Skip to content

Mike Cameron well entrenched in the Hall of Very Good

Feb 19, 2012, 1:23 PM EST

Mike Cameron Getty Images

A Hall of Famer he obviously wasn’t, but Mike Cameron, who announced his retirement Sunday at age 39, might be the game’s most underrated player of the last 20 years.

Cameron nails just about all of the factors that makes a player underrated. He hit for low averages, he struck out a lot, he spent much of his career in pitcher’s parks, he changed teams frequently and he didn’t get the kind of defensive reputation early on that would have let him coast to Gold Glove awards like Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki did.

But when Cameron was at his best, he was one of the top players in his league. Unfortunately, his two best seasons happened to come in Safeco Field in 2001 and in Petco Park in 2006. In 2001, he was the AL’s seventh-best player, according to Baseball-reference’s WAR. In 2006, he was the NL’s 13th best.

Cameron was more about consistency, though. From 1999-2009, he had OPS-pluses between 104-123 every year. He was a pretty exceptional defender right up until the end of that stretch, and he played in 140 games in nine of the 11 seasons.

Unfortunately, because of the kind of hitter he was, Cameron was typically typecast as a No. 6 batter. He never hit even .270 in a full season. The only time he ever led a league in anything was when he fanned 176 times for the Mariners in 2002. He drove in 110 runs in 2001, but his next highest total was 83. In 2004, he managed to drive in just 76 runs despite hitting 30 homers for the Mets.

So, no, Cameron wasn’t a superstar. He wasn’t necessarily the guy a team wanted up with the winning run on second in the bottom of the ninth (though he wasn’t exactly unclutch; he hit slightly better with runners on and with RISP than with the bases empty over the course of his career). He struggled mightily in his four postseasons, hitting .174/.309/.272 with one homer in 92 at-bats.

But as a third banana, he was quite an asset. WAR rates him the 24th best player of the aughts (2000-09), and I wouldn’t quibble with that. He comes up short just looking at his statistical line — he finished his career with a .249 average, 278 homers and 297 steals — but there were just so many pluses outside of that. He earned three Gold Gloves and deserved at least a couple of more, he was a terrific baserunner and he rarely grounded into double plays. There’s no doubt he won more games for his teams with those skills than he lost with the strikeouts.

Latest Posts
  1. Wives of Jim Edmonds and Josh Hamilton to appear on The Real Housewives of Orange County

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:25 PM EST

    Los Angels Angels newly acquired outfielder Hamilton talks with reporters as his wife, Katie, looks on during a news conference in Anaheim Reuters

    Meghan King Edmonds and Katie Chadwick Hamilton, the wives of Jim and Josh respectively, will appear on the tenth season of The Real Housewives of Orange County.

  2. Red Sox plan to use Brandon Workman out of the bullpen

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:40 PM EST

    Brandon Workman Brandon Workman

    Brandon Workman will enter spring training as a reliever, attempting to grab a scarce spot at the back of the Red Sox bullpen.

  3. A.J. Preller still in touch with the Phillies about Cole Hamels

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:50 PM EST

    Cole Hamels Cole Hamels

    The Padres are still interested in Phillies ace Cole Hamels, though they may not be able to put together an enticing enough deal to attain him.

  4. Freddie Freeman: “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:00 PM EST

    Freddie Freeman Freddie Freeman

    The Braves may have pawned off many of their productive players, but Freddie Freeman still thinks they’ll compete in 2015.

  5. Someone apparently got Jayson Werth’s autograph in jail

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:10 PM EST

    Washington Nationals v New York Mets Getty Images

    Jayson Werth signed an inmate handbook for someone during his stay in jail in Fairfax, Virginia.

  6. Remembering Mr. Cub

    Jan 31, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Ernie Banks Ernie Banks

    Ernie Banks, who played 19 seasons in the major leagues, made an enormous impact on the game of baseball. That has been evident in the wonderful stories that have been shared over the last week.

  7. Rays sign Ronald Belisario to a minor league deal

    Jan 31, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    Ronald Belisario AP

    The Rays added some depth, signing reliever Ronald Belisario on Saturday. It appears they’ll be adding infielder Alexi Casilla as well.

  8. Cubs sign Mike Baxter

    Jan 31, 2015, 5:30 PM EST

    Mike Baxter AP AP

    Baxter appeared in four games with the Dodgers last season and owns a .225/.331/.342 batting line in the majors. He’ll always be aces with Mets fans, though.

  9. Angels and Garrett Richards avoid arbitration with one-year deal

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:39 PM EST

    Garrett Richards AP

    Richards emerged as one of the best pitchers in the American League last season before tearing his left patellar tendon in August.

  10. Orioles sign Mark Hendrickson, invite him to major league camp

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:11 PM EST

    mark-hendrickson-orioles

    Hendrickson turned 40 last June and hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, but he still hopes to continue his playing career.

  11. Padres have discussed trade for Brewers’ Luis Sardinas

    Jan 31, 2015, 3:15 PM EST

    Luis Sardinas Getty Getty Images

    Padres general manager A.J. Preller has been very active on the trade front this offseason, but he might not be done yet.

  12. Chris Davis opens up about his Adderall suspension: “It was a moment of weakness”

    Jan 31, 2015, 2:05 PM EST

    Chris Davis AP AP

    Orioles slugger Chris Davis was on hand for the team’s annual FanFest today and opened up about the 25-game Adderall suspension which put an end to his disappointing 2014 campaign and left him on the sidelines during the playoffs.

  13. Brewers say “not much has happened lately” in trade talks for Jonathan Papelbon

    Jan 31, 2015, 12:40 PM EST

    Jonathan Papelbon AP

    The Brewers remain in the market for a closer, but trade talks for Papelbon don’t have much momentum at the moment.

  14. Former closer David Aardsma to throw a showcase for teams on Monday

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:25 AM EST

    David Aardsma AP AP

    Aardsma pitched exclusively in the Cardinals minor league system last year, but he’s hoping to get back on the radar in 2015.

  15. Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is another step closer to signing with an MLB team

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:10 AM EST

    cuba hat

    While MLB still needs to give their approval, it appears that Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is one step closer to finally signing with a team.

  16. MLB.com names Byron Buxton as baseball’s top prospect for second straight year

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:56 AM EST

    Byron Buxton Getty Getty Images

    Buxton repeats as MLB.com’s top prospect despite an injury-plagued 2014.

  17. Neal Cotts almost retired before signing with the Rangers in 2012

    Jan 30, 2015, 10:50 PM EST

    Neal Cotts Neal Cotts

    Neal Cotts battled numerous injuries and nearly called it quits before the Rangers signed him to a minor league deal in 2012.

  18. Joe Kelly said he’s going to win the 2015 AL Cy Young Award

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:40 PM EST

    Joe Kelly Joe Kelly

    Joe Kelly has some bold words for non-believers.

  19. Yasiel Puig: “[Juan] Uribe’s a fatty”

    Jan 30, 2015, 8:30 PM EST

    Yasiel Puig Yasiel Puig

    Yasiel Puig meant it in a good way!

  20. Rockies sign Omar Quintanilla and Rafael Betancourt

    Jan 30, 2015, 7:20 PM EST

    Rafael Betancourt Getty Images

    The Rockies addressed their depth on Friday, signing reliever Rafael Betancourt and utility infielder Omar Quintanilla to minor league deals.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Mesoraco (2779)
  2. G. Richards (2662)
  3. A. Ogando (2535)
  4. J. Werth (2481)
  5. N. Cotts (2418)