Johnny Damon believes he belongs in the Hall of Fame even if he doesn’t surpass 3,000 hits. He says his high ranking on the all-time runs and doubles lists as well as the fact that he’s been a clean player in the steroids era make him Hall worthy.
Can you picture it? You’re walking through Cooperstown, you see the plaques for Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays… and then there’s Johnny Damon. Nope, me neither.
Damon, now with the Cleveland Indians, really does have some fantastic career numbers and still has an outside chance at 3,000 hits. He has averaged 153 hits over the past five years, meaning he’ll not only have to make it through this season, he’ll have to find a team, get regular at bats and stay healthy next season as well.
One thing Damon has working for him is the fact that teams can use milestones to generate a lot of interest. If he gets his 150 hits this year and is sitting just 120 hits shy of 3,000, a struggling team may sign him to use his run at the milestone as a way to sell tickets.
The main case against Damon is he’s never at any point in his career been one of the best players in baseball. I’d go so far as to say he was almost never the best player on the field at any point during his 18-year career. Damon played on some great teams, but the only time he was a team leader in wins above replacement was for the Kansas City Royals in 1999 and 2000.
Damon only led the league in runs once (136 in 2000) stolen bases once (46 in 2000) and triples once (11 in 2002). He was an All-Star twins (2002 and 2005), never finished in the top-10 in MVP voting and his career batting average of .285 doesn’t jump off the page. He never won a Silver Slugger or a Gold Glove.
Damon does rank 43rd all-time with 517 doubles and 34th with 1,647 runs over his career, topping several Hall of Famers. The runs total is impressive, but more of a result of playing on great teams in the steroids era. As far as the doubles, Bobby Abreu was over 40 more two-baggers than Damon, is he a Hall of Famer?
If you just look at the numbers, Damon has very similar credentials to first-ballot Hall of Famer Robin Yount. The big difference is Yount was two MVP awards, a Gold Glove at shortstop and three Silver Sluggers. He had a great career that included a few years where he was amongst the best of the best.
You can’t blame Johnny Damon for trying to state his case for the Hall of Fame, because if he’s not going to support his candidacy who is? I just hope he’s not too delusional or gets too broken up about it when he doesn’t make it in.
He’s had a great career he should be proud of, a career that 99 percent of baseball players would be envious of. That doesn’t mean he belongs enshrined with the game’s greats.
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