Johnny Damon is one of the better-known players in the major leagues these days.
After winning a World Series in 2004 with the Boston Red Sox while sporting long locks and a grizzly beard, Damon became a superstar to baseball fans who did not even realize he had finished that season with the best statistics of his career.
At 37 years old, the current Tampa Bay Ray is on pace to reach the 3,000-hit milestone within the next three seasons.
After a career that does not feature any flashy numbers and will finish with him as an almost full time designated hitter, is Damon worthy of a bid to enter the Hall of Fame if he can reach 3,000 hits?
If Damon can play to 40 years old and stay relatively healthy, reaching 3,000 hits should not be difficult. Although he is currently sitting on the worst average of his career (.248), the former Yankee is on pace for 146 hits this season, which would leave him with 2,717 career hits.
This means that he would need about 142 hits in each of the next two seasons to reach this plateau. Damon is still good enough of a hitter to find a home for the next few seasons as a DH, so he will find plenty of opportunities to hit as his career winds down.
Let’s assume that Damon plays until he is 40, so three more seasons after this one. With the decline in numbers that is expected with age, Damon should finish his career with around 250 home runs, close to 1,300 RBIs, over 1,800 runs scored, over 420 stolen bases and over 3,100 hits.
His career average currently sits at .287, so he will likely finish his career somewhere in the .280 range. With these projected numbers, Damon would not be a terrible candidate for the Hall of Fame.
There are also players with much worse numbers than Damon who have already reached the Hall. Players such as SS Luis Aparicio, SS Pee Wee Reese and 2B Bill Mazeroski all finished their careers with batting averages in the .260s and little to no power numbers whatsoever.
Even former Yankee great, SS Phil Rizzuto, whose No. 10 is featured in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, never had Hall of Fame-caliber numbers, but still got voted in.
If Damon had played back when these guys all played, it would not even be a question if he could make the Hall.
Damon’s biggest issue is the era he is playing in. Due to the steroid era of the late ‘90s and early 2000s, players with 600-plus home runs are now unlikely to make the Hall of Fame.
A player like Adam Dunn, who will likely finish his career with over 500 home runs and an average down around .250, probably will not be able to make the Hall of Fame.
Dunn can be compared to Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew. Killebrew hit 573 home runs in his career, but batted .256. Killebrew and Dunn differ because of the era they each played in. With power numbers still on the rise these days, 500 home runs are no longer a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Although 500 home runs is a more commonly reached achievement these days than 3,000 hits, why would this be a lock for the Hall of Fame? That is why Damon’s Hall of Fame chances are still in question.
With Derek Jeter about to reach this accomplishment, many see him as a lock for the Hall of Fame. Damon’s numbers pale in comparison to Jeter’s, something that can also hold him back since the two are playing in the same time span.