Johnny Damon: Underrated or Forgettable Star?

Much of the focus this past week was devoted to Derek Jeter, who homered off of David Price on Saturday to become just the 28th player in major league history to record 3,000 hits. The attention was well deserved, as this was a monumental feat worthy of celebration. When the on-field festivities subsided, however, I couldn’t help but hearken to an earlier article about milestones that buck the Hall of Fame tradition.

No, this has nothing to do with Jeter, who was a first ballot Hall of Famer even if he ended his career at 2,999 like Stan Ross, but rather a current member of the Rays who was in attendance this weekend: Johnny Damon.

Damon has 92 hits this season and is projected to finish with 155, putting him right in line with his totals over the last several seasons. Finishing with 155 hits would also push his career tally to 2,726. Assuming he falls somewhere in the vicinity of that projection, wouldn’t it seem like the 37-year old Damon is a virtual lock for 3,000 hits? He would have to decide to stick around for at least another two seasons, and find an American League team in need of a designated hitter and occasional left fielder, but neither of those caveats seems far-fetched.

Damon has averaged around 150 hits/yr since 2007. With 2,726 entering next season, he would only need to average 137 hits for two seasons, or 91 hits for three seasons. Sure, injuries could derail his pursuit, but I find it difficult to argue that he couldn’t average 90-100 hits from 2012-14, hanging up his cleats as the 30th member of the 3,000 hits club (Alex Rodriguez will get there sooner).

If he gets to that plateau, either his induction into the Hall of Fame becomes automatic, or the milestone itself is cheapened. Given that he would be the 30th person ever to achieve what is considered to be a holy grail of baseball accomplishments, the former scenario seems much more likely than the latter. Yet, Damon has never felt like a Hall of Fame player. He has barely even felt like a superstar. How is it possible that someone with a high probability of getting 3,000+ hits in his career, who won’t have played 25+ seasons like, say, Nolan Ryan or Jamie Moyer, has had such a relatively forgettable career?

Back in April, Matt Klaasen wrote of Damon’s chances of getting into Cooperstown, calling them slim on the basis that he was outperformed by Andre Dawson both in career and peak wins above replacement. You might recall that, while Dawson’s induction wasn’t as criticized as that of Jim Rice, it was still much debatable.

The numbers between Dawson and Damon aren’t even close, and they still won’t be if Damon plays three more seasons and gets his 3,000th hit. Dawson finished with 62.3 WAR while Damon currently stands at 45.5. Add another six wins above replacement from here until the end of the 2014 season and there is still a rather large difference between the two. Obviously having 3,000 hits gives Damon a huge advantage, but the point remains that his candidacy is likely to come under scrutiny even with one of the rarest career accomplishments in baseball under his belt. Of everyone with 3,000 hits, he would have the worst career numbers, and his resume sans milestone pales in comparison to others at his position.

On the other side of the spectrum, he will finish his career with some solid counting stats. He will likely end up with totals around 250 HR, 400 SB, 1,900 runs, 1,200 RBIs. Damon is the perfect example of someone who has been good for a long time, but never truly great. His decline phase has seen him range from 2.4-3.7 WAR, and in his peak he vacillated between below average and all-star levels. His career has been impressive on the whole, but without the milestone his candidacy is barely worthy of a debate. The milestone itself shouldn”t trigger the election, but it’s also rare for someone to achieve an historic career feat and not have a somewhat worthy body of work.

My prior article on milestones that might not automatically trigger a Hall of Fame election was framed around the likelihood that Paul Konerko reaches 500 home runs. But HR-centric milestones have been cheapened in perception lately given the steroids cloud that looms over the game. Achieving 3,000 hits isn’t generally associated with performance enhancing drugs so one could reason that it is the most impressive career hitting accomplishment.

If Damon sustains his current pace and finds work — which will be easy if he does sustain his current pace — 3,000 hits is much in play, and it will be interesting to see how that narrative plays out. Then again, players his age can fall off of a cliff rather quickly, and a few months of poor production could lead teams to shy away from giving him major league offers, especially with his defensive limitations.

Johnny Damon has had a good career, but not one worthy of a Hall of Fame induction. It will be absolutely fascinating to follow his candidacy if he reaches 3,000 hits.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

96 Responses to “Johnny Damon: Underrated or Forgettable Star?”

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  1. zsmyles says:

    i think for this generation of players especially, it’ll take more than shear numbers to get elected. You’re right that Damon doesn’t have the glamour of a HOF player and I don’t think I’d vote him in either, even with 3,000 hits (if he makes it). He’d make it to the ‘Hall of Pretty Good’ though

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    • Remy says:

      I’ve recently become somewhat agnostic about what qualifies for the HOF, but one thing I’ve disallowed over the last few years is this “Hall of Pretty Good” comment. It isn’t the Hall of Great either, it’s the Hall of Fame and the last time I checked Paris Hilton is famous and her stats are terrible.

      I’m not saying Damon should be in, but I am reevaluating what it means to make the Hall.

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    • JimNYC says:

      One thing that nobody seems to bring up about Damon whenever this 3000 hits discussion comes up is that he is a truly “famous” player, and it is, after all, the Hall of “Fame.” Dizzy Dean barely managed to scrape in on the 10 year career minimum, and he really only had three or four truly great years, but, at his peak, he was probably the most “famous” pitcher of all time — hence the induction.

