Johnny Damon considers himself a future Hall of Famer. Speaking to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, Damon claimed his statistics merit election to the Hall.
“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."
One can infer from the headline of the article, "Statistics Say Cooperstown, and Damon Agrees," that Kepner agrees. They are delusional.
Damon cites the fact that only Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor and Craig Biggio have a higher total of hit, runs, home runs and steals. Isn't it nice to cherry-pick categories?
Damon has batted .285/.353/.434, averaging 15 home runs and 75 RBIs over a 162-game season. Those are hardly Hall of Fame numbers.
The following is a table that presents some statistics of Hall of Fame center fielders that were similar to Damon. They didn't hit for great power, had good speed, stole bases and were solid on defense.
The fact that the above five players are in the Hall of Fame has been questioned. They are not among the all-time elite center fielders, such as Ty Cobb (.366/.433/.512) or Tris Speaker (.345/.428/.500) that weren't home-run hitters. To mention Damon in the same breath as Cobb and Speaker is ridiculous.
A key that hurts Damon is his on-base-percentage. Three-fifty-three is an excellent batting average, but it is quite pedestrian as an on-base-percentage. Damon averaged only one walk for every 11 plate appearances.
While Damon was really a fine defensive player the first two-thirds of his career, he has been barely adequate his last few seasons. His weak throwing arm, which prompted switching him to left field, doesn't help his case.
Let's compare Damon to a left-fielder who many believe was overrated.
Lou Brock, a lead-off hitter, batted .293/.343/.410, averaging nine home runs and a mere 56 RBIs over a 162-game season. But Brock stole 938 bases, which is second only to Rickey Henderson.
Brock led the league in stolen bases eight seasons, including a then-record 118 in 1974.
Damon led the league in steals once, when he had 46 in 2000. The only other times he led the league in any category was in 2000, when he led with 136 runs scored, and in 2002, when he hit 11 triples.
New York Yankees fans will always love Damon for stealing two bases on one pitch in the 2009 World Series against the Philadelphia Philles, but that doesn't put a player into the Hall of Fame.
Johnny Damon is a winning player that ranks among the very good. He does not rank among the all-time greats.
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