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Man who won’t make Hall of Fame says what hat he wants to wear on his plaque

Apr 15, 2011, 9:24 AM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day Getty Images

I like Johnny Damon as a player. He’s had a nice career. He’s the archetypal Hall of Very Good guy.  The HoVG’s Mt. Rushmore* could easily have him, Mark Grace, Jack Morris and, I dunno, Vada Pinson on it.  But a Hall of Famer?  Eh:

It stinks that [3,000 hits] might be my only chance [at the Hall of Fame], because I’m climbing the runs list, too. I think all of those years I did it quietly without really thinking about my numbers. Is it realistic? Yes. Is it the most important thing to me? No. The numbers would be great to attain, but I really don’t know how many more years I’ll play. If this is a rough year for me, I’m going home. If not, I’ll keep getting after it.”

… So which hat? “I think it goes by the longest tenure, so it would be Kansas City,” he said. “Wade Boggs messed that up for everybody.”

Well, he’s right about Boggs messing up the Hall-of-Famers-choose-their-own-hat thing with that side deal he allegedly made with the Devil Rays.  But really, with Damon I think the conversation is academic.

But if he gets to pick which hat he can wear on the plaque he’s not getting, so can I.  When I’m inducted, I want to wear my tan corduroy Kangol bucket hat. It may not be baseball-related, but it has accompanied me and kept my bald head sunburn-free since I picked it up on an epic road trip I took eight years ago. I’d die without that hat. Has to be on my plaque.

*This could be the subject of its own post, but for the time being, I don’t think that guys who have very, very close but ultimate just lacking Hall of Fame arguments (e.g. Fred McGriff) should be on the HoVG’s Mt. Rushmore. They’re true tweeners who don’t necessarily represent what the HoVg is all about. My HoVG  Mt. Rushmore should have people that had excellent careers but who lack a truly serious argument for Cooperstown. And no, just because a lot of misguided people think that Morris has one doesn’t change the appropriateness of his inclusion. This is my friggin’ Mt. Rushmore, OK?

  1. BC - Apr 15, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    3000 hits (assuming he gets it), decent HR total, good amount of SB’s… tough one, but I’d say no.
    PS. Tim Raines needs to be on the HoVG Mount Rushmore.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 15, 2011 at 9:31 AM

      I think Raines is Cooperstown material. It would be beneath him — and unfair to other HoVG members — to put him on that mountain.

      • BC - Apr 15, 2011 at 9:38 AM

        I think so as well, but it really doesn’t look like he’s getting in. Same for Kenny Lofton.

      • largebill - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:04 AM

        Raines is probably exhibit A in the case that the casual fan doesn’t understand the value of reaching base. For some only hits seem to count. Raines had a lot of hits, but he also knew there was no reason to help the pitcher out by swinging at bad pitches. Tony Gwynn went in the HoF on his first ballot. Raines reached base (hits + BB) 3,935 times Gwynn 3,931 times.

        Oddly enough, according to similarity scores, Johnny Damon is Raines’ best comp. If Damon manages a couple more decent seasons you may need to reevaluate his chances. He won’t overwhelm people with his Black Ink, but it may add up to a career that is borderline HoF worthy.

      • BC - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:12 AM

        Raines also stole like 400 more bases than Gwynn. Not sure if WAR or VORP or BURP or some other stat captures that value. Gwynn was a very good defender and good base-stealer in the first half of his career, but in the second half of his career, he had the approximate mobility of a fire hydrant, or perhaps more accurately, me.

      • crpls - Apr 15, 2011 at 1:26 PM

        IIRC, SB carry a lot of weight (relatively speaking) in VORP. Not sure about WAR.

      • clydeserra - Apr 15, 2011 at 4:30 PM

        RE:steals, yes many WAR calculations use it, with Caught stealing and baserunning sometimes. Which raines was quite good at not getting caught.

