2. Johnny Damon
Speaking of the best center fielders of all time, did you know Johnny Damon ranks ahead of all three of the names mentioned on the previous slide? He’s 23rd all time, per JAWS, ahead of Kirby Puckett in the 24th slot!
Look, we didn’t necessarily consider him in that stratosphere. And we certainly didn’t consider him to be quite the same level “Yankee” as either Bernie or the holder of the No. 1 spot on this list. His credentials are undeniable, though, although they’re not quite Loftonian — he’s literally No. 10, which I can almost guarantee you didn’t know. Ahead of Andruw Jones, Andre Dawson and Richie Ashburn.
Pardon the digression. You want counting stats with Damon? 2,769 hits, and out of baseball at age 38. If he can play ’til 40, he gets 3,000 and he’s in. 408 stolen bases. Two seasons of 10 triples and one season of 11 in his prime in Oakland and Boston — Yankee Stadium surely robbed him of several more of those. He’s also 32nd in career runs scored.
You want moments? 2004 should’ve never happened, but Damon’s mark was all over those Idiots. The double stolen base in 2009? The 5-for-5 day in 2006 that he capped with his own walk-off? The .276 career postseason average, including a .286 mark in Boston’s curse-breaking ’04 World Series?
Damon probably doesn’t quite measure up. He was a compiler, and a below-average hitter far too often in his prime (age 27, 83 OPS+ in Oakland; age 29, 94 OPS+ in Boston). His case is certainly worth more than one year on the ballot, though (2018, 1.9%), especially because he actually ranks barely below the metrics in terms of both Hall of Fame Monitor (90, “Likely Hall of Famer” is a 100) and Hall of Fame Standards (45, “Average Hall of Famer” is a 50).
Advanced statistics don’t help Damon, so the Veterans Committee likely won’t be kind to him. His best argument was narrative-based, meaning those who watched him probably knew him best, and that discussion’s already over.
OK, you’re right, this segment probably should’ve been about Kenny Lofton. But it’s certainly a conversation!