      Johnny Damon’s long hair and beard and grand slam in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS are some of the most memorable things about the Red Sox team that broke the curse. He was an integral part of World Series champions on the two teams that are the most “famous” in baseball. Little old ladies in Connecticut who have never heard of Albert Pujols know who Johnny Damon is.

      He would be, by far, the worst member of the 3000 hit club — even Lou Brock is worlds ahead of him. But as far as “fame” and name recognition go (even accounting for era), he’s far more memorable than far better 3000 hit men Robin Yount, Craig Biggio, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, or Eddie Murray. And that can go a long way in getting you into the Hall of Fame.

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      • Jason B says:

        “And that can go a long way in getting you into the Hall of Fame.”

        Let’s hope not – otherwise we *definitely* need to make room for Canseco, probably guys like Bernie Williams and Chuckie Knoblauch (so many rings! and yankees no less!), Eddie Gaedel, etc.

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      • TK says:

        I mean, seriously, if this is the best argument for his induction, he obviously doesn’t deserve it.

        And I’d beg to differ that any of those players are less memorable to a casual baseball fan than Damon. I’m not sure who the Hall of Fame is for, but I’m pretty sure it’s not for little old Ladies in Connecticut who think Johnny Damon has a cute ass.

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  2. Dan in Philly says:

    I agree, this is a great article, anticipating the upcoming debates sure to follow Damon’s remaining career. Is it old school to support 3,000 no matter what? There’s been some talk about sabermetrics getting folks into the HOF, will Damon be the first kept out by them?

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    • Small Sample Goodness says:

      No, it isn’t old school to support an arbitrary milestone.

      It’s just stupid.

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    • JimNYC says:

      This argument would have been had decades ago if Connie Mack hadn’t been devoted to keeping Bing Miller in the lineup. If Doc Cramer, a truly terrible player, had somehow gotten a starting gig earlier than age 27, he would have easily gotten to 3000 hits, and the milestoine might never have been such a huge deal.

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  3. Ian R. says:

    As much as we like to glamorize the big milestones like 3,000 hits, it’s easy to forget that the standards for automatic HoF induction have changed over time. It used to be that everyone with at least 2,800 hits was in… along came Harold Baines, who demonstrated that you don’t have to be a legend to accumulate big counting numbers. Dave Kingman did the same thing for 400 homers, which also used to be an automatic benchmark.

    Rafael Palmeiro cleared BOTH of the big benchmarks (500 HR and 3000 H) and he’ll never sniff the Hall. That’s partly because of steroids, but also because Palmeiro accumulated those counting numbers without a Hall of Fame caliber peak. Even without the ‘roid issue, people would’ve questioned his candidacy. If Damon gets to 3,000, that will be the last nail in the coffin for that particular benchmark.

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    • Robbie G. says:

      I’d say that Rafael Palmeiro was a total lock for the Hall of Fame prior to the steroids confirmation. And the way the steroids confirmation played itself out, obviously, for Mr. Palmeiro.

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      • Bronnt says:

        Yeah, his 74.3 career WAR was certainly above current Hall standards. Being very pointed about having never taken steroids and then failing a test like, seriously the next week, that killed him. Now he’s almost a forgotten star.

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      • Eminor3rd says:

        Agreed

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      • tristram says:

        Also agree that Palmeiro has been a no-brainer HOFer for years even before he hit the milestones. He must be a real a-hole because his stats are as solid as they come but he doesn’t seem to get a lot of respect.

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    • AA says:

      There is no question Palmeiro would have been in, but for the steroid issue. He was highly underrated for years, then overrated by “insiders” to the point that he got that laughable Gold Glove when he played only 28 games at 1B (he DID deserve his early career reputation as a great fielder). He even followed a somewhat normal aging curve, starting slow, having an elite peak and tapering off. He could have flown under the radar if he hadn’t done the big finger wag.

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    • Eric R says:

      ” It used to be that everyone with at least 2,800 hits was in… ”

      Here are the players who finished their careers with 2800+ hits but less than 3000.

      Name Hits FinalYr
      Jesse Burkett 2850 1905 [4x loser by BBWAA].
      Jake Beckley 2930 1907 [1x loser by BBWAA]
      Willie Keeler 2932 1920 [Got in on his 4th ballot]
      Sam Crawford 2961 1917 [overlooked 6x from BBWAA, got in with vets]
      Zach Wheat 2884 1927 [overlooked 15x from BBWAA, got in with vets]
      George Sisler 2812 1930 [Got in on his 4th ballot]
      Sam Rice 2987 1934 [overlooked 13x from BBWAA, got in with vets]
      Babe Ruth 2873 1935 [Got in on his first try]
      Rogers Hornsby 2930 1937 [Got in on his 5th ballot]
      Frankie Frisch 2880 1937 [Got in on his 5th ballot]
      Charlie Gehringer 2839 1942 [Got in on his 5th ballot]
      Al Simmons 2927 1944 [Got in on his 8th ballot]
      Mel Ott 2876 1947 [Got in on his 3rd ballot]
      Frank Robinson 2943 1976 [Got in on his first try]
      Brooks Robinson 2848 1977 [Got in on his first try]
      Harold Baines 2866 2001 [going onto his sixth ballot]

      So, only 3 of 15 2800-2999 hit players were first ballot HoFers and I’d have to guess with Ruth and Frank Robinson it wasn’t about 2800+ hits bu their huge HR totals. Ruth obviously was #1 all-time at the time he retired- Robinson was 4th all-time [and kept that spot for 25 years]. Brooks was also pretty widely considered among the best defensive players all time.

