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Posts Tagged ‘Sons of Sam Horn’

A word on this whole Johnny Damon episode.  We claimed Damon off waivers on Monday, and he had until yesterday to make a decision.  He ultimately vetoed.  Let’s parse.

There is some speculation about why we made that claim in the first place.  Some said it was to keep him from the Rays or Yankees because a player can’t move in a free trade unless he clears waivers.  That may be an added bonus to the outcome of the whole situation, but I doubt that was the real reason behind it, because that would’ve been a pretty substantial gamble that banked on him refusing.  Then, we would’ve been stuck with someone we didn’t really want if he said yes.  So I think the real reason the team claimed him was to obtain some sort of spark that would get us going.

A quote from Jason Varitek substantiates this view:

It would be a nice opportunity, but we’ll let him do what he needs to do.  Johnny, aside from being a great player, he makes athletic adjustments offensively.  He plays hurt, he doesn’t always play at 100 percent.  So much of it is how he plays the game.  He plays the game right.  It pushes the energy.  He’s definitely an exciting player.

Some have interpreted this as a very targeted dig at Ellsbury’s long recovery.  I would again like to remind those people that we’re not talking about a broken thumb here.  We’re talking about ribs.  I’ve never had broken ribs, and I intend to keep it that way, but if any of you would like to experiment with whether it’s possible to play baseball with that kind of injury not completely healed, go ahead and be my guest.  I will admit that the absence of Ellsbury’s skills may produce some tension or anxiety in the clubhouse, but I’m not entirely sure that that has solely to do with a judgment on the appropriateness of the timing of his recovery.  We have no way of knowing for sure what went on.

Anyway, the point is that this quote clearly shows that what the front office as well as the team itself saw in this guy was a spark.

Damon had a no-trade clause with the Tigers, but only for eight teams, one of which was us, the reason being his apparently sub-par interactions with the front office during free agent negotiations after the 2005 season that ultimately resulted in him walking all the way to New York.

Now, when he was faced with the decision of whether to veto the clause or whether to veto the trade, he described his predicament this way:

I have to think about if once again I’ll be probably one of the nicest guys in baseball, but also the most hated guy in baseball.  That’s what it boils down to.

This tells me that it always has been and will be about him.  Not about us.  It was about what the team could do for him and his reputation, which he has thus acknowledged as damaged by his signing with New York.  I know the trend in baseball lately is to be cynical, but you and I both know that there have been plenty of guys who’ve come through here with a different attitude.  We pick them up during the season, and they say that they’re happy to play for Boston, that they’re psyched about offering their skills to the team, that they can’t wait to get in the batter’s box and on the field and show what they can do to help this storied franchise win.  I mean, this is a team for which players play for knowingly less money (Mike Lowell) and with which players sign for a day just so they can retire as a member of this particular team (Nomar).  So it’s not all as cynical as many people think.  But Damon represents a stark contrast to all of that.  The free agency negotiations weren’t to his liking so he walked to the Evil Empire.  If he can stand up there in good conscience and tell the world that they shouldn’t harp on him because baseball is a business and he has a right to go wherever he wants, then there is no way on this planet that he can also stand up there and berate the front office for not making enough of an effort to ensure his return, for the exact same reasons.  A player has a right to sign wherever he wants; a team has a right to sign whomever it wants.  And through an assessment of the team’s needs, the team decided that Damon wasn’t the answer for the amounts of money and years he was seeking.  This kind of thing happens all the time in baseball, but it looks like Damon took it personally.  So did Nomar.  But Nomar grew up and figured it out.

So the only way that Damon would’ve returned to Boston is if he thought it would make him a nice guy in baseball again.  There have been those who claim that Damon, if he had the exact same injury as Ellsbury, would have played more games through more pain.  His attitude during this whole proceeding suggests the exact opposite.  Damon would have approved a trade to come to Boston because that trade alone would’ve benefitted him exclusively on an individual level.  The amount of games and with what amount of hustle and heart he played them would have been completely irrelevant for the achievement of his ends.  All he would have needed is the trade by itself.   That would have made him the nice guy.  Not his performance once here.

Damon mentioned the importance of teammates.  He insisted that if his teammates want him to stay, he would most likely stay.  This is true now in Detroit, but it wasn’t true in Boston when he became a free agent.  Sure, his teammates wanted him to stay.  We know that from the disappointment expressed by Tek and Papi in the wake of Damon’s refusal of the trade.  But again, his issue with the front office made him want to walk.  That’s fine.  It happens with many baseball players.  All I’m saying is that, when it suits him, he puts all his stock in his teammates.  And when it suits him, he puts all his stock in his objection to the quality of interaction with the front office.

Damon also mentioned the importance of fans.  He said he loves playing for Detroit’s fans.  Just like he loved playing for us when he was here.  He said his broken relationship with us has scarred him, and approving the trade would eliminate that, especially if he took us into October.  So here we have him assuming that the addition of him and him alone would be the ultimate solution to the team’s woes and would instantly turn us around and get us to the playoffs.  But more significantly, the fact that he is not considering the fans is clear.  He wants the removal of his own scar, but he doesn’t really care about ours.  He has consistently been unapologetic about his decision to sign with New York.  But when David Wells signed with us, he blatantly acknowledged the weight of his decision in terms of the rivalry.  Baseball is not a perfect world because it’s a business, which we have already established.  But it’s not a perfect business either.  There are things you do and things you don’t do.  You don’t do what Damon did.  But if you do what Damon did, the least you should do is acknowledge the reality of the situation and its ramifications.  Damon played for us.  He was instrumental in our 2004 ALCS victory over the Yankees.  He was there before and after the curse was broken.  Our loyalty as fans suited him fine when he wasn’t on the other end of it.  As a result, he has no right to expect from us as fans to continue our relationship with him as if nothing has happened, and his resistance to acknowledging this fact is yet another reflection of his self-absorption.  I should also point out that another guy who played for us, who was instrumental in our 2004 road to glory, and who was there before and after the curse was broken was Schilling.  Schilling based his decision to sign with us partly on his interaction with us fans on Sons of Sam Horn.  In Boston, the fans matter.  A lot.

Furthermore, after Damon refused, Papelbon said that he was confident that Damon would do what’s right for him and his family.  Excuse me, but I don’t recall any mention of family in Damon’s consideration.  I recall it in Billy Wagner’s consideration, for example, and even in Mark Teixeira’s consideration, but I don’t recall hearing anything about anyone aside from himself over the past several days.  Papelbon was absolutely right in assuming that family should be a part of the consideration, but unless Damon for some reason kept it completely under wraps, we have no indication that that consideration took place.

So what we can gather from all of this is that Johnny Damon is professionally selfish, arrogant, and opportunistic.  He goes with what works for him, takes things personally, and doesn’t look out for anyone except himself.  He’s a changed man.  And you know what? I’m not sure I would have wanted someone like that on our team.  I don’t know if I would have wanted to win that way.  Boston, both the players and the fans, have a certain integrity.  We have certain expectations, and we relate most to certain attitudes.  Damon really must have been scarred because he doesn’t have those things anymore.  These circumstances have exposed him in a way different than that in which we knew him.  So I hope he’s very happy in Detroit.  I hope he plays his heart out for the Detroit fans and for his Detroit teammates.  In the end, we’ll be alright.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis
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