Johnny Damon makes his Hall of Fame case

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There aren’t many players who would willingly cite their own statistics in advocating their Hall of Fame case. But there aren’t many players like Johnny Damon.

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times asked Damon whether he feels he’s worthy of Cooperstown prior to Friday’s game:

“Yeah,” he responded. “I think even if you look at my numbers now, how high I am on the runs list, how high I am on the doubles list, 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.”

Damon also said that “being a clean player” should further his case, though he wouldn’t necessarily shut all of the accused steroid users out of Cooperstown.

“It’s a tough question,” he said. “But I would say not ahead of a guy like me. Or, their numbers have to be far above.”

For the record, Damon entered Sunday’s game 56th all-time with 2,730 hits, 34th all-time with 1,647 runs scored and 43rd all-time with 517 doubles. He’s also 68th all-time in steals with 404 and 65th all-time in times on base.

The negatives are pretty obvious, too. Damon’s Hall of Fame case is largely a product of his durability and longevity. He’s made just two All-Star teams. He’s finished in the top 10 of his league in batting average just twice (10th in 2000, fourth in 2005). He’s never finished in the top of his league in on-base percentage, slugging, homers or RBI. His high MVP finish was 13th place in 2005.

Damon also probably won’t get much credit for his defense even though he spent the first half of his career as a pretty good center fielder.

Realistically, Damon has to get those 270 hits he needs for 3,000 in order to have a shot at the Hall of Fame. Even then, there’s going to be quite a bit of resistance to his case, simply because he was never viewed as one of his league’s best players at any point of his career.

Yankees sign top two draft picks

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The Yankees signed first-round draft pick Clarke Schmidt and second-round pick Matt Sauer on Saturday, per a team announcement. Schmidt, a right-hander from the University of South Carolina, is set to earn a signing bonus of $2,184,300. According to MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin, that’s much lower than the typical $3+ million allocated for a No. 16 overall pick. The opposite is true for Sauer, whose projected $2.5 million signing bonus tops the suggested $1.2 million reserved for a No. 54 pick.

Schmidt, 21, boasts an impressive four-pitch repertoire and profiles as a front-end or mid-rotation starter, according to reports from Yankees’ VP of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer and ESPN’s Keith Law, among others. He carried a 4-2 record through nine starts in 2017 and turned in a 1.34 ERA before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last month to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow. While the Yankees won’t see him pitch at any level until late 2018, they seem confident in his makeup and ability to rebound over the next couple of years.

Fellow right-hander and Righetti High School senior Matt Sauer is a different story altogether. The 18-year-old hurler appears destined for the bullpen with a polished fastball-slider combo and a promising curveball and changeup. He dazzled on the mound this year, going 9-1 with an 0.98 ERA and two shutouts over 78 1/3 innings. While the Yankees seem most interested in his pitching skills, Sauer showed some pop at the plate as well, touting a .427 average with 24 RBI through 135 plate appearances.

Three A’s rookies hit their first big league home runs on Saturday

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The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.

Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:

Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:

In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.

The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.