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Johnny Damon makes his Hall of Fame case

May 13, 2012, 9:30 PM EDT

Johnny Damon AP

There aren’t many players who would willingly cite their own statistics in advocating their Hall of Fame case. But there aren’t many players like Johnny Damon.

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times asked Damon whether he feels he’s worthy of Cooperstown prior to Friday’s game:

“Yeah,” he responded. “I think even if you look at my numbers now, how high I am on the runs list, how high I am on the doubles list, and you also have to take into account the ballparks that I’ve played in. I’ve played in some pretty tough ones for left-handers. If I played in Yankee Stadium my whole career, my 230 home runs turn into 300, easy.”

Damon also said that “being a clean player” should further his case, though he wouldn’t necessarily shut all of the accused steroid users out of Cooperstown.

“It’s a tough question,” he said. “But I would say not ahead of a guy like me. Or, their numbers have to be far above.”

For the record, Damon entered Sunday’s game 56th all-time with 2,730 hits, 34th all-time with 1,647 runs scored and 43rd all-time with 517 doubles. He’s also 68th all-time in steals with 404 and 65th all-time in times on base.

The negatives are pretty obvious, too. Damon’s Hall of Fame case is largely a product of his durability and longevity. He’s made just two All-Star teams. He’s finished in the top 10 of his league in batting average just twice (10th in 2000, fourth in 2005). He’s never finished in the top of his league in on-base percentage, slugging, homers or RBI. His high MVP finish was 13th place in 2005.

Damon also probably won’t get much credit for his defense even though he spent the first half of his career as a pretty good center fielder.

Realistically, Damon has to get those 270 hits he needs for 3,000 in order to have a shot at the Hall of Fame. Even then, there’s going to be quite a bit of resistance to his case, simply because he was never viewed as one of his league’s best players at any point of his career.

  1. mybrunoblog - May 13, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    It is the Hall of Fame. A place for the greatest player. I love Damon but he belongs in the very good category not great.
    If he does however manage to get those 270 hits(I don’t think he will) he will make the HOF.

  2. mike8016 - May 13, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    Craig Biggio had a long consistent career and will make the hall. I wouldn’t consider Biggio a elite player

    • aceshigh11 - May 13, 2012 at 10:56 PM

      Getting to 3,000 hits means that you’re basically a lock for the Hall. That’s just the way it is.

    • rollinghighwayblues - May 13, 2012 at 11:06 PM

      Mike- you’re kidding, right?

      Of the 17 current 2B in the Hall,, Biggio ranks right up there with them.
      Nobody has played more games at 2B or had more at-bats, 3rd in hits, 3rd in HRs, 1st in runs scored, 9th in runs scored, 3rd least amount of errors made, and 3rd in fielding percentages.

      • rollinghighwayblues - May 14, 2012 at 12:17 AM

        *9th in RBI.
        Also, let’s not forget he was an All Star at two different positions, catcher and second base.

    • hojo20 - May 14, 2012 at 8:19 AM

      Agree, Biggio is not a HOF player…..he’s a compiler that managed to stay healthy and play a long time. Same with Jim Thome.

      • lampdwellr - May 14, 2012 at 10:31 AM

        I know what you mean by “compiler,” but that is a largely meaningless term if you actually think about it. Biggio is 86th in career WAR for all position players and had 4 seasons in the top 10 of all NL players. Just because lots of writers are going to *cite* 3,000 hits as the reason he gets in doesn’t mean that’s the reason he was great.

      • stex52 - May 14, 2012 at 10:54 AM

        How soon people forget. Actually, your argument is backward. The weaker years on the tail end of his career did more to hurt his HOF argument than help it. From 1991 to 1999 his WAR was over 4 every year (it was 9.3 in 1997!) and his OPS+ was consistently in the 130-140 range. He was on 7 AS teams (at two positions) and was indeed regarded as one of the elites in that time range. The 3060 hits were a residual of those great years.

        I actually think that if you took away 2006 and 2007 and left him below 3000 hits, no one would question him being a HOP’er for a second.

  3. biasedhomer - May 13, 2012 at 9:41 PM

    As pointed out in the article, he only made 2 All star teams and was never top 10 in MVP voting. He was a good player, but I don’t think he was top 5 at his position any year.