      I think the bottom of the line is that Baines was much closer to the guys who never got in [or barely got in] than those that got in somewhat easily.

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      • JimNYC says:

        2800 hits was never any kind of a milestone. Looking at that list above, it appears that the only one who needed that many hits to be inducted into the Hall of Fame was Jake Beckley (unless there’s some special reason for his induction that I’m completely unaware of, since he was a good but relatively undistinguished player). Everybody else on there seems to either be a no-doubt Hall of Famer (the worst is probably Zach Wheat, who was the best player in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers before the War), or is Harold Baines.

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      • Jason B says:

        All kinds of ridicuous that Hornsby went in on his 5th try. I dunno if there was some kind of cap or limit on the number of inductions in the early years, but still…

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  4. Jeff says:

    I agree with most of the points made in the article, but I have to quibble with two of them. First, Damon getting 3,000 hits & not entering the Hall of Fame won’t “cheapen” the achievement. The round-number thing is not all that important in the first place, and I would argue that demystifying the 3,000 or 500 or 300 would make evaluating the game & players much easier. What I mean here is that the achievement has been glorified far more than it should be already. Undoubtedly you have to be good to get to 3,000, but as Joe Pos wrote recently, many of the game’s best players never got to 3K. If you walk a lot, for instance, it’s harder. What Damon getting to 3K and not getting in might do is put the total in proper perspective.
    Second, I’m not sure 3K is a holy-grail level thing. Yount isn’t baseball royalty; neither is Molitor or Eddie Murray, and they’re all at that level. For a long time, 500 HR was closer, as was 60 HR/season. It’s the Grail if you’re Derek Jeter, because god knows we all needed a reason to finally recognize his greatness (ahem). While it’s undoubtedly impressive and a sign that you’ve been good for a really long time, neither Ted Williams nor Babe Ruth got there, nor did some of the other greatest-player-at-their-position types (see http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2011/07/14-crazy-baseball-facts.html). Johnny Damon, like Palmeiro, Sheffield, and the other 500 HR types who will have a hard time getting inducted (steroid issues aside), prove that round numbers simply aren’t that viable as a measuring stick.
    Thanks for an interesting post, though.

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    • Bronnt says:

      All three of those players you named-Yount, Molitor, and Murray-were a hell of a lot better players than Johnny Damon. The fact that you’re forced to compare Damon to them is the entire point of this article-he’s threatening to become the worst member of the 3,000 hit club.

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    • AA says:

      Yount, Molitor and Murray are all “baseball royalty.” Yount was an absolute superstar who gets fawned over to this day. Molitor was the “scrappy” player who actually had ridiculous talent, World Series hero and got tons of press despite playing in two small markets and Canada. I don’t know if you remember this, but it was a huge deal when The Ignitor hit a triple for his 3000th hit playing for his hometown team.

      As for Murray, you are kidding, right? He’s 3000/500, was as renowned for his consistency as his dominance (Steady Eddie), won a ROTY and played a huge part in the resurgence of the formerly dead weight Cleveland Indians. For those watching around that time, Murray was often lauded by announcers more than Prime Belle, Young Thome and Young Manny were.

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      • Arthur Xavier Corvelay says:

        They are high nobility, like a duke or something, but they are not true royalty such as Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Williams etc. If you had a debate about the top 15 players of all time I doubt anyone would seriously throw Molitor’s name into the conversation.

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      • Bronnt says:

        Okay, if we’re talking about the greatest of all time, a very large number of the members of the HOF never get mentioned. They’re still great, great players. Johnny Damon is not.

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      • JimNYC says:

        Ruth, Cobb, Mays, Hornsby, Gehrig, Wagner, Speaker, Williams, Mantle, Joe Jackson, Lajoie, Musial, Collins, Berra, Bench. Not sure where Oscar Charleston or Josh Gibson would fit in there. Some people might put Hank Aaron in the top 15, but I can’t see saying that he’s better than Bench or Berra. Impossible to rank pitchers against position players.

        Being “baseball royalty” doesn’t just apply to players in the top 15.

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      • test says:

        I love when a top 15 player in the history of baseball list doesn’t include a single player active in the last 30 years. Only in baseball does the conversation start with the assumption the old guys were better.

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      • AJS says:

        @Test: This is definitely not only the case in baseball. Have you ever looked at a list of greatest musicians of all-time? It’s like the past 10 years didn’t even happen.

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  5. Jeff says:

    Ian R. hit on many of my points and got his post in before me. Apologies for repetitions.

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  6. maguro says:

    Damon is basically the Don Sutton of position players and, like Sutton, I would expect him to be elected if he reaches his big milestone.

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    • fjrobinson44 says:

      Pretty good call there. I wasn’t sure where you were going with this at first, but I think I see it. They both have/may have the counting stats (300 W, 3k hits) and are/were close in the +/- stats (92 ERA -, 109 wRC+).

