Is Johnny Damon a Hall of Famer?
Johnny Damon just hit his 500th double on Saturday night to put him in an exclusive club. He is now one of 11 players to have 500 doubles, 100 triples, 200 home runs and 2,500 hits. The other 10 players are all in the Hall of Fame. Does this automatically make Johnny Damon a Hall of Famer? To set up a bunch of arbitrary markers like this one to make up a Hall of Fame argument is in itself a fallacy according to Bill James’ Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame, a book that examines the Hall of Fame and the many arguments for getting players enshrined. Just because a player is in a group of only Hall of Famers does not automatically make them a Hall of Famer. The key is to find out whether Damon is really similar to all those players or whether he is actually more similar to a group of non-Hall of Famers. Let’s examine the case more closely.
The ten other players in this group are Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Goose Goslin, Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, George Brett, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Those players span almost 100 years and of course are among the most recognizable names in baseball history.
Damon now has 500 doubles which ties him with Goslin for tenth among this group of players. He is six behind Ruth but 225 doubles behind the group leader Stan Musial. Damon has 102 triples, which again just puts him right over the arbitrary cutoff. The next closest is Molitor with 114 and Damon is 75 behind the group leader Musial (177).
Johnny Damon really isn’t a home run hitter so of course, he is again last in this group with 223 bombs, but only 11 away from Molitor. The rest of this group has some true sluggers so it’s laughable to say that Damon is comparable to Ruth (714), Mays (660), Gehrig (493), or Musial (475). As for career hits, Damon’s 2,646 hits place him eleventh in the group again. He is closest to Gehrig (2721) and Goslin (2735), but way behind Musial (3630) Molitor (3319) and Mays (3283).
Damon is the least common denominator in this group and does not really belong in the group at all. Every other player is way above the cutoff while Damon just barely exceeds them (which are set up to keep non Hall of Famers out of the group) He is not truly comparable to any of these players and this group of players should not be used as a case to induct him.
A popular method used by Bill James to compare players are Similarity Scores which finds players that are similar to each other scores them based on how similar they are statistically. Damon is most similar to a lot of borderline Hall of Fame Candidates. Of the top 10, only Roberto Alomar is in the Hall. I have to conclude that if he retired today, he would not be a Hall of Famer. Vada Pinson is the the second most similar player to Damon and incidentally just misses being a part of this group by 15 doubles.
Of course, Damon probably still has a few good years left in his career and he is beginning to put up the numbers that put him in the discussion. For hitters, there are two near-automatic thresholds for the Hall of Fame. Every eligible hitter who has amassed 3000 hits is in the Hall of Fame except for suspected steroid user Rafael Palmeiro (Pete Rose isn’t eligible). The same is true for 500 home runs. Only Mark McGwire (another suspected steroid user) and Palmeiro are not in. Damon is on the path towards 3000 hits. Barring injury, he should pass the 2700 hit plateau by the end of this year. Two more solid years (at the pace he has been going this year) should get him over 3000. At that point, he will have moved past Goslin and and more into the Molitor range of hitters.
Damon is not a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate right now, but at least he has put himself in the discussion. Johnny has a few intangibles could give him the extra push if needed. He’s always been a popular player and a member for eight years (four in Boston, four with the Yankees) of two of the most popular franchises in baseball. He won two World Series and played a big part in both championship. Even this year, I think he is surprising people with how well he is playing. What do you think? Will Damon eventually be a Hall of Famer? Let me know in the comments below.