Johnny Damon, Jose Canseco and Rays' Designated Hitters

ST PETERSBURG FL - FEBRUARY 01: Johnny Damon #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays talks with reports during a press conference at Tropicana Field on February 1 2011 in St. Petersburg Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)


The chatter about who the Rays' 2012 designated hitter will be has been relentless. Not a day goes by without someone, somewhere writing something about it. How is Vlad Guerrero looking? Does Hideki Matsui have anything left? Hey, Luke Scott's available. Can Eric Chavez stay healthy? It's the same thing rehashed a thousand times. Roger Mooney's column in Friday's Tampa Tribune is no exception. In it, he laments the current state of the DH across the league, mentioning the Rays constant lack of production from the position and adding this line...

The Rays historically have struggled at DH, making Damon (.261, 16 home runs, 73 RBIs, .326 on-base percentage and .418 slugging percent) easily the best DH in franchise history.

In the below image, imagine Mooney (Brian), has just uttered the statement above to Me (Stewie). That was my reaction.

Fg_medium

"Easily the best DH in franchise history."

Easily

I like Roger Mooney and this isn't mean to be indicitive of him as a writer but that's simply false.

He’s covered the Rays for their entire existence so surely he remembers the 1999 team. Those teams are easy to forget, I know, but Jose Canseco had one of the greatest seasons in franchise history that year. And he played DH. The sad, depressing, table below shows players from 1998-2011 that played 50 percent of their games at DH with a minimum of 200 plate appearances, sorted by greatest adjusted OPS+.

Rk Player OPS+ PA Year HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Jose Canseco 134 502 1999 34 95 58 135 3 0 .279 .369 .563 .931
2 Jose Canseco 112 264 2000 9 30 41 65 2 0 .257 .383 .450 .832
3 Cliff Floyd 111 284 2008 11 39 28 58 1 0 .268 .349 .455 .804
4 Johnny Damon 110 647 2011 16 73 51 92 19 6 .261 .326 .418 .743
5 Greg Vaughn 102 562 2001 24 82 71 130 11 5 .233 .333 .433 .766
6 Ben Grieve 96 205 2003 4 17 32 41 0 0 .230 .371 .345 .716
7 Jonny Gomes 95 461 2006 20 59 61 116 1 5 .216 .325 .431 .757
8 Greg Norton 89 240 2007 4 23 37 55 1 1 .243 .358 .347 .705
9 Paul Sorrento 85 495 1998 17 57 54 133 2 3 .225 .313 .405 .718
10 Willy Aybar 83 309 2010 6 43 30 61 0 0 .230 .309 .344 .654
11 Pat Burrell 81 476 2009 14 64 57 119 2 0 .221 .315 .367 .682
12 Al Martin 79 258 2003 3 26 17 51 2 2 .252 .306 .357 .663
13 Greg Vaughn 62 297 2002 8 29 41 82 3 2 .163 .286 .315 .601
Generated 1/11/2012.

You can see that Canseco’s 1999 season dwarfs the rather weak competition. He arguably greatest first half in franchise history, hitting 31 home runs with a .982 OPS. Surgery for a herniated disc would cause Canseco to miss a good chunk of the second half -- allowing him to compare himself to a car – and zap all his power, but he still managed a .391 on base percentage in 31 games. You can see Damon ranks fourth on that list. Since he’s only a couple of points behind Floyd and 2000 Canseco I’ll bump him up to second on the greatest DH list due to his advantage in playing time. They may have had a greater OPS+ but the fact that Damon had more plate appearances than them combined has to count for something.

It's easy to overlook Canseco and recognize Damon. They’re nearly polar opposites when it comes to reputation and respect. In terms of :) % Damon is light years ahead of Canseco. But Canseco was better and there’s no argument to be made otherwise.

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