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      • Bronnt says:

        Don Sutton is what BBWAA voters accuse Bert Blyleven of being.

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      • AA says:

        Blyleven wasn’t a counting stat guy (other than all those Ks), he was a dominance guy. One who played on a lot of bad teams.

        Sutton hit the magic 300 wins, but racked up wins in large part because he played on Dodger teams that were always in contention. He amassed just over half the WAR of Blyleven.

        That said, I don’t argue against Sutton being in for various reasons – but there is zero comparison to Blyleven.

        As for comparing Damon to Sutton, its not a bad one. And, while I’m not a “big hall” guy, I do think that longevity and consistency mean something and should put the relatively few guys who can pull a career like Damon or Sutton have/had off in.

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      • Bronnt says:

        I’m not exactly comparing Sutton to Blyleven…except that I’ve heard people accuse Blyleven of being an “accumulator,” while Sutton more aptly fits that description with his holy grail of counting stats. He just hung around long enough and played on good enough teams to earn those wins. Clearly, if I were building a rotation of the best pitchers in the late seventies-early eighties, I’d easily take Blyleven.

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  7. Devon Young says:

    Has anyone in the past 70 years with 3000 hits, not been a 1st ballot HOFer?

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    • DD says:

      Palmeiro.

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      • AA says:

        And he hit 3000/500. Its kind of a joke, really.

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      • JimNYC says:

        Joke? Nobody else in the 3K hits club tested positive for steroids — and as far as I’m aware, the only other 3K hit member who’s even had a whiff of a steroid allegation around him is Rickey Henderson, and people have kept those rumors extremely circumspect.

        In answer to your question about not being 1st balloters in the last 70 years: Paul Waner is the only one.

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  8. J.E. says:

    When one walks around in the actual Hall of Fame, one is quickly struck by how many “forgettable” players have been enshrined. Arky Vaughan may have been a statistically outstanding player, but he had a short career in an offense-happy era on a team that was generally happy to finish second. Many years after his early death, his memory was preserved by the Veterans Committee.

    The Hall of Fame exists, to a large extent, to help these one-time stars of the game stay remembered. Johnny Damon, on the other hand, was maybe the face of the team that broke the Red Sox’ WS curse and then was the player who turned the tide in the 2009 WS with his baserunning (and Phillies’ blundering). I’ll bet Johnny Damon will be remembered by more people 30 years after he retired than poor Arky Vaughan ever was, HOF or not. Although Johnny Damon may have a forgettable WAR, WAR isn’t what makes players memorable. Not only do I not see how forgettability is a factor in HOF-worthiness, I don’t see why Johnny Damon would be forgotten.

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    • Ray says:

      I don’t disagree with your larger point but calling Damon “maybe the face of the team that broke the Red Sox’ WS curse” is a stretch. Cult hero–to a degree–in Boston for his beard (WWJDD) and the general ‘idiots’ mentality? Sure, absolutely. But the stars of the team were Manny, Ortiz, Pedro and Schilling. The true cult hero was and is Dave Roberts. And the ‘face’, if you will, is Millar–for the Cowboy Up crap, his ‘don’t let us win this one game’ stuff in game 4 against the Yankees and the whiskey. Fans will certainly remember Damon as a big peice to that team and one of the guys who game the team so much color…but he doesn’t deserve the label of ‘face’ of that team.

      RE: your larger point, it’s absolutely true. To me, though, the HoF should be working to keep the Damon/Vaughn type guys out–I want to see inner-circle greats and generational greats in the Hall, I think players of Damon’s talent level should be commended for a great career, but not enshrined for their contributions.

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      • Hone says:

        What the hell is a Damon/Vaughn type guy? Arky Vaughan is absolutely a deserving HOFer and one of the greatest SS of all time. Damon is probably not even a top 100 outfielder of all time.

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    • Small Sample Goodness says:

      I’m with Ray. Damon is, at best, only 5th or 6th on the list of memorables for that team. Certainly no where near the face of the franchise.

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    • Matt says:

      Arky Vaughan — arguably the Veteran Committee’s finest work.

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      • JimNYC says:

        Richard Ashburn — the same exact player as Willie Mays, except without the home runs — would like to have a word with you.

        Also: Sam Rice, who almost certainly would be baseball’s all time hits leader if his entire family hadn’t been killed in a tornado.

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      • Matt says:

        Jim, 631 home runs would like to have a word with your brain.

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  9. delv says:

    Commenters above have made good points, but there’s also the issue of the “archetypal lead-off man” that makes this complicated. For most of his career, Damon was probably top-3 most in-demand among lead-off hitters. If teams were looking for a LeadOff guy, Johnny was one of the “best.” What complicates things though is that the archetypal leadoff guy isn’t actually inherently so valuable to a team’s success at all, despite the figurative high market price they may have. On the flip side, this is also why Rickey Henderson is still so underrated. His merit as a baseball-history figure is as a leadoff guy—and the leadoff guy has pretty delimited and restricted value in the baseballman’s mind. He’s not more valuable than a 3 hitter, but he’s also often not even as good a hitter as the #6 guy. There’s this strange mixed and simultaneous mainstream overvaluation AND undervaluation of the guy who usually happens to lead off a time’s batting order.

