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Lofton, Rangers close to a deal

Looks like Kenny Lofton will be replacing Gary Matthews, Jr., in center field for the Rangers in 2007.

It got me to thinking about Kenny Lofton and how he's another one of those guys (Larry Walker, Moises Alou) that it's taken me years to realize how good they are/were.

Lofton played 12 straight seasons (1992-2003) as a regular, and was a regular last season with the Dodgers. He had a year with the Yankees where he was a sub, and a year with the Phillies where he was good when he got to play.

Before I start on the next sentence, I will vote: No, of course not. That said, Lofton's a lot closer to being a Hall of Fame caliber player than I realized, and I think that might be true of a lot of people. The guy has had a hell of a good career.

I mean, just look at the numbers. .299/.372/.423, 599 steals, 2283 hits, four Gold Gloves, six All-Star teams, park-adjusted OPS+ of 107. Dude can play.

All that out of a point guard from Arizona, born in East Chicago, IN -- not exactly the town you want to find yourself stranded in, trust me. For one thing, you'd get incredibly bored.

Lofton turns 40 next May. You'd think the wheels would be gone by now (and for a few years it looked like they were), but Lofton was 32-of-37 stealing bases for the Dodgers this season. Maybe he's just really re-dedicated to conditioning in order to stay in the game as long as he can, or maybe he's gotten smarter as he's gotten a step slower. Maybe both.

I find this level of player incredibly interesting. When I'm 60 years old, kids will know who Alex Rodriguez was the same way we knew about Babe Ruth when we were growing up. Ripken will play Honus Wagner. Bonds as Ted Williams or Ty Cobb, depending on what version of Bonds the future generations of America get. Manny Ramirez I could see as a Mickey Mantle, perhaps. Pedro Martinez as Sandy Koufax.

Kids won't know anything about Kenny Lofton or Cecil Fielder, except maybe that Lofton was fast and Fielder was fat.

Sometimes you get a guy, like Alan Trammell, who is unfairly ignored by the guys who make immortals out of ballplayers. I fear the same will happen to Barry Larkin. Both belong in the Hall of Fame if you ask me. Lou Whitaker got, like, one damn vote. Lou Whitaker was a hell of a player.

Kenny Lofton will someday probably get one damn vote. But he's been a hell of a player, too. It can always be far worse, of course, like nobody remembers you at all, or you go out like Chuck Knoblauch did. Poor Chuck Knoblauch.