  4. Old Gator - May 13, 2012 at 9:41 PM

    Sounds like Damon was paying attention to Bert Blyleven’s shameless self-promotion. Hey, what the hell – it worked, right?

  5. baseballisboring - May 13, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    A lot of bulk, absolutely no peak case.

  6. florida76 - May 13, 2012 at 11:23 PM

    Interesting case for Cooperstown and you must add two world titles to the resume, including the .364 performance for the 2009 Yankees. Played for a number of teams, and difficult to think of special moments, wasn’t regarded as one of the best players the way HOF players have been. If he gets to 3000 though, it must be a lock. 3000 is such a difficult, magical figure, Damon will have earned his place in Cooperstown. It’s still a tough road, 270 hits back for an aging player.

    We do need to be careful about underestimating 3000 hits. Durability and excellence are rare commodities, even if peak performances aren’t plentiful. Few years ago, some bloggers were claiming Damon was in good shape for 3000, of course that was false. Getting to 2500 is important, but aging players are faced with not only declining production, but fewer plate appearances.

    • baseballisboring - May 13, 2012 at 11:39 PM

      There’s a lot of luck in durability, though. Sure, he compiled a lot of hits, but he did it while never being one of the best players in the league, in any season. Those two WS rings both came on teams where he probably wasn’t even one of the top 5 most valuable players on the team.

      • bozosforall - May 14, 2012 at 1:08 AM

        Take away the steroids that Manny and Ortiz were taking and the rings disappear. Damon if clean, was better than those two dirty players.

  7. db105 - May 13, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    Steve Garvey feels the same way about himself.

  8. Ben - May 14, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    There is no reasonable criteria for Damon being elected, other than the fairly arbitrary 3,000 hits that he might make if he can drag this out for long enough.
    A lifetime .285/.353/.434 hitter simply doesn’t belong in the hall, especially once you account for his era and position.

    A comparison of Andruw Jones and Johnny Damon, just for the heck of it, since they both played OF and played basically the same years (Damon even has a one more year than Jones).
    http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?players=96,185

  9. hushbrother - May 14, 2012 at 2:57 AM

    The bouncing from team to team thing probably won’t help him either. There’s the real question: If he were to be elected, which hat would he wear?

  10. skerney - May 14, 2012 at 6:08 AM

    You make your HOF case with your bat (or arm), not your mouth. Johnny Damon has spent a nice career squarely between good and great. He was good more years than he was great. As fun as it was to have him around, I personally never saw him as a HOF’er. I’m not one of those guys who thinks you have to be Cobb or Mays to get in, but Damon never had a season where he was the best CF in baseball.

  11. dgiangrande98 - May 14, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    I hate how all star appearences help determine hall of fame status. It just doesnt mean every fan liked him. He played for the two most hated baseball teams from 2002-09 so of course most of the toronto blue jays fans arent gonna vote for him. It is unfair to players like damon who can get 3000 hits

    • steve7921 - May 14, 2012 at 10:04 AM

      I don’t think Damon is worthy of the HoF but not because of All-Star games….mainly because of MVP voting. To not be considered in the top 12 of any year tells me that your career numbers are simply a product of longevitity and not greatness!

  12. dirtyharry1971 - May 14, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    even if he got 3000 i still dont see this guy as a HOF’er and im still ashamed that the Yanks ever signed this guy, we never needed him period. But if he does get in and who knows since the writers that vote on this stuff have no clue these days please oh please put a redsuk cap on his head.

  13. lampdwellr - May 14, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    The player from the same era who has a better case at the same position – despite being rather underrated for much of his career – is Jim Edmonds.

  14. chiadam - May 14, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    No way on Earth. None. Johnny Damon isn’t even close to being a Hall of Famer.

  15. materialman80 - May 14, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    Damon’s a good ballplayer, but Hall of Fame……probably not

  16. wpjohnson - May 14, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    there are already too many less than great players in the Hall. It doesn’t need to be further diluted with Damon.

  17. chitownjeff - May 14, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Oh jeez.. I had a problem with Biggio gettin in.. now Damon? Seriously? That’s not even a question.. at his peak he wasn’t a top ten player.. and that pop gun of an arm.. Johnny played a long time and had some moments..

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