    A couple of years ago, Boras described Damon as “like Jeter” (presumably in regards to their value at the top of the lineup). One can understand how the two can be conflated, but also how the gap between the two players is immense.

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    • tristram says:

      I look hard at how he compares to other leadoff type hitters. He ranks 7th on my list from players from say 96-08. What I do is compare players peak 10 year periods and of course there is some subjectivity in all this but the players ahead of him in order are:

      Abreu
      Jeter
      Ichiro
      Bernie Williams
      Jason Kendall
      Luis Castillo

      Some would argue Abreu and Williams shouldn’t be compared to leadoff type hitters and of course there are many more that would be higher if we go back say another 15 or 20 years. Guys like Biggio, Alomar, Knoblauch and Lofton I have in the prior period which was somewhat a golden age of leadoff hitters.

      Anyway Damon doesn’t even rate as an elite leadoff hitter in his time which I think most of us agree. I however still would support him getting in the HOF if he can keep up his current production for 2 1/2 more seasons. I like players that can be consistently good for a couple decades or more. I will also support Moyer getting in if he can pitch(good enough to earn his keep) into his 50s or if Julio Franco can un-retire and play till he is 60. These milestones like 300 wins and 3000 hits have held up for a hundred years or so for good reason.

      Damon is the most consistently good player I’m aware of as he has had very few peaks and valleys in his very long career. An interesting case for sure.

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      • delv says:

        Abreu batted 3rd for the majority of his career, and Bernie 4th for the plurality of his.

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      • tristram says:

        Do you know of a website(like baseball-reference) that has this information compiled even if it is just approximate. I was fairly confident Abreu has been used mostly as a core hitter but I thought Bernie would be close to 50/50 at least because I thought he was a #2 guy most of his career. Thanks for the help.

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      • Trotter76 says:

        Damon’s impressive hit total isn’t just a testament to his longetivity, but also to his durability. He has played at least 140 games every season since his first full year in 1996, mostly in the outfield until his move to the Tigers in 2010. While staying on the field is not in and of itself a HoF credential, it is pretty impressive to be there almost every day for 16 years now.

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      • delv says:

        tristram: baseball-ref does have that information. I went to, Bernie’s page, then “splits” (career splits), then scrolled down to “batting order.”

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      • tristram says:

        Thanks again delv, that batting order info will be useful. As of now I still consider both Williams and Abreu ‘leadoff types’. It gets right to the point you made in your original comment and is important when evaluating Damon’s career.

        Would Abreu have more hits than Damon(or will he at their career ends) if he hit 1 or 2 more of his career? What about if Abreu wasn’t so good at talking a walk? I don’t want Damon to make the HOF only because he was a lousy core hitter. I don’t want Abreu to not make the HOF because he was the best overall hitter on some teams and batted third when he was capable of putting up huge leadoff numbers.

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      • Jason B says:

        Jason Kendall?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

        That is all.

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      • tristram says:

        From 97-06 Kendall had a 381 OBA and averaged 15 SB and 80 runs a year. He also had the best BB/SO ratio of the seven listed.

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      • Jason B says:

        I guess it’s easy to forget that he was, at one time, an actual ML-caliber player given his atrociousness over the last five years or so.

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  10. Dan says:

    My issue with this debate is that right now, Johnny Damon is not a hall of famer. But what about when he retires and the talk changes to who his stats compare to? If he’s more like Jose Cruz, no he’s not in. But if he’s more like Molitor and Lou Brock then he should be. One argument I heard about Johnny Damon not getting in is by two sports announcers arguing that he never was a top 10 MVP candidate in any season. This is hypocrisy at its best as these same announcers probably had no problem bashing the likes of Brady Anderson, Giambi, A-Rod, McGwire and Palmiero who loaded up their stats on roids and got the MVP votes while leadoff hitter Damon gets overlooked.

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  11. CircleChange11 says:

    Forgettable Star.

    He’s a star, right?

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  12. Bronnt says:

    Yeah, it’s interesting that Damon could potentially reach 3,000 hits while achieving less than 50 WAR. A big part of that is of course going to be that he’s been a below average defensive player, but guys who get 3,000 hits tend to be really exceptional hitters. Johnny Damon’s main asset is that he averaged over 700 PAs for an 8 season stretch. Not many guys even in the 3,000 hit club have done that.

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  13. shibboleth says:

    He’s done good for someone who started his career in Kansas City and Oakland. Imagine the perception if he didn’t bookend his career with small fry markets?

    He’s a classy team player — anyone see him try to get the Rays bench to stand up and applaud Jeter? — and while I believe his best bet for getting into the Hall will be the veterans committee, he’s someone that made the game better during his time on the field. He’ll be remembered for sure, even if it doesn’t come to pass in Cooperstown.

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  14. Paul says:

    While reading this, a thought occurred to me – how does Damon stack up to Raines? ‘cos Rock (or Edgar) are the next BB campaign candidates (not that I’m against either), but it’s hard to take a position that Raines is in while Damon is outside.

    Now Raines is obviously the superior player, higher OBP, SB efficiency, DEF value etc…but Damon is going to have the better counting stats, which probably count more in the voters minds.

    Assuming that he gets to 3K hits, he will have 1800 Runs, 1200 RBI, over 4000 times on base, these are pretty amazing top 50 and better all time numbers.

