles with each, but in neither was he one of the top 5 guys responsible for the ring.

    If you look at his career numbers on in the Leaderboards, Honors, and Awards section, he’s not top 50 all-time in ANY meaningful offensive of defensive category. He’s barely top 100 in anything (AB, PA, RS, TB, 2B, SB, and RC).

    If you look at the Black Ink, Gray Ink, HOF Monitor, and HOF Standards tests, he doesn’t pass muster on ANY of them. And he’s not even in the ballpark of any but the HOF Standards one. He’ll be 37 in November and he barely plays the field anymore so I really don’t see him increasing his numbers much further or playing much longer. Right now, he’s a DH with a .761 OPS and 26 XBH.

  10. Jonny5 - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    Without the 3000 hits he has no reason to be in the HOF. With that mentality Jamie Moyer is a HOF’er too.
    Seriously, You want Damon in for 3000 hits, Does Jamie Moyer get in for 300 wins?

  11. Joe Tetreault - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    As one of the folks who voted that Damon is in, without hitting 3,000, and having already defended my reasoning to Bill@TDS, I’ll make the case as best as I can.
    Damon’s assets as a player came from longevity and his speed. Arm aside, he was a solid defender at a position with a defensive premium. As a centerfielder, the bar is lowered on hitting acumen. But Damon scored runs. Yes, I will readily acknowledge, runs are a context driven counting stat. Still he sits at #56 all time in runs scored. A product of setting the table for the likes of Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez and now Miguel Cabrera.
    As a leadoff hitter, he was something of a hybrid. His career OBP is inferior to the gold standard of leadoff hitters (Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs). By far. His slugging percentage is very close to Boggs. And while not nearly as prolific as Henderson, that’s more related to the context of his era.
    His 79.7% career success rate at stolen bases illustrate his speed bona fides as well as good sense on the basepaths. In an era that reduced the emphasis on stealing bases, because the big boppers were due up, Damon provided ample value when he did steal. I consider it likely he retires with a 80% success rate and more than 400 steals.
    What makes Damon remarkable is the fusion of speed and solid power that has made him a run scoring machine. While it’s a thin case, I do think he makes it. Thinner have gotten in, and while Bill is three wrongs don’t make a right, comparing Damon to Rice and Dawson is flawed. He wasn’t a middle of the order bopper, he was a table setter and he did it very well for the era in which he played.
    If Damon plays through his Age 39 season (2013) I suspect he’ll finish with 3,000 hits, 250 home runs and 400 steals, and when combined with his two rings, that will get him in before his tenth time on the ballot.
    The one asset that is completely unquantifiable but that will forever play well, Damon made the writers lives easier by being quotable, colorful and a personality that attracted readers and eyeballs. Such players are looked on favorably.

  12. Bill@TDS - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    Appropos of nothing, but if Jamie Moyer pitches long enough to get 300 wins, I think he belongs in, not because of the “win” total but on a sort of Rube Waddell freak show exception, since he will have pitched until he was at least 50 and in parts of at least 27 seasons. Even without that, though, he has a (slightly) better case than Damon…

  13. tjwilliams - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    Yeah, I just don’t see it. Others have pointed to his WAR or B-R’s HOF stats as reasons to keep him out. But his OPS+ is 105. That’s barely better than league average. If you look at his similar players through age 35, there is one HOFer and one potential HOFer at 8th and 4th respectively. Tim Raines has a career OPS+ of 123 and was over 120 9 times in his career. Paul Molitor similarly has a career OPS+ of 122 and was over 120 11 times. Damon’s career OPS+ is 105 and he only once topped 120, last year. Damon has been a good to very good hitter for a long career but he’s never once been considered to be near the top of the league. Hell, he was coming off of a career year last season and nobody wanted to sign him.
    Had Damon played his entire career in Kansas City and Oakland this would be a much briefer conversation. Damon’s profile is only as high as it is because he helped Boston win the World Series in 2004 and because he ruffled some feathers when he left the Red Sox for the Yankees.

  14. Joe Tetreault - Jul 7, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    Moyer is an interesting case. I’d wager that despite middling numbers he will get plenty of consideration and if he hits 300 wins, I think he gets in. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with him making it.
    His nearest comparables among HoF pitchers are probably Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry. None sport particularly good K-rates. Perry and Niekro benefited greatly from their eras, where Moyer may have pitched more and put up better results had he debuted in the mid-sixties and not the mid-eighties. All pitched well into their forties.
    I don’t think it makes Moyer Hall-worthy, but 300 wins would sway most of the electorate.

