Johnny Damon is a nice man. I say that from experience. In 2004, Red Sox senior adviser Jeremy Kapstein facilitated a meeting at Fenway Park between the long-haired, bearded outfielder and my two daughters, Eva and Carly, then 11 and 8. They idolized Damon and he could not have been any nicer to them. He signed autographs and posed for a picture with the girls. In fact, I still carry the photo in my wallet. Needless to say, like the rest of Red Sox Nation, they were heartbroken when he signed with the Yankees.
Damons’ contract with the Yankees is up and for the moment, he has no baseball home. Earlier this offseason, New York offered him a reported 14 million over the next two years and he and his agent, Scott Boras, turned it down. Damon, 36, will be hard pressed to get an offer from any team, anywhere near that amount. The Yankees insisted that they want to go “younger” when Damon spurned their offer. They signed Randy Winn, 35. They did hold true to their word, I guess. Recently, bargaining from a positon of power, the “Empire” offered a one year, 6 million buck deal. Damon again said “no”. Toronto has expressed interest, as has Tampa Bay. Neither will come close to either of the Yankees’ offers.
I guess I am continually amazed at the salaries offered, accepted, and turned down. Scott Boras is very often in the middle of these negotiations. A couple of years ago, he “helped” Jason Varitek to half of what Boston originally offered, and now he’s done the same for Johnny. These are grown men who ultimately make their own decisions, so you can’t blame Boras entirely, but they do rely on their agents and personal managers for such advice.
You can’t fault the Yankees for trying to get him, or anyone, as cheaply as possible (although they’ve never worried about money before) and you can’t argue with Damons’ reasoning either. Athletes have a very limited window of opportunity to make as much as they can. Sometimes, you have to recognize when you are well off, though. Damon is still a very viable option. He handles the circus in New York very well and still has the skills to get it done. The Yankees cut ties with Damon and Hideki Matsui this offseason, giving their 2010 lineup and outfield a decidedly different look.
Damon helped both the Sox and Yankees to World Series titles. He remains one of my personal favorites. Former PawSox manager Ron Johnson managed a young Damon years ago in the Kansas City chain and he loves him. Johnny will make some team better this season. I’m just glad it’s not the Yankees anymore.