Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Does Johnny Damon Belong in the Hall of Fame?

A recent feature in the New York Times about Yankees OF Johnny Damon made headlines all over the net because it appears likely that Damon has a good chance to remain a Yankee beyond 2009. However, one section of the piece really stood out to me and made me Johnny Damon a hall of famer?
"Damon has fewer steals this season, just eight, because he usually bats second instead of first. But he still makes a difference with his speed, part of a set of skills that is rare in baseball history.

Only three players have matched Damon’s career totals for hits (2,389), runs (1,459), stolen bases (370), doubles (443), homers (205), runs batted in (981) and batting average (.289). They are the Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar and Barry Bonds, who are not yet eligible for Cooperstown.

Damon has only one season with 200 hits — for Kansas City in 2000 — but he has an outside chance at 3,000 for his career. He is 10th in hits among active players, but only two players ahead of him are younger: his teammates Jeter (2,688) and Rodriguez (2,483).

Damon, who has four children, said he would like to play three or four more years before retiring to help his 10-year-old son, Jackson, concentrate on baseball. Whether or not he reaches 3,000 hits, Damon said his other numbers could get him to the Hall of Fame, anyway. He would like to keep compiling while playing for the Yankees."
Johnny Damon...hall of famer? Not in my eyes. This guy has always been a very good player, but can we honestly say that Damon was a great player? I say no.

But in order to dive deeper into Johnny Damon's hall of fame candidacy, I decided to fill out a mini Keltner List. For those of you who don't know, the Keltner List is a series of objective questions used to evaluate a player's hall of fame candidacy. It's my hope that a Keltner List of Johnny Damon would help clear up this idea that Damon is a hall of famer, but I also acknowledge that it's difficult to fully evaluate his HOF candidacy because Damon is not retired yet. But nevertheless, I decided to give it shot.

********* ***********

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

-No. Damon was always a very good player, but he was never that caliber of player.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

-No. Even though Damon played for some terrible teams in Kansas City, but I can't say that he was the best player on any of those teams. Damon has been a very good player player for both the Red Sox and the Yankees, but he's never been the best player on either team.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

-No. Once again, Damon has always been a very good player, but I can't say that he was the best player at his position. There have always been a handful of guys that I considered to be better ball players than Damon.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

-Yes. Damon played a big role in the World Series winning 2004 Red Sox, especially with his game 7 home run off Javier Vazquez. But we have to remember how much Damon struggled in the 2003 and 2004 ALCS, when the Red Sox needed him most.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?

-I guess at 35 years old, Damon should be considered "past his prime." However, Damon's performance suggests that he is not past his prime...yet.

6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?


7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?

-Here are list of players, who are comparable to Damon's stats through age 34 according to baseball reference:
  1. Cesar Cedeno (897)
  2. Willie Davis (889)
  3. Tim Raines (868)
  4. Pete Rose (866)
  5. Buddy Bell (859)
  6. Lou Brock (855) *
  7. Vada Pinson (852)
  8. Al Oliver (849)
  9. Sherry Magee (841)
  10. Keith Hernandez (840)
Any list with Pete Rose, Tim Raines, Lou Brock and Keith Hernandez is pretty good in my eyes. However, that list does not really help us determine if Damon belong in the HOF.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

-Right now, no. But if Damon is able to get 3,000 hits, then he'll have a very strong argument for the hall. Another World Series championship or two can only help Damon's candidacy, as well.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?


10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?


11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

-Damon has never won an MVP award and as never come close to winning one. The closest Damon has come to winning the award is 13th in 2005. There have been several seasons in Damon's career that we could say were all star worthy, but there isn't one that sticks out as "MVP caliber."

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?

-Two all star games, so far. Most hall of famers have been to more all star games than Damon.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

-I would have to say no. The closest Damon ever was to being the best player on his team was during his tenure with the Royals, and those teams were absolutely horrible.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

-Damon's biggest impact in baseball was breaking the curse with the 2004 Red Sox. My generation will remember Damon as the guy on the Red Sox, who looked like Jesus patrolling center field.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

-Yes, by all accounts, Damon has been a great guy and a very good teammate over the course of his career. Does that help his HOF candidacy? Probably not.

********** **********

So in conclusion, is Johnny Damon a hall of famer? Right now, not in my eyes. Damon has a very realistic chance to get 3,000 hits in the next few years (2,391 hits right now), which should all but guarantee his entry into the hall of fame, even if he was never a "great player." In my opinion, Damon is not even a borderline HOF at this point, even though his performance has been consistently good over the course of his career.

What do you think? Is Johnny Damon a hall of famer?


Bill said...


105 career OPS+. Totally fine for a good centerfielder (though I'm not sure how good he is, despite pretty good range, given how many runs his arm must've cost his teams over the years), but miles and miles short of the Hall. Of course he's had years where he's been much better than that, but he's also had 2001 and 2003, and he hasn't had any really great years either. I'm back where I was with Harold Baines; it'll be a shame if he manages to scratch out 3000 hits, because there's just no way he belongs. Kenny Lofton has a much better case, and Lofton won't get a sniff.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how many HOFers have an OPS+ of just 105. Maybe if there's 15 or more and they weren't in on their defensive greatness, I might think Johnny Damon belongs in Cooperstown. I mean com'on... 105 OPS+ is just barely above average.... how is "barely above average" even in the conversation of greatness?

Bill said...

Devon, here's a list since 1901 (you may need to be a subscriber to see it):

Looks like 21 names, all middle infielders (with sterling defensive reputations), catchers or managers except Lloyd Waner, who was a glaring mistake (and was also a phenomenal defensive CF). Even considering all the mistakes that have been made, Damon would be something of an outlier.

Jorge Says No! said...

The bottom line is this: there is nothing about Damon that screams greatness even though he might wind up with 3000 hits, which usually is a marking point for a great player.

Brad Templeman said...

The Hall of Fame has decided in the past that any pitcher with 300 wins should get in, regardless of whether they were truly dominant or whether it was mainly because of longevity (Don Sutton, Phil Niekro).

As a matter of consistency, I think 3000 hits should be a similar benchmark. If he gets to 3000 hits, he should be in. He is also currently 75th all time in runs scored (1464), but he if hangs around long enough to get 3000 hits (probably at least 4 more years), he could easily get into the top 20-25 in that category (1800? runs).

The opportunity it there for him to be an unlikely Hall of Famer, he just needs to keep playing and stay healthy for about 4 more years, if he really wants it.