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Johnny Damon, Hall of Famer? You must be kidding me. John Brattain thinks he might. Our own Magpie pointed out that: "If Damon ends up with 1600 Runs Scored and 3000 hits, which he is well on The way to doing, he's a No-Doubt-About-It Hall of Famer". Not to mention that he added power in 2006, hitting .285 with 24 homers and good plate discipline. So, maybe it is not so far-fetched.
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Two years ago, we looked at Robin Ventura, Chipper Jones, and Scott Rolen. We're moving Alex Rodriguez from the shortstops to the third basemen this time around. This time, I thought that I'd take a closer look at the offensive contributions of the very good and great third basemen in major league baseball since 1900 at age 30, 32 and 34, and see where Ventura, Jones, Rolen and Rodriguez slide in at each age offensively, before we get to defence.
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Updated: With the informal results of a Batter's Box straw poll ... and no less than four unanimous choices!

It's that time of year again -- post-U.S. Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas, meaning that of course, the gift in all our stockings is a Hall of Fame ballot ... or at least the ability to niff and whine about who should be elected.

Here's the complete list of this year's candidates ...

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Evaluating shortstops is especially challenging because of the importance of, and the difficulty in measuring, their defensive abilities. Two years ago, I wrote about evaluation standards, and then about Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, and Julio Franco. I am going to treat Alex Rodriguez as a third baseman this time, so he'll have to wait another week or two. I also have nothing to add to what I said about Larkin. So for now, it's Nomar, Jeter and Franco.
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Miguel Tejada looks nothing like Cal Ripken physically, but sometimes appearances can be deceiving. In 2006, he seemed to change his approach to hitting and hit more line drives, more ground balls and fewer fly balls. The result was exactly what you would expect, a career high batting average of .330 accompanied by a loss of power. At age 30, he still provides an exceptionally valuable package- average defence at short, durability and a .330/.379/.498 line. Durability, of course, understates his record; he hasn't missed a game in six years. Miguel, take my advice, people over 30 need a day off every once in awhile.
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Two years ago, I looked at Jeff Kent, Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio in two pieces- Part 1 and Part 2. Since then, Alomar has retired while Kent and Biggio have wrestled Old Man Time to a draw. Let's see whether I said anything really dumb, and where they stand now.
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Two years ago, I had a look at some first basemen who potentially might be Hall of Fame candidates- Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Carlos Delgado, and Jim Thome. What I did not discuss in the articles was the implications of the steroid issue on their chances. Palmeiro and Bagwell (along with McGwire and Giambi) have been implicated in the steroid mess.
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Todd Helton had an off-year in 2006, hitting half the homers that he hit (please forgive the alliteration) 2 or 3 years ago. Even at that, he is still a good hitter and a fine fielder. He is now 32, and at a career crossroads.
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I promised to look at Alfonso Soriano's career next, but after sober second thought, it seemed to me that his mark will be made as a power-hitting #3 hitter rather than as a leadoff hitter. We really need another year or two to see how he does at it, before examining his Hall chances.

So, instead, I thought that I would take a look back at my Hall Watch series of 2 years ago to see how the players are doing. We will start with the catchers- Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada, and Javy Lopez.



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Ichiro! is an icon. This makes it hard to look at him objectively. But, try we will. 2006 was an interesting year for Ichiro. His batting average and isolated power were down, and his strikeout and pop-up rates were up. On the other hand, he was hitting more balls in the air, and stole 45 bases in 47 attempts. Was this the first year of a decline or a transition year on the way to Ichiro developing more power? He certainly has the strength to do it, and I would not bet against him. We shall see.
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In the early 1980s, Warren handed over his NL APBA to me, as his AL team (the Quebec Avenue Separatistes-"the Seps") kept him too busy. Terry Kennedy, Jason Thompson, Juan Bonilla, Dave Concepcion, Bill Madlock, Rick Monday and Mario Soto were the fixtures on my club, the Annex Anarchists, that went to two APBA World Series, losing both times, but the best club belonged to Rick with Tim Raines, Jose Cruz Sr. and Dale Murphy leading the way. Raines was the star in APBA, and Rick developed a special, slightly obscene, way of shaking the dice when Raines came to bat. It seemed to work, as Raines was a tremendous hitter, particularly in the clutch, in APBA.

Later on, in about 1984, Warren and I made a bet. He said that Rickey Henderson would develop more power, and I put my proverbial nickel on Tim Raines. I guess that Warren won that bet. But then, I wasn't exactly an unbiased observer (full disclosure statement).

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Do we really need special tools for evaulating career leadoff hitters? In one sense, we do not. Leadoff hitters do the same things that other batters do. They get on base or not. They steal bases or not. They advance from first to third on a single or not. They drive in runners on base or not. The difference is that they have a significantly different ratio of opportunites to do each of these things than hitters in other places in the batting order. That may justify the use of different tools to evaluate them. I will let the reader be the judge of that.
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Another underrated Evans gets the Hall Watch treatment. Darrell Evans was the 2nd best third baseman in the National League of the 1970s, behind the great Mike Schmidt. That in itself would not normally qualify him for the Hall of Fame. Let's take a closer look.
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Dwight Evans had a long and productive career, but his moment came in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. We'll let Retrosheet take the call:
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I was visiting Montreal sometime in 1995. It was clear that an exodus was underway but my relative Peter was not worried. "We have Guerrero", he told me. I knew about Guerrero then, ran well, a cannon for an arm, good range in right, burgeoning power, and a superior ability to make contact. And 20 years old. Probably as good a prospect overall as Manny Ramirez and Frank Thomas were about 5 years earlier. It turned out that Guerrero was not enough to save the 'Spos, but he has been a joy to watch. With luck, he'll be on the playing field for another decade.
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