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.