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May 16, 2012

The Platoon Advantage

Ten Excuses for Not Voting Johnny Damon Into the HOF

by Michael Bates

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I like Johnny Damon.  I really do.  He’s been a perfectly good player, or better, for a lot of years.  But as much as I like Johnny Damon, I love the Hall of Fame much more.  I love the Hall of Fame even though it refuses to love me back, what with its induction of Jim Rice, its refusal to tell BBWAA voters that PEDs were far too pervasive to ban an entire generation, and its inconvenient location preventing yearly pilgrimages.  I love the Hall of Fame, so I will defend it from Johnny Damon.

Johnny Damon's biggest supporter for the Hall of Fame, interestingly enough, is Johnny Damon.  Damon told Tyler Kepner, "I think even if you look at my numbers now, how high I am on the runs list [33rd], how high I am on the doubles list [43rd], 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.  If I played in Yankee Stadium my whole career, my 230 home runs turn into 300, easy.” He is also 56th all-time with 2,730 hits.  Damon also makes "a case for being a clean player in our generation." 

Well, it certainly seems like someone's been reading the 70-page dossier his agent has prepared for him.  And with impeccable credentials like that, and what seems like a potentially strong supporters from various BBWAA members with whom he's cultivated strong relationships, it's easy to see how Damon could gradually build a Jack Morris-esque movement based on what could end up being the least impressive 3,000-hit career in baseball history.  So let's preempt that. 

1. Johnny Damon's career 104 OPS+ (which is likely to decline) would be the lowest mark of any Hall of Famer who is not a catcher, a middle infielder, or the brother of Paul Waner.

2. It may be racist, but cavemen aren’t technically even allowed to play in the Major Leagues.  I’m not sure how this has flown under the radar.

3. From 1990-2012, Johnny Damon (.353) ranks 95th in OBP among outfielders with more than 500 plate appearances.  He is bested by Reggie Willits (.356), Rich Becker (.358), and Alex Cole (.360).  He does, however, have more plate appearances than any other outfielder during that same period except for Ken Griffey, Jr.  His OPS+ is 146th...among outfielders.  Again, just outfielders.

4. Look, I'm not generally one to knock someone out of the Hall of Fame discussion because they used PEDs, let alone associated with PED users like Jeff Bagwell.  But I know some voters do, and will.  So it's only fair to note that Johnny Damon played with noted PED enthusiasts Wally Joyner, Phil Hiatt, Jeremy Giambi, Jason Giambi, FP Santangelo, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and probably a bunch more I forgot about.  He shook Barry Bonds' hand before the 2002 All Star Game, and I hear he once high-fived Jose Canseco.  "Clean player?"  No one is above suspicion!

5.  No matter how you cut it, Johnny Damon bears a great deal of the responsibility for Red Sox fans being as insufferable as they are. 

6. Damon’s WARP (49.9) puts him at 116th all-time among hitters since 1950.  He ranks below fellow center fielders Cesar Cedeno (59.2), Vada Pinson (55.6), Brett Butler (55.5), Chet Lemon (54.3), Al Oliver (54.0), and Bernie Williams (53.0).  Line forms to the right, Johnny.

7. Johnny Damon’s defense in center field been praised as being DiMaggio-esque, which sounds great until you remember that the Yankee Clipper has been dead for 13 years and can still throw harder than Damon.

8. After completing his first goal of helping the Red Sox win the World Series, and then achieving his second dream of playing for the Yankees, and then achieving a lifelong ambition of wearing the Tigers’ famous script, and finally fulfilling a boyhood fantasy of playing for the Rays, Johnny Damon made it his personal mission to make sweet love to the spouse of every single member of the BBWAA. He should be done by August, if he doesn’t get released by Cleveland, for whom he never really wanted to play.

9. You know who ranks above Johnny Damon on the career doubles list?  Al Oliver.  Oliver also has a higher batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, RBI, has 13 more hits, and played in a tougher offensive era.  I guess what I’m saying is, do you know who belongs in the Hall of Fame?  Al Oliver.*

*No, he doesn’t

10. Figuring out which hat he’s going to wear is going to be a freaking nightmare that none of us want to deal with.

There, that should provide the voters with plenty of cover.  And if not, someone on this staff smarter than me should really figure out how many home runs Johnny Damon “lost” by not playing in Yankee Stadium his whole career.  Have at it.

Michael Bates is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

Related Content:  Johnny Damon,  Al Oliver

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