The underappreciated Johnny Damon

Marte likely not coming back soon
When making predictions, beware the narrative

Johnny DamonEvery fan of every team believes there are certain players that don’t get the credit they deserve, but only a handful of players actually fall into that category. Current Yankee leftfielder Johnny Damon is one of those players. Thanks to last night’s 2-for-4 game, Johnny became the first player in more than 50 years (and the third overall) to rack up 600 or more hits with three different teams, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Since Johnny’s first career game on August 12th, 1995 (when he went 3-for-5 with a triple), exactly two players have more than his 2,389 hits, and they’re his teammates: Derek Jeter (2,672) and Alex Rodriguez (2,440). Damon’s also scored the third-most runs (1,459) in that time, again trailing Jetes & A-Rod. Stolen bases? He’s fourth (370) behind Juan Pierre, Kenny Lofton, and Eric Young.

Counting stats are nice, but Damon also ranks amongst the elite in wins over replacement, or WAR. With 42.2 WAR to his credit coming into the season, he has already placed above Hall of Famers Jim Rice (41.5) and Lou Brock (39.1), among others, on the Top 500 WAR list. And don’t forget that he’s still going, with more Cooperstowners like Kirby Puckett (45.0) and Ralph Kiner (45.8) within shouting distance.

Amazingly, Damon is currently enjoying the best season of his career at age 35. He’s two shy of tying his career high of 24 homers, which he set in his first year in pinstripes. His .532 SLG and .240 IsoP are far and away career highs, ditto his .894 OPS and 11.1% walk rate. Oh sure, Damon’s getting a ton of help from the New Yankee Stadium this year (.979 OPS at homer vs .803 on the road), but HitTracker says that every one of his homers would have been gone out in at least one other park, and 15 of his 22 homers would have left the yard in at least 20 big league ballparks. Even if you want to discount the 57 home games he’s played this year from his career production, it’s like taking a cup of water from the ocean.

Yet despite all of the numbers Damon’s racked up, he’s never been considered one of the elite players of the generation. He’s always been in that “very good” category, especially since he signed with the Yankees. Is he a Hall of Famer? I don’t think so, but you can make a case he should be. I do know this though: Johnny’s been one of the best and most consistently productive players in the game since the day he set foot in the big leagues. I tip my cap to him.

Photo Credit: Uli Seit, NYT

Marte likely not coming back soon
When making predictions, beware the narrative
  • Mike R. – Retire 21

    I wonder where all the people that said the Yankees were making a mistake by giving him that fourth year are. I heard a lot of that back then, but none of it now.

  • Dela G

    It’s funny, the red sox thought he was old and washed up

    oh well

    • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

      They thought the same thing with that Clemens guy.

      • LiveFromNewYork

        Wade Boggs

  • jsbrendog

    and you know what he did?

    he tipped his cap.

    like so.

  • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

    Damon has an outside shot of reaching 3,00 hits. If he does that, he’s in.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)


      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

        I guess you are right, that he gets in with 3,000 hits. But should he? His career OPS+ is 105. Kenny Lofton has 107 and he isn’t an HOFer either. Okay, that is not the only stat that counts, but looking at his b-ref page, he was mostly an above-average to good player, but never one of the best players in the league.

        I really appreciate what Damon has done with the Yankees, but unless he has 4-5 more seasons like 2009, he should not even survive the first ballot.

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

          Yeah, but 3,000hits…it’s at least a testament to consistency. That’s a hard milestone to get to.

          • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

            It sure is, but his consistency is pretty much the only thing speaking for him. And hits are not everything. His career OBP ist .355, which places him 528th on the all-time list. SLG? 472nd. AVG? 401st. I can’t see one aspect of his game, where Johnny Damon at any point in his career was the best or among the best in the game. Very good, but not good enough for the HOF.

  • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

    This is too funny. Lohud with almost the exact same article.

  • Salty Buggah

    “Hall of Famers Jim Rice (41.5)…” That just doesn’t sound right.

    If JD can keep producing anything like this year for another couple of years, he is going to have a pretty good case for the HOF. If he reaches 3,000 hits somehow (it’s going to take him 4-5 more years), then he is a definite lock.

  • V

    I took a look at fangraphs.

    Leading the AL in pure WPA (not WPA/LI)…. Johnny Damon.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      Damon for MVP?