    Now WAR doesn’t like him, but a fair amount of that is defense, which is a negligible input into most current HoF voters, it also must be stated that Damon played in the ‘roid era, pushing up offence across the board, assuming he is/was clean, then he offensive output is unfairly diminished due to being compared against others.

    Also has rings with the 2 most famous clubs, generally known as a great guy, i wouldn’t be surprised at all if he gets to the HoF – he does need the 3000 though to be a serious candidate.

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    • test says:

      1200 RBI isn’t top 50…but I know what you mean there. And it’s not hard to take a position that Raines is in while Damon is out, given that as you say, Raines is obviously superior. It might not be the position taken by a lot of voters, but it is an easy position to take.

      WAR doesn’t dislike the defense, he just doesn’t get extra credit for playing good defense, which seems to be fair to him (no one thinks he was great).

      Also, why would we assume Damon was clean? He played on a championship team full of noted cheaters, and his Oakland team and his Yankee teams aren’t exactly poster children for no PED use. Of course, this can be said of every player in the era, essentially, but I can’t see a bonus for Damon here.

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  15. JKB says:

    As a Rays fan I consider Damon the only big name Free Agent DH/OF acquisition that has ever worked out for the “new era” (not Devil) Rays. The simple fact that Damon is not Pat Burrell or Manny Rameriz makes him a lock for the Rays HOF. Andrew Freedman owes him a lot for preserving his reputation in that respect, hopefully they bring him back again next year after they unload B. J. Upton.

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    • BG says:

      I’ll never forget Damon just because I really thought the Devil Rays got the best of the great trade of Damon + Lidle + Ellis to OAK / Hernandez and Berroa to KC / Ben Grieve to TBD.

      A friend told me that only an idiot who knew nothing about baseball would hold this opinion since it was obvious the A’s won the trade.

      I told him that Grieve was still under team control, looked like a great young hitter with power (40 2B, 27 HR, .279 avg, 73 bbs) and had the best pedigree (#2 overall draft, former BA #1 overall prospect, RoY).

      He told me that Damon was the better all-around OF, was the better hitter (.327/.382/.495), would be a better hitter going forward and that the prospect the A’s got looked pretty good too. (He was mistaken think the A’s would extend Damon, but Getting Nick Swisher and Mark Teahen as draft pick compensation would have made up for that, I’m sure.)

      Holy cow, was he right or what?

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  16. Evan says:

    I sure hope Damon doesn’t make it into the Hall. He’s a pretty good player, but it’s just wrong that he may end up along the likes of Ruth, Williams, Mays, etc.

    Here’s a few statistical reasons why he shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer, even if he does get 3,000 hits: He has never been worth more than 4.6 wins in any given year, and his wOBA has never been higher than .386. His .328 career OBP isn’t exactly stellar, either.

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    • marlu says:

      Damon’s career OBP is .354 (not .328).

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    • NEPP says:

      Or all-time greats like Sutton, Rice, Dawson, Carter, any of those Yankees veteran committee picks before they fixed that system, etc etc.

      There’s a clear understanding of the difference between inner-circle guys like Ruth, Mays, Schmidt, Mantle, Williams and guys like the ones listed.

      That said, Damon feels borderline at best.

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      • JimNYC says:

        Yankees VC picks? Lefty Gomez and Herb Pennock might not be Hall of Fame worthy, but if you’re looking for problem Hall of Famers from the VC, the place to start and end your search is the whole wing of the Hall of Fame devoted to “everybody who used to play with / was friends with Frankie Frisch.”

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      • Billy S. says:

        Me and my buddy House are gonna write a 56,000 word article, later to be turned into an 800-page book, with a Baseball HOF pyramid!!

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  17. dangnewt says:

    I’ll echo JE, shibboleth and Paul – Damon is/was a great player who made the teams he was on better. He had that something extra that makes him memorable even when the stats are less-than-a-lock. I would vote him in now but I agree that it may take the 3,000 hits to actually put him in.

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  18. JKB says:

    Damon’s quote in the St. Petersburg Times on July 7 about going on the DL pretty much says it all:

    “No chance. I can’t. If I go on the DL, my career is close to being over.”

    He knows the clock is ticking and he needs to keep up the hit per game pace to get there. He misses 15 games right now he’s 15 more games away from the HOF. That’s one reason I’ve got him on my Fantasy team this year, every month is a contract month for him. He can’t afford a prolonged slump & his eyes are on a bigger goal.

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  19. dte421 says:

    It’s interesting, because I had this same conversation regarding Craig Biggio. Even with 70.5 career WAR, Biggio to me is simply not a Hall of Famer. (that’s a debate for another day.) Damon isn’t even in the Hall of the Very Good to me. At no point in his career was he even the best player on his own team, nevermind one of the elite in the game, and that was even in his Royals days. He’s a guy who made the most out of an incredible number of plate appearances per year with great baserunning skills, who by the middle of his career was a below average to atrocious defensive player. I can’t remember a single time watching Damon play the OF for the Red Sox and the Yankees that a running didn’t go from first to third on a single hit right at Damon. I also used to love guys scoring sac flies on him on 220 foot “fly balls”.

