If you had a chance to catch the Royals pre-game show last evening, former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery interviewed Tampa Bay outfielder/designated-hitter Johnny Damon who reflected back on his 17 seasons in major league baseball thus far. Damon, who is fifth on the active career hits list and 66th overall with 2,672 hits is closing in on the cusp of the immortal 3,000 hit plateau.
Barring injury and a sharp-decline, Damon should reach the mark if he plays two more full seasons in the big leagues. At age 37 and currently batting .280/.326/.421, he should be able to achieve the feat as his current numbers for this season aren't too far removed from his career averages.
To be honest I never considered Damon as Hall of Fame worthy until recently reflecting back on all that he has done. While never being a superstar player, Damon's value has been that of consistent staying power. The two-time All-Star has bounced around with six clubs during his career, but will likely be most remembered as winning a World Series title with both the Red Sox and Yankees, teams he spent a combined eight seasons playing for.
However, Damon got his career started with the Royals who selected him in the first round of the 1992 draft. He debuted with Kansas City in August of 1995 as a slick-fielding 21-year old playing the outfield. He went on to play 803 games for the Royals from '95 until his trade to Oakland after the 2000 season.
At times it seems that Damon is so far removed from his Royals career that it almost appears to be a dream, but he still leaves his mark in club history-
15th in total games played (803)
9th in runs scored (504)
11th in hits (894)
6th in triples (47)
7th in stolen bases (156)
The offense on the 2000 team was one of my favorite Royals teams to watch in recent memory, featuring the grouping of Mike Sweeney, Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye, and Damon. Even Mark Quinn hit 20 home runs and Joe Randa drove in 106 base runners that season. Damon's contribution was leading the American League in both runs scored and stolen bases while batting .327/.382/.495.
In reflecting upon that time in Kansas City, Damon told Montgomery that if he is fortunate enough to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he'd love to be enshrined as a member of the Kansas City Royals. As most of you are aware, on the plaque of the player that is inducted you are featured with a hat of one of the teams you played for. It may seem trivial, but it is a big deal in the baseball world.
As an example, last year Andre Dawson was enshrined in the Hall of Fame, wearing a Montreal Expos hat. At the time it raised a bit of controversy as Dawson is remembered by many for his time with the Cubs, notably his 1987 season when he was named Most Valuable Player after hitting 49 home runs and 37 RBI. However Dawson spent the first 11 years of his career in Montreal and the Hall of Fame decided he would forever be associated with the Expos.
If elected, players have no say about whom they enter the Hall of Fame as a member of. The more I think about it, should Damon be elected there is likely a good chance it will be as a member of the Kansas City Royals. His time spent with the Red Sox and the Yankees was four seasons each, and he experienced comparable success with each franchise. Thus the two teams more or less cancel each other out from the running. At that time you refer back to his original club, the Royals. He spent more time in Kansas City than he has with any other baseball team. Wade Boggs was in a similar situation, but he spent 11 years in Boston, while he only played five years for the Yankees. The choice was much easier.
Could a Hall of Fame player be enshrined as a Kansas City Royal without me hardly even noticing for the better part of a decade? Only time will tell, but I certainly hadn't thought about Damon being a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of the Royals until only recently. The more I let the thought stew in my brain, the more I am liking it as well.
Moving onto other subjects it was good to see Billy Butler hit his seventh home run of the season on Friday evening. Butler may not reach the 21 home runs he had in 2009, but he still such a valuable hitter and just 25-years old. While his slugging percentage has been reduced the past two seasons, his on base percentage has increased in both seasons after 2009. He has become a more well rounded hitter at the plate.
In 2009, Butler struck out 103 times while walking just 58 times for a 0.56 BB/K. He increased that mark to 0.88 in 2010 and is currently at 0.98 in 2011. In fact his contact percentage has increased in each the last two seasons as well.
Billy Butler will be fine and some of his skepticism in unwarranted as he already is in the Royals all-time top 20 in hits, doubles, home runs, and RBI. Again, remember Butler is just 25. He will be fine. Sure he will likely never be a designated-hitter that hits 30 home runs a season, but he is also a much better overall hitter than many of the swing for the fence designated-hitters you see out on the market.
I'd certainly take Butler's seven home runs over the nine home runs and .163/.291/.301 line of Adam Dunn. Not to mention Dunn strikes out 2.45 times for every one time that Butler strikes out.