      • Rebecca-Optimist Prime

        Damon for MVP

        You could make a case for EACH of Damon, Teixeira and Jeter.

        And they’re just hitters 1-2-3 in our line up.

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

          Our team is just so good it’s scary.

          I hope Tex wins in the end, but if you want to go by pure numbers and no “best player on best team” Mauer deserves it.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          Not to slight Johnny’s offensive season, but what Jeter and Teixeira have going for them is above-average defense. Damon has been pretty bad defensively while the other two can lay claim to great seasons in the field. That’s why I’d give either of the two of them an edge over Damon in the MVP race, team or league-wide.

          • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)


            Still the fact that we have three legitimate league MVP candidates is something to be proud of.

            Our team is just so good it’s scary.

            • whozat

              We don’t…we have two decent candidates.

              Mauer, Bartlett and Zobrist have been the most valuable players in the league. Just because they are surrounded by players less good than CC, Posada, AJ, Damon and ARod doesn’t make them less valuable, except according to the MSM.

        • Salty Buggah

          Imagine if A-rod was healthy for a full season…that would be 1-4 hitters.

          • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

            Shit man, don’t do this to me. I’m almost in tears imagining the possibilities.

  • David A

    Anyone with ESPN insider read buster Olney’s piece on the Yankees? I sadly do not and would like to read the entire thing.

  • Ellis

    I agree about Damon being underappreciated, nice article. But I wouldn’t call this his best year…

    2000 with the Royals: .327 avg, 16 HR, 46 SB (only 9 CS), .382 OBP (better than this year).

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      More HR’s though.

      2001 OPS+: 82

      2009 OPS+: 132

      • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

        Also 2001 OPS 687. 2009 OPS 894.

        2009 HR’s: 22, and the year’s not over.

        2001 HR’s: 9.

        • whozat

          He said 2000, not 2001.

  • Bill

    I know Johnny has had some key hits for us, but his fielding and arm stink and the guy can’t bunt.I dont think he will be back next yr.

    • Steve H

      Oh no. He can’t bunt.

    • Jeffrey

      No one on this team can really bunt besides maybe Jeter and Gardner. This doesn’t seem like the bunting type of team right now. I’d rather have the batter try to hit the ball to the right side they way they are hitting. They make an out the runner is on second, they get a hit and it’s even better.

  • josh

    This is a really cool post… and I definitely think Damon doesnt get enough credit… but, more than anything… i’m sad that this article was basically copped from Lohud.. wtf??!

    • Mike Axisa

      Copped from LoHud?

      Is no one else allowed to post something about Johnny Damon after Pete does? Is that the way it works?

    • Steve H

      This post is just about 3x as long as the Lohud post, obviously more in depth and more researched.

    • pat

      Hahah, they set these articles to auto-post hours ahead of time. Pete’s big head is starting to rub off on his commenter I see.

  • Danny

    Texsual Healing baby. Do it Tex. Huge bomb.2 more to go

    -nick swishers twitter

    LMAO texsual healing? hahahahah

  • mike HC

    When it comes to appreciation, it is all about perception and fans. Damon started his career with the Royals. Not even Royal fans care about the Royals. He then played one year in Oakland. One year is not exactly enough time to endear you to a fan base. He then went to Boston for four seasons and won a championship. He became a beloved member of Red Sox nation. He was a star in Boston and was fully appreciated during that time. Of course, he then decided to betray his fans and take the money to go to the evil empire. Yankee fans saw him as a gun for hire, never really a “true” Yankee, and Boston fans saw him as a traitor. Damon has never really been really been fully embraced by one city. When Boston did, he ended up betraying their trust. Damon’s career is a recipe for being underappreciated. At least if he stayed with Kansas City his whole career, he would have been a legend to at least one city.

    • mike HC

      Further sullying Damon’s reputation was the Ortiz and Manny steroid scandal. Where history once looked at that 2004 Red Sox Championship team as the “Idiots” with Damon as a leading member, it is now overshadowed by the Manny and Ortiz steroid usage.

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

        Sorry, but WHAT???

        He betrayed the Red Sox fans? In which way again? Did he say: “I will play out the rest of my career in Boston for the league minimum”? Betrying would mean something like demanding to be traded in the middle of a pennant race or starting to not care if your team is winning. Did you feel betrayed when Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros? Because that is the exact same thing that Damon did, signing with a different team after your contract is up. He went to the team that offered him the most while he was NOT affiliated with anybody.

