As a devoted Detroit Tigers fan and follower, I probably should not say this. But sometimes my love for the greater game of baseball takes precedence over my own biases.
This 34-year-old North Dakota native did not attend a major college baseball pipeline, he attended Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas.
But do not tell that to opposing big-league pitchers who swallow hard fear whenever Hafner swaggers to the plate amidst heavy rock music.
At 6’3”, 240 pounds, Hafner is built as if he is the spiritual being sparking fear in bulls darting through the streets of Pamplona.
Sometimes when I watch Hafner, it seems more like a WWE wrestler just entered the ballpark.
Like John Cena meets Hack Wilson.
When Hafner makes contact, you almost feel sorry for the baseball, as if he just knocked the wind out of the poor mass with stitches. I wonder how different major league record books would look if Hafner could have stayed healthy.
Hafner achieved a stretch from 2004-2007 where no big-league pitcher wanted anything to do with him. This was because he averaged 32 home runs and 109 RBI during this time.
In Hafner’s best season (2006), his stats were beyond ridiculous. Hafner had 42 homers, 117 RBI to go with a .308 average, .659 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.098. It is no wonder pitchers walked him 100 times that season.
As Hafner made his way from ballpark to ballpark, many fans grew convinced this behemoth figure was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career.
But darn Mother Nature—since 2007 Hafner just could not remain healthy. The most on-field appearances Hafner has been able to muster in a single season the past four years are 118 games. Looking at Hafner’s complete body of work, he has averaged just 97 games a season in his 10-year career.
Career-wise, Hafner has hit 194 home runs and 875 RBI. His slugging percentage is .508. This is good for 70th all-time, right behind Ty Cobb.
Eerily, give Hafner a few more of years of baseball and his career numbers will look strikingly similar to Hack Wilson’s.
For the record, Wilson is a Hall of Famer.
Not to say Hafner will muster enough healthy seasons to achieve the same, but it would be nice to see.
But as a Tigers fan, I would humbly ask Hafner be traded out of the AL Central before he does.
I am sure Cleveland Indians fans would have something to say about this.