  2. mikedi33 - Apr 15, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    Fred McGriff is my reason for not allowing steroid users into the Hall. His numbers were tremendously consistent year after year. He never had a steroid bounce like many of the players of that era. Now he is penalized because his numbers pale compared to other questionable stats.

    • BC - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      McGriff was an RBI machine. Also hit some of the longest HRs I’ve ever seen.

  3. genericcommenter - Apr 15, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    I don’t even think he’s Hall of Very Good material. He is just slightly above average for his career as a batter and has provided just about 0 defensive value. Honestly I can’t pick out a single season of his career that was even HOF caliber for 1 season. I guess 2000 was Very Good. 1999,2002, 2004,2008,2009 were pretty good. He had around 4 more seasons he provided some value. So around 6 good and 4 decent seasons.

    maybe put him in the Garret Anderson wing of the Harold Baines Stat Accumulators Hall of Fame. No, that’s not fair. He’s better than Anderson. Give him his own wing.

    Raines is much more deserving.

    • tjwilliams - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:23 AM

      Seriously. Career OPS: 104+. Career Fielding Runs Above Average: 0.

      Seems like Damon was an average to above-average player who has had the good fortune to stay healthy for 17 years (141+ games in 15 straight seasons). He’s currently 51st in runs scored, behind Tim Raines, who didn’t have the advantage of batting leadoff for one of the best offenses in baseball for eight straight years.

      Without Damon spending half his career in Boston and New York, there’s no way he’s even a candidate for the HoF.

  4. Brian - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    Can we have a Hall of Players Who Really Weren’t That Good But We Loved Them Anyway? Would Frenchie make the cut? I imagine it would be filled with awesome scrappy guys.

    Personally, my number one inductee would be Von Hayes.

    • Jonny 5 - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:50 AM

      I’m going to see Hayes May 6th. He’s manager of the River sharks who reside at Cambell’s field, the most beautiful non major league park I know of. If you’re local you should show up and show him some love. Friday nights have fire works with the beautiful Ben Franklin bridge for a backdrop. The kids love it.

      • Brian - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:56 AM

        i’d love to but i’m chaperoning the prom. true story.

        i still haven’t been to that stadium yet but hopefully I’ll make it one day. It looks beautiful from the outside.

      • Jonny 5 - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:02 AM

        It’s even better from the seats. Must see.

    • larryhockett - Apr 15, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      Never thought of Hayes as “scrappy.” Plenty of unrealized potential there, though.

  5. psousa1 - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    If we never had a steroid era Fred McGriff would be a first ballot hall of famer. Tweener my ass. All the media gets high and mighty and parochial about not electing Bonds, Palmeiro, McGwire or Sosa but anyone who is deserving like a McGriff? Their numbers are compared to the steroid users.

  6. Old Gator - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    I like the idea of mountain topiary busts for the HoVG players. There must still be a few Borglum great great grandchildren out there with some old chisels and a couple of sticks of dynamite in the basement. Hell, for a while there we had that guy – what was his name, Kolchak de Tritus or something – trying to dynamite a sculpture of Crazy Horse out of Thunderhead Mountain – since 1948, I think – until I guess he figured out that he couldn’t sell enough jackalopes at the gift shop to finance the project. That’s too bad, really, because rabbits are one of the few things he was never going to run out of, you know? I’m sure that he could sell more beer, but who needs fan riots in the Black Hills? Cleveland was bad enough. I was beginning to worry that if Crazy Horse took off, there’d be an entire generation

