Johnny Damon wishes he were more selfish

7 Comments

Johnny Damon got his 2,500th hit last night. After the game he talked a lot about it. The takeaway: There’s no “i” in “team,” but there is in “Johnny Damon:”

Prior to the game, Damon was asked what that hit would
mean to him.

“It is another stepping stone to getting to the ultimate place,” he
said.

Asked if he was referring to the Baseball Hall of Fame in
Cooperstown, Damon nodded, adding he hopes to reach 3,000 hits.

“You get that total or 500 homers and it would be something that
normally gets you in,” Damon said.

…He is a career .288 batter and has reached .300 five times with a
career-best of .327 with Kansas City in 2000, when he also had a
career-high 214 hits.

“I wished I’d thought of this earlier in my career,” Damon said of
the hit total. “I was never as greedy as maybe I should’ve been.”

Damon went on to talk about all those days off he took after the Yankees and Red Sox clinched and how they likely deprived him of hits.

It’s impossible tell from the text of the article if Damon was actually regretting those days off and those hits-not-achieved or if it was merely a casual observation, but either way it is unusual for the starting left fielder of a team in a playoff race talking about that kind of stuff.

This doesn’t bother me, really — I hate the canned “only winning matters” rebop, because I think it’s silly to assume that guys don’t think about their stats and milestones — but you certainly don’t see it every day.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.