Over the weekend, the New York Times asked Johnny Damon if he believes hes worthy of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Without hesitation, Damon said yes:
I think even if you look at my numbers now, he said, 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 Ive played in. Ive 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.
For what its worth, Damons currently 34th on the all-time runs list with 1647 tied with Cal Ripken Jr., and two behind Joe Morgan. Hes 43rd on the all-time doubles list with 517 13 more than Babe Ruth, only six fewer than Willie Mays, but for some perspective, also 44 behind Bobby Abreu.
Hes also second on the all-time naked clubhouse pull-up list with 1400, trailing only the late, great Nap Lajoie.
But more important than any of those stats, is this:
Damon only needs 270 more hits to reach 3,000, and if he can somehow hold on long enough to do it, hell be all but guaranteed a spot in Cooperstown. (There are 28 members of the 3,000-hit club, and only four arent in the Hall. Two Derek Jeter and Craig Biggio will be in there eventually. While the other two Rafael Palmeiro and Pete Rose are absent with extenuating circumstances.)
But while the debate over Damons Hall of Fame status will rage on well into his retirement, heres one thing I know for sure: At no point during his four seasons in Boston did I ever think I was watching a future Hall of Famer.
And neither did you.
But what about the guys who are here now?
Whos headed to the Hall?
Who might be?
The way I see it, there are six automatics:
1. Tom Brady: The only question is what he wears to the induction. Three-piece suit? Double breasted? Bright pink lapel or just regular pink? Guess it depends what theyre wearing in Milan.
2. Kevin Garnett: Im actually a little nervous for this speech which I imagine will conclude with KG morphing into a pterodactyl and flying off into the sunset, never to be seen again.
3. Paul Pierce: Of all the guys on the automatic list, Pierce is the leading candidate for mid-speech tears. Also, who presents him at the induction? Has to be a fellow Celtics legend, right? How about Havlicek? Or Bird? Probably not Rick Pitino.
4. Ray Allen: It will be Senator Allen by then. But hell be a Hall of Famer all the same.
5. Bill Belichick: How great would it be if Belichick takes a page out of MJs book, and just rips apart anyone who ever crossed him? Tom Jackson, Greg Easterbrook, Arlen Spector, Eric Mangini, Matt Walsh, Adalius Thomas theyre all torn to shreds! Would be classic, but its not happening. He probably wont even wear the sweatshirt.
6. Robert Kraft: Not sure when, but hell get in. And he deserves it.
After that, there are a few legit possibilities, but more than anything, a ton of speculation. Heres a look at a some of the other future HOF candidates, with the most likely guys at the top.
Vince Wilfork: Hes teetering on the edge of automatic, but isnt quite there. Theres no question that hes one of the defining nose tackles of his generation, but you cant ignore the fact that hes never been a First Team All-Pro (although he does have four second team appearances). He also only has one Super Bowl ring, which wont distinguish him much from the pack, but when its all said and done, I think Vince is headed to the Hall.
Zdeno Chara: His size made him an icon. His six All-Star appearances (and counting), five first- and second-team All-NHL nods (and counting), one Norris Trophy (and counting?) and, most importantly, one big fat Stanley Cup (oh please, for the love of God, and counting!), will likely get him in.
Tim Thomas: Thomas is one of 20 goalies to win multiple Vezina trophies. Of those 20, 15 are in the Hall of Fame, with Dominik Hasek and Martin Broudeur soon to make that 17. The entire body of work may not get Thomas over the hump, but his two historic seasons certainly throw him into the conversation. (And his distaste for the American government could very well help with Canadian voters).
Dustin Pedroia: Over his first two seasons, Pedroia won the Rookie of the Year, a World Series trophy and the AL MVP. And despite an injury-plagued 2010 season, hes just about kept up that Hall of Fame pace. The way he plays the game, and his overall reputation will help as well, but Pedeys got some work left. Will his body hold up over the long haul? That may be the biggest hurdle.
Rajon Rondo: Obviously, what happens once the Big Three era is ushered out will have everything to say about Rondo's Hall of Fame future, but at 26 years old, with a ring, an assist title, a steals title, three All Star games, two First team and two Second Team All-Defenses already under his belt, he's off to a solid start.
And it won't hurt when he goes on to win five titles as a head coach.
Doc Rivers: With every season, Rivers takes another step towards the upper echelon of NBA coaches, and after this season, you probably have to say he's there.
And the thing about Doc? He's still young for a coach. He's 12 years younger than Greg Popovich. 16 years younger than Phil Jackson. 75 years younger than Hubie Brown! He could conceivably coach for another 15 years.
It's hard to believe that he will especially when he's such a natural on TV but while Rivers' playing career fell short of Hall of Fame standards, his second life as a coach is beginning to reach unimaginable heights.
Wes Welker: This depends a lot on the long term deal, but lets say Welker who's still only 30; the same age as Andre Johnson plays four more seasons in New England. And if he's healthy, let's say he averages even 90 catches per season.
That puts him at 34 years old, and in the top 10 all-time with at least four Pro Bowls and at least two First Team All-Pros.
If he can grab a ring to boot . . .
Adrian Gonzalez: He has the talent. But does he understand the moment?
Jon Lester: There are only two pitchers in Major League history who were born after 1930 and have a better career winning percentage than Jon Lester. The first is Don Gullett who went 109-50 (.686) over nine years with the Red and Yankees, before retiring with shoulder problems at the age of 27. The other is a guy named Pedro Martinez, who went 219-100 over 18 seasons with the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies. Now obviously things arent trending in a great direction for Lester. Even if hes still a solid pitcher, hes clearly lost his rank among baseballs elite.
You know he has the stuff, and would like to think he has the mental make up to fight through this and pick up where he left of before everything hit the fan, but for now, his already unlikely Hall of Fame chances are barely visible.
David Ortiz: Hes had a few unbelievable seasons, and a handful of historic playoff moments, but the overall numbers arent up to par, and steroid rumors will haunt him moving forward.
Tyler Seguin: I didn't want to put him on here because it's waaaaay too early. But you see what he's doing at 20 years old and can't help but dream.
Rob Gronkowski: Same deal as Seguin. So much potenital, but still so much left to accomplish.
At this point, Seguin and Gronk are just as likely to appear in the same leaked sex tape, as they are to both head to the Hall.
Josh Beckett: When you win a World Series MVP at 23, and serve as the undisputed ace on another champ four years later, youre certainly on the road to Cooperstown. Then again, when you win 20 games only once in your career, have a sub-3.00 ERA only once, pitch more than 200 innings only three times and also happen to be almost universally perceived as an enormous a-hole, the road gets a little cloudy and you eventually drive off a cliff.