        And how would he have been a legend in Kansas City, if not even the Royals fan care about them, as you said yourself? Or would they care for the team because of Damon’s greatness? I’m confused.

        And why does Manny and Ortiz juicing sully the reputation of Johnny Damon? Does playing with Roger Clemens on the 2000 WS winners sully Mariano Rivera’s reputation?

        • mike HC

          You have me on Royals thing. They don’t care, but maybe if they had one big guy who stayed with the franchise, they would care more.

          As to the betrayed thing. Ask any Red Sox fan if they feel same way about Damon today as they did before he signed with the Yankees? Betray is obviously a strong word when it comes to sports, but he clearly did not care that much about how the Red Sox fan base felt about him. He rather take the most money as possible. And if Pettitte signed with the Red Sox, as opposed to the Astro’s, it would be a whole other story.

          Lastly, yes, I believe a steroids scandal can overshadow the way history looks upon a team.

          • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

            You are right in a way on the betrayal thing. I’m sure some fans feel/felt that way, but I don’t think it is right for fans to feel that way. He was a free agent after all, coming of 4 good season with the Red Sox. They should be thankful for what he did there and not what he did after his contract was up. Why wasn’t Damon betrayed by the front office, which after all offered him less than the Yankees did? Or did not resign him while he was still part of the team. The problem is that many fans can not understand that these players don’t have the same affiliation with the team as they have. They are making business decisions and that is not a thing we as fans should condemn them for.

            Sure, the steriod relevations somewhat tarnish the 2004 WS, but you said “Further sullying Damon’s reputation was the Ortiz and Manny steroid scandal”, which is something totally different. If Damon himself was cheating, which he may or may not have been doing, that would have an effect on his reputation, but not what other players on that team did.

            Sorry, if I went a little bit Fire Joe Morgan on you in my last post.

            • mike HC

              Thats cool. My whole premise was that Damon was underappreciated for reasons other than his baseball talent. The main article was about why Damon is underappreciated and laid out why his numbers demanded him better treatment. I was just coming up with anecdotal reasons for why the fans aren’t in love with Damon, or why there is very little national attention for him, whether it is “fair” or not. I personally have tons of respect for Damon.

              • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

                As I said above, I don’t think he is underappreciated, but you are right on the point that he is not really loved in one city because he never was anywhere long enough. If he went to the HOF, which cap would he wear? Statistically, his best time was with the Yankees but he won a WS in Boston and played the most games with the Royals.

  • dkidd

    what about damon as the full-time dh next year? outfield is a rotation of melky/gardner/swisher/nady (hinske/hairston?)

    as a dh, damon could conceivably get to 3,000 hits as a yankee

    • whozat

      A) That’s a terrible outfield.
      B) you’re talking about committing 3 more years to Damon, so he can DH? Why? A milestone for a guy who’s been a Yankee for four years?

      • dkidd

        it’s not a terrible defensive outfield

        i wouldn’t sign damon for more than a year at a time, but if he keeps hitting as a dh, he conceivably stay here for 3-4 more years

        • whozat

          I didn’t say it was a terrible defensive outfield. However, hitting does, indeed, matter.

          However, expecting him to continue hitting at this season’s levels is unrealistic. And normal Johnny Damon isn’t really a DH-caliber hitter.

          • dkidd

            i’m assuming the options for dh next year are matsui/damon/rotating old guys

            i know it weakens the outfield offense, but i’d vote for damon

  • gxpanos

    You know what’s weird? Johnny’s only played in 2 postseason series with the Yanks. I’ve loved Johnny for four years, and I hope he can finally go deep with the Yanks this year.

    • AndrewYF

      How is that weird? This is his fourth year with the Yankees, and they missed the playoffs last year.

  • jew4jeter

    You think the Yanks should offer him arbitration this off season? Either he signs a one year deal or we get draft picks… Sounds like a win either way. Would he be a type A you think

    • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

      Yeas, he will probably be type A. And no, they should not offer him arbitration because he would probably accept. After getting $13M this year and considering the great year he is having, you could be looking at him getting $16M next year. That’s hardly a win as Damon is bordering atrocious as an outfielder and has a career year at 35, so he will probably be worse next year.

  • EB

    If i was Cash id offer 1/8M plus a club option @8M with a 2M buyout. Not sure anyone would give him more than 10M guaranteed at this stage.

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