  15. Joe Tetreault - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    Following up on Damon, if you look at the Hall of Fame Monitor and the Hall of Fame Standards measures on B-R, Damon is actually far closer. He had 78 on the HoF Monitor prior to getting 2,500 last night (2,500 hits is worth 15 points) which would put him at 93 points. 100 points is the threshold for likely Hall of Famer. With the HoF Standards Damon is at 41 points with an average enshrinee sitting at 50.

    As smart as you all are, I’ll roll with Bill James. Just sayin’ :)

  16. Bill@TDS - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    OK, pretend that table-setters can’t be compared to boppers (I think they can, but it doesn’t matter much). Do you also think Kenny Lofton should be in? Because it seems to me that everything you said above about Damon is at least as true of Lofton, except that he was even better at almost all of it (esp. getting on base, which is the most important part). Damon has more of a personality, but while I believe that should carry some weight, it can’t overcome the fact that Lofton was just a considerably better player than Damon has ever been. I still wouldn’t want to put Damon in, but I don’t think you can even talk about it seriously until Lofton is in (which, of course, won’t happen).

  17. Joe Tetreault - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    Based on Lofton’s rate stats, he gets in. His triple slash line is exactly what I would want out of a premium defensive player. His career 79.5% SB success rate with 622 career thefts, made him more valuable on the basepaths than Damon has been. Lofton got a later start and dealt with the 1994-95 work stoppage which hurt his counting stats. As did the reduction of his playing time after he turned 32. I think based on talent and his body of work through 1997, Lofton was well on his way. I feel it’s morally unjust that he be penalized for the poor decisions of his managers who inadequately utilized his talent, but those poor choices definitely hinder him. I agree with you that he won’t make it.

    I will look forward to reading how wrongheaded my perception that table setters and big boppers are different is.

  18. Detroit Michael - Jul 7, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    Joe Tetrault,
    You aren’t rolling with Bill James though. The metrics you cite are, based on a two-decade old calibration, metrics used to predict who will be in the Hall of Fame based on historical standards. James never used those metrics to evaluate who should be in the Hall of Fame.
    Bill James now uses career Win Shares and career Win Shares in excess of Loss Shares. His methodology isn’t published anywhere yet because he’s revising the Win Shares system compared to the version that he published a decade or so ago.

  19. Joe Tetreault - Jul 7, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    Fair cop, Detroit Michael.

  20. Jonny5 - Jul 7, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    I tend to agree. If he is resigned with the Phillies he may just be able to swing it too. He’s actually on par for 20 wins this season. He’s got 9 now and seems to be getting better as the season wears down. He’s going to get 17 easy imo if he isn’t injured. That’ll be 2 more seasons beyond 2010 if the old fart can hang in there. Damon is going to need about the same. It looks to me like they’re kinda in the same boat though…. Not quite good enough to be a HOF’er but extending their career to a point where it has to be considered. Then again look at Jack Morris. He got 58% once in voting. His pitching was about the same as Moyer as far as ERA goes, Morris was lucky to have as many wins as he had over the years for his ERA. He never hit 300 and has yet to get in, but imo Moyer has been better and is now knocking on that door to 300 wins. He’s got a clean shot at it, he just wasn’t a “superstar”, it helps to have a winning team behind you.

  21. JBerardi - Jul 7, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    I think Damon belongs in the Hall of Very Good. Also, I think there should be a Hall of Very Good. What baseball fan wouldn’t want to visit that?

  22. Boo Hoo Florio picked on your team - GET OVER IT - Jul 7, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    I’d never vote for Moyer. Certainly didn’t for Jack Morris either. That win statistic is skewed by these guys’ stroke of luck being on winning teams with massive run support. The HOF should study those stats a little further and understand that a “magic” number like 300 should not define these special cases as “Hall of Fame” material. The peripheral stats in no way support it.

  23. bigtrav425 - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:33 PM

    Solid player but was never great besides his yrs with the Royals. def not a elite player at all….but then again if Jim Rice can get in then i guess Damon can!

  24. walk - Jul 7, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    I saw him get 2500 on sportscenter. My thought right at that moment was hey even if you dont get in doesnt mean you were not a good player. I was initially thinking not hof but 3000 hits is one of the magic numbers reach or exceed that, i think he will get in…………….eventually. Another factor is look at where he plays at when he gets his 3000th, if he does so. Boston and new york got a lot of pull i would think.

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