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    • Ray says:

      I don’t know…1999 and 2000 you don’t think he was better than Dye/ Beltran/Sweeney? If nothing else he had the highest WAR on the team in those seasons (tied w/ Beltran in 1999, and he led the team in 2000).

      But yea, that throwing arm was atrocious. One of the worst baseball plays I’ve ever seen was the Damon-to-Manny cutoff. Just an awful play, by a guy who looks like he’s throwing with his wrong arm and a complete space-shot.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0wkYbpEEuo&feature=related

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    • Robbie G. says:

      I, for one, will be shocked if Craig Biggio doesn’t get voted in on the first or second ballot. Probably the first ballot.

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      • Jason B says:

        Yeah, I’m not sure that people really understand or appreciate that offensive expectations from a 2B are markedly different from those of a 1B or RF.

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  20. Brian says:

    Here’s something I don’t really understand:

    If batting average is a useless stat to sabermetrics people, then shouldn’t hits be also? And if hits is a useless stat, then why would we care about 3,000 hits? Wouldn’t that be like celebrating 1500 RBI’s or 300 wins?

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  21. kid says:

    No Hall for Damon. The statistical milestones will speak to both his longevity and overall productivity as a player, but he doesn’t have a single “wow” season, nor was he ever considered one of the top-3 players on any team on which he played. Good player. Consistent player. Useful player. But will we revere Johnny Damon 20 years from now? No way.

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  22. Robbie G. says:

    Like it or not, Johnny Damon is going to get voted into the Hall of Fame if he reaches the 3,000 career hits milestone. That is just an automatic unless your name is Pete Rose or Rafael Palmeiro.

    Damon was a key member of that beloved Red Sox World Series champion that came back from that 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees. That team is already beloved; just wait 5-10 years, it’s only going to become more beloved. That is only one of many intangible factors that Damon has going his way. Damon has virtually every single possible intangible factor working in his favor. Good interview, perceived as a genuine guy, perceived as a player who genuinely “loved the game,” perceived as a “winner,” durable as hell, perceived as “scrappy.” The HOF voters are ultimately human beings whose decision making process is flawed, at best. If Damon had Albert Belle’s personality or Andruw Jones’ work ethic, HOF voters would be looking for excuses to not vote for him; however, since Damon is who he is, and since voters love this guy, voters will be looking for reasons TO vote for him, and 3,000 career hits is the only reason they’re really going to need.

    Also, Damon may be perceived as the antithesis of the 1990s/early 2000s steroid-using muscles-in-his-face mega home run hitter, which is yet another intangible factor in his favor.

    You guys can rattle off all of the reasons why Damon shouldn’t get in, and I pretty much am agreeing with you. My only point is that there is a) what should happen and b) what will happen. And if Damon gets to 3,000, he IS going to get in.

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  23. Dan says:

    If Damon has 3,000 hits to go along with jacking a grand slam into Yankee Stadium upper deck Game 7 2004 ALCS and a double steal in the 2009 WS. Career hits as well as big time playoff hits and plays could get him in.

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  24. Rudy Gamble says:

    I can see making an argument that Johnny Damon > Brett Butler based on longevity but he should be behind Raines and Lofton for HOF membership. And I don’t see Lofton ever getting in. I’m sure his legacy would’ve been better off if he had been with the Indians those past 6 years instead of getting passed around like a bong (despite putting up fairly good stats). If only Minaya didn’t gift wrap Sizemore to the Indians….

    http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?playerid2=185&playerid3=1406&playerid4=1001772&playerid5=246

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    • Robbie G. says:

      One has to think that Tim Raines gets in, sooner or later, presumably in the next 3-4 years. Raines has enormous support from the stat geek community, and that support gets louder each year. We saw what years of outspoken support from the stat geek community did for Bert Blyleven, it put him over the top, although it took longer than it should’ve.

      As for Kenny Lofton, well, you make a good point here, and my guess is that Damon’s election would create more support for Lofton’s candidacy (“Damon wasn’t the player that Lofton was blah blah blah”) than presently exists. Brett Butler, though, I don’t see that happening, although he certainly had a nice and mostly overlooked career.

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      • Rudy Gamble says:

        Hopefully, that’s the case with Raines. I think he’ll make the HOF.

        The push for Lofton may only happen after Raines gets in. A Lofton vs. Damon debate would be an interesting one. I feel like Lofton will be credited with having a better peak but Damon would win on counting stats, perceived consistency, perceived intangibles, rings, and being less of a transient (despite the fact he’s on his 6th team). I say perceived consistency since Lofton has more seasons of 2+, 3+, 4+, and 5+ WAR.

        I agree that Butler is below the HOF cutoff – I find he’s a good starting point when thinking about leadoff hitter types over the past 30 years (and agree he was mostly overlooked).

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      • Paul says:

        I want Raines to get in…but if SABR community is pushing for a Y for Raines, and a N for Damon, I don’t quite see how it is possible to make an argument that will persuade the still mostly old school voters.

