Man who won’t make Hall of Fame says what hat he wants to wear on his plaque

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I like Johnny Damon as a player. He’s had a nice career. He’s the archetypal Hall of Very Good guy.  The HoVG’s Mt. Rushmore* could easily have him, Mark Grace, Jack Morris and, I dunno, Vada Pinson on it.  But a Hall of Famer?  Eh:

It stinks that [3,000 hits] might be my only chance [at the Hall of Fame], because I’m climbing the runs list, too. I think all of those years I did it quietly without really thinking about my numbers. Is it realistic? Yes. Is it the most important thing to me? No. The numbers would be great to attain, but I really don’t know how many more years I’ll play. If this is a rough year for me, I’m going home. If not, I’ll keep getting after it.”

… So which hat? “I think it goes by the longest tenure, so it would be Kansas City,” he said. “Wade Boggs messed that up for everybody.”

Well, he’s right about Boggs messing up the Hall-of-Famers-choose-their-own-hat thing with that side deal he allegedly made with the Devil Rays.  But really, with Damon I think the conversation is academic.

But if he gets to pick which hat he can wear on the plaque he’s not getting, so can I.  When I’m inducted, I want to wear my tan corduroy Kangol bucket hat. It may not be baseball-related, but it has accompanied me and kept my bald head sunburn-free since I picked it up on an epic road trip I took eight years ago. I’d die without that hat. Has to be on my plaque.

*This could be the subject of its own post, but for the time being, I don’t think that guys who have very, very close but ultimate just lacking Hall of Fame arguments (e.g. Fred McGriff) should be on the HoVG’s Mt. Rushmore. They’re true tweeners who don’t necessarily represent what the HoVg is all about. My HoVG  Mt. Rushmore should have people that had excellent careers but who lack a truly serious argument for Cooperstown. And no, just because a lot of misguided people think that Morris has one doesn’t change the appropriateness of his inclusion. This is my friggin’ Mt. Rushmore, OK?

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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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.