    Anyway, yeah, I like the “Rushmore” concept. When congress emerges from bankruptcy by auctioning public land to honor its commitments to the National Endowment for the Arts, a generation of newly empowered rock topiarists, releasing the pent-up frustrations of a decade without funding, will swarm across the cordillera with drills and explosives. One by one, huge visages will blossom from the mountainsides: Roger, Barry, Mark, Manny, whatsisname with the pimples on his back, Counsell (come on, no sculptor in his right mind would pass on an opportunity to chisel that nose out of a mountain, would she?) – a lithic litany of the American pastime. The residents of Sawdust Wells will sit out on their back porches, beer in hand, and watch a carborundum poetic license work its will with the continental skyline. At dusk, the sculptors in their motorized harnesses will descend slowly from deep within the nostrils of their busts, hanging there by their cables, cradling their air drills, hoping a lot of jackalopes got sold today. Some liberals will be outraged, of course, but most will be secretly relieved that the nitroglycerine blasts, despite keeping them awake and compromising the structural integrity of their houses, will virtually empty the region of Buddhist meditation retreats and driven their inhabitants way up into the thin air above the treeline.

    I’m all for it. Let’s start with Johnny Damon. I suggest we pose him as if about to peg one to the plate from the warning track. Here’s a great template for it:

    • cur68 - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      Remember that cold & flu medication commercial? Well there’s no cold like the Russian cold; even the statues seem to be suffering. Brrr….

      • Old Gator - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:52 AM

        The ruddy Russian days roll by
        Like heavy barrels….

        Osip Mandelstam

  7. Jonny 5 - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    I’m taking my A&W root beer truckers hat with me to my not HOF photo shoot. It is my best cap and is in semi retirement so I can squeeze more years out of it. A&W isn’t even my favorite root beer. Stewart’s from the Keg at the drive in wins hands down every single time. MMM root beer……

    • BC - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      I’d wear my Jack Daniels hat. Had a Colt 45 hat in college but it died years ago.

  8. Professor Longnose - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    You don’t get the hat thing, Craig. You have to wear either a Hardball Times hat or a Hardball Talk hat. Or, I guess, a Circling the Bases hat. One of those. (And “Hardball T.” is cheating.)

    • clydeserra - Apr 15, 2011 at 4:31 PM

      What was the 2008 version?

    • larrytsg - Apr 15, 2011 at 7:20 PM

      Craig can keep his Kangol bucket hat….. for me it’s my Dorfman Pacific weathered cotton Boonie hat…. keeps my bald head sunburn free for years now….

      Oh… Johnny Damon…. he should go “caveman-idiot” style on his non-existent plaque

  9. genericcommenter - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    Fred McGriff- I liked him, but 238th in career WAR and 119 in OPS+. 99% of the guys ahead of him weren’t on steroids and many of them aren’t in the Hall and don’t deserve to be.

    RBI are nice but overrated. Don’t get me wrong. I grew up in the 80s and Don Mattingly was my favorite player- I thought his 145 RBI season was awesome for that reason. In retrospect Rickey Henderson was the real MVP. I wasn’t able to appreciate that at the time.

    Joe Carter was a HR and RBI machine, too. 30/100 almost every year. No one considers him a HOFer. McGriff was much better, but HOF?

    • cur68 - Apr 15, 2011 at 11:38 AM

      I consider Joe an HOFer. Like Freddy, Joe’s a good dude, so if that morals clause can keep you out then it can get you in. Fred & Joe for the HOF!

    • BC - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:28 PM

      Look at Joe Carter’s batting average and OPS, then at McGriff’s. Not even close.

      • cur68 - Apr 15, 2011 at 1:09 PM

        Don’t even give one jot or one tittle. I’d vote for Carlos Delgado, too. What, being a nice guy with decent to good stats has to give you bump, don’t it?

  10. fivetoolmike - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    So glad you included Mark Grace. He was my favorite player as a kid. Too bad he’s such a terrible, TERRIBLE announcer.

  11. mgflolox - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    My vote for HoVG Mt. Rushmore has to be Captain Sal Bando of the Swingin’ A’s Mustache Gang dynasty of the early ’70’s.

  12. schmedley69 - Apr 15, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    Don’t count him out. Isn’t Scott Boras his agent? That guy has a way of convincing people to do crazy things. Maybe he can work his magic on the baseball writers?

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