        Raines is a fantastic short peak, long time still useful, lowish hits because he walked a lot, but still was on base 4Kish times, great OBP% & SB% effeciency guy, but no milestones, rec drugs taint

        If Damon gets to 3K, he will have that milestone, more times on base than Raines albeit at a lower OBP, huge R tally, good power numbers from a leadoff type guy, ++intangibles (WS winner, good guy, media love him, BOS/NY winner)

        Basically the ‘knocks’ on Damon (DEF, non-elite OBP) – which lower his WAR – the ‘present’ voters don’t care about – which is why i think citing WAR for Damon is an exercise in futility – and may have the opposite view of devaluing a useful value stat (for hitters) as the voters will see Damon 3K hits, 1800+R = HoF, but 55WAR means the SABR guys don’t think we was that good, therefore WAR is crap tool to value players careers.

        I hope both Damon and Raines gets in tbh.

        SI HoF votes 2019
        Heyman: Damon (YES) 3K hits, 1800 R, multiple WS winner, it’s a yes for me

        this thought process could take all of 30seconds and could be replicated by a lot of voters

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  25. Adam C says:

    Another factor in Damon’s favor that hardly has been mentioned is that Damon could end up with over 2,000 runs scored. Or at least 1,900 runs scored. I’m not saying that makes Damon a Hall of Fame player but that is a large number of runs.

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  26. Hurtlocker says:

    In Damon’s best year he would be easily traded straight across for at least 10-15 players. The point is when we watch baseball games, this guy never really came across as the best player of his time. We never hoped that in the clutch that Damon would be up to save the day. He just doesn’t have that superstar or Hall of Fame personna. You couldn’t form a team around Damon, you wouldn’t pick him first in a fantasy league. It’s just got to be more that stats.

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  27. shthar says:

    Articles like this are why you people are sneered at.

    At what point in his carreer was Damon not good enough to start for the team he was on?

    A manager has to play his best 9 players to win.

    For 17 years, on many teams, Damon has been one of those players.

    Sorry that everyone knew how good he was so you couldn’t smugly count him as one the ‘underrated players’ that only YOU were smart enough to know about.

    But that’s no reason for you to try to claim he’s now ‘overrated’.

    And thank god nobody here has any connection to the hall of fame or ever will.

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  28. KB says:

    Damon ranks above Lou Brock, Andre Dawson, and Tony Perez in offensive war. And it is clear that offense means more to getting into the HOF then defense. And he has scored only 4 fewer runs than Brock and this year will surely pass him as well as Yount, Waner, Murray, and probably Ripken. If he plays two more years he is likely to end up in the top 20 of all run scores in the history of baseball. Above Honus Wagner and Jimmie Foxx. These numbers show me a Hall of Famer. And not a just over the line Hall of Famer either.

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  29. Kansas City Oracle says:

    I don’t like Damon because he dumped the Royals (and his wife) and then criticized both of them. He orchestrated his career beautifully, signing first with the Red Sox and then with the Yankees. I never understood why the Yankees did not resign him. He has worked pretty cheap the last couple years.

    Unfortunately, Damon probably will get in the HOF because he likely will achieve 3,000 hits and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, he has milked the press for years. He has always been the go to guy for giving quotes to the press, and they will thank him by voting him in the HOF.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I lived in KC during the “Damon-Beltran” years, and it always bothered me that Damon and Gordon got so much attention, when I thought Beltran was clearly the diamond among them.

      That was back in the day when Damon did not hit for any power, and was just a speedy guy with a weak arm.

      But, the fans and media treated him as if he were the next George Brett … maybe because he was white and batted lefty.

      He eventually did develop 20 HR power, and became a very good hitter.

      What works in his favor is that he is very memorable. The long hair and beard and performance in the spotlight. As for HoF goes, we always just look at regular season and WAR, when post-season performance clearly matters in HoF voting. Damon has had very big and memorable moments in big events in big markets.

      He’s been a key member of 2 WS teams, and will accumulate the milestones to get strong consideration. But, when I look at his career, I’m not sure I ever considered him to be a “star”. But, that doesn’t really matter.

      I, too, did not like how Damon presented himself in KC. He was “too good” for the Royals fro the start, even when his performance indicated that he wasn’t. He did however, eventually, become too good for KC, and he and his agent made some great career moves.

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  30. Charles says:

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the H.O.F. is a private concern; it is not a city, state, or federal governing body nor does MLB have any say in who is elected (Can you imagine if Bud Selig was the sole judge of who gets in, god forbid?) It would seem to me that as a museum primarily, it is their major concern to attract customers and a hall with only the very great would be very small one indeed and hardly worth the trip. Now, has anyone here actually read the rules for election to the H.O.F.? Rule #5 posted below;
    BBWAA ELECTION RULES
    5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played. While they are not numerically listed, I presume they are listed in order of most important consideration and I would argue that quite a few H.O.F.’ers fall short of one or more of these tangibles or intangibles. How many of you would argue in favor of Ty Cobb (as deserving as he is) if you had to justify ALL of the criteria above? Johnny Damon (whether he HAS character or IS a character is a different matter to consider) meets more of these (from my perception anyway) than someone like A-Rod or the egregious Manny Ramirez. From what I’ve read and heard from various sources and media persons, I’d say he is a positive influence on any team he plays for and that his integrity and sportsmanship are extremely high and his conduct on the field has always been admirable. As for his record and ability, that remains to be judged at the end of his career, but 100+ triples, over 500 doubles, probably 3000 hits and being a big part in the Red Sox winning the WS is no slouch!

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  31. Amazing! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It’s on a entirely different topic but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Superb choice of colors!

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