Friday, 26 February 2010

Johnny Damon: Hall of Fame?

With Johnny Damon finally deciding that he had no hope in hell of getting a ludicrous contract from the Yankees this week has seen the erstwhile King Idiot of Boston sign a one year $8,000,000 contract with the Tigers for 2010.

After finishing my scoffing and making fun of the Tigers for overpaying so hugely for Damon I thought I’d look closer at the man once known for ‘looking like Jesus, throwing like Mary and acting like Judas’’ career stats. Surprised is not the word.

I make no secret of the fact that I, like most Red Sox fans, despised Johnny Damon. I’ll admit that my outrage experienced in the 2005-2006 off-season has diminished greatly and over the course of his last few years in New York I was more or less indifferent. While Red Sox get a (deserved) bad rap for being very quick to demonise once beloved players I do feel a certain amount of ill-will towards Damon is justified. After all, this isn’t Jason Bay. I lost a great deal of respect for Bay this winter when he opted to sign for the Mets after professing that it was his boyhood dream to play for the Sox just 18 months earlier. For me, Bay’s preference to play for a few more million on an already ludicrous offer (given Bay’s shoddy average and suspect defence) rather than stay with a team that gave him his first taste of playoff baseball, smacked of all that is wrong with the modern baseball player mentality.

But, that being said, Jason Bay owes Boston nothing. He was traded to us as part of the larger ‘get rid of Manny by any means possible’ plan in 2008 and had performed admirably in LF ever since. If he can go play for what is likely to be an extremely poor Mets team for more money then all power to him.

Damon however was a different story.

Its not just that Johnny left the Sox for the evil-empire, the hated Yankees. Plenty of players have done that. I have no problem with Wade Boggs doing that, Luis Tiant or even Babe Ruth!

The problem with Damon is that he told everyone who would listen that he wouldn’t go to New York, stating time and time again that it wasn’t about the money, then did the opposite. Particularly galling was the fact that he justified lying to the fans that made him a superstar by stating that he had a family to support and that the $8 million being offered by Theo Epstein wasn’t enough. This, and this going without saying, is not how best to endear yourself to a city that still fancies itself as working-class.

But anyway, rant over. Enough time has passed that I can look at Damon’s achievements objectively. In doing so I discovered a surprising, if not alarming fact: Johnny Damon could very well end up in the Hall of Fame!

I know! It sounds crazy. Damon has long been thought of as one of those good, solid players who might get himself elected to an all-star game or two (Damon has played in 2 Mid-Summer classics) but was never the best player on his team let alone a legitimate MVP candidate.

However, these are the career numbers:

Games – 2131
Hits – 2425
HR – 207
RBI – 996
Stolen Bases – 374


.794 OPS

If Damon gets enough at bats in Detroit (personally I think he would have been better off going to the White Sox) and plays another 2 or 3 years getting 125+ hits a season, he could get extremely close to, if not surpass entirely the magic marker of 3,000 hits that all but guarantees admission to Cooperstown.

Assuming that Damon doesn’t completely fall off now that he does not have Yankee stadium to inflate his numbers, and does not get tarred with the same steroids that many of his contemporaries have fallen prey to (I’m by no means suggesting anything and hope, for the sake of the preservation of the reputation of the already smeared 2004 Red Sox that Damon was/is clean) then we could be having serious conversations about Johnny Damon’s career come 2018 or thereabouts.

As far as I’m concerned; if Craig Biggio and his merciless pursuit of 3,000 hits is worth a place in the Hall of Fame (it isn’t), so is Damon.