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Thread: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

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    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    From the NY Times blog yesterday comes this article about Damon. I know he was mentioned in the Dye thread, but figured this should probably have its own thread.

    http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/0...-johnny-damon/

    There was no real reason for Kenny Lofton to retire after the 2007 season. He was 40 years old, but he was still good. He had just played a full season and hit .290 with a .367 on-base percentage for Texas and Cleveland, helping the Indians come within a game of the World Series.

    Lofton was not great on defense, but he was a useful and productive player, and he knew it. He had just made $6 million, part of the $60 million or so he’d made in his long career. When the suitable offers did not come his way as a free agent, he simply stopped playing.

    According to Baseball-Reference.com, the second-most comparable player to Lofton in baseball history is Johnny Damon. Like Lofton was in 2007, Damon has reached a career crossroad sooner than he expected. But when asked in a text message Wednesday if he is considering retirement, Damon replied: “I want to play.”

    Damon has four children, including two young daughters with his wife, Michelle. By all accounts, he has a good life at home, and he has earned about $100 million in his career. He has 2,425 career hits (3 fewer than Lofton) and at 36, he is young enough to make a run at 3,000. But he does not have a team.

    “Just been busy w kids and moving,” Damon wrote in a text message Tuesday. “I’m sure things will work out somewhere. I’m off on some charity trips tomorrow.” Later, when asked if he still considered the Yankees a possibility, he wrote, “I never say never anymore.”

    The Yankees love Damon. They love his personality, they love the way he gets on base, and they love his swing at Yankee Stadium. They loved him in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the World Series, for sure.

    But they offered him only $14 million for two years because they saw no reason to bid higher. The Yankees – correctly, it seems – forecast a limited market for Damon as teams focus more on younger players and strong defenders. They did not want to bid against themselves, and they chose instead to spend money on Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez.

    There is a path for Damon to return, but it seems highly unlikely. Would Damon take a low base salary (say, $4 million or $5 million) plus incentives for one year? Would General Manager Brian Cashman persuade the managing general partner, Hal Steinbrenner, to exceed the projected payroll to bring back Damon? Would Steinbrenner agree?

    My hunch is the answers to those questions are no, no and no.

    I think Damon has too much pride to play for a third of what he made last season, when he played very well. I think Cashman believes the Yankees can do just fine with Johnson, an on-base machine, batting second and the speedy Brett Gardner, a better defender, batting ninth. And Steinbrenner seems more serious about payroll guidelines than his father.

    As for the notion that the Yankees simply could not open the season with Gardner as a starting outfielder, well, they did it last season and won the World Series. And Gardner is a better player now than he was then.

    So where does that leave Damon? The Giants just spent $4.5 million to retain catcher Bengie Molina. The Braves say they’ve reached their payroll limit. And they are National League teams, anyway. Damon would seem to fit best if he could be a D.H. now and then.

    So what about A.L. contenders? The Mariners re-signed Ken Griffey Jr. as their D.H., the Angels signed Hideki Matsui and the Rangers signed Vladimir Guerrero. The Tigers have a need, but they have denied interest in Damon. The White Sox signed a different Scott Boras client, Andruw Jones, and they also have Mark Kotsay. The Twins and the Rays have low payrolls and no openings. The Red Sox are set.

    Maybe Damon would sign with a noncontender and hope for a midseason trade; it happened to Lofton three times late in his career. Maybe a National League team will swoop in. Maybe the Yankees somehow retain him; until they sign a Reed Johnson type, they still have an open roster spot.

    Maybe Damon waits for a team to develop a need through an injury in spring training. This is what another Boras client, pitcher Kenny Rogers, did in 2003. Rogers was coming off a three-year, $22.5 million contract with the Rangers, and he rejected their two-year, $10 million offer. He signed with Minnesota in spring training for just $2 million after another lefty starter, Eric Milton, got hurt.

    Did Rogers regret passing up the Rangers’ offer?

    “Not for one second,” he told The Times that spring. “Most people won’t believe that, but that doesn’t really matter to me. I know what type of pitcher I am. I know what I meant to that club. I just couldn’t in my mind take that kind of a cut knowing the responsibilities I was going to have on that team if I stayed there.”

    I don’t know how Damon’s future will play out. But I could easily picture him saying the same thing at another team’s camp in March.
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    Captain Rounding Third's Avatar
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    I remember wanting the Reds to sign him and praying that they wouldn't sign Corey Patterson. We know how that worked out.

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    Member Tom Servo's Avatar
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    I would love to have him at the top of our order. There's not even a snowballs chance in hell of it happening though.
    "Since I've been with the Reds in 1989, we've never had a farm system this loaded," Bowden said. "If we were the New York Yankees and had unlimited dollars, we could have traded for Colon, (Jeff) Weaver, Rolen, (Cliff) Floyd, (Kenny) Rogers and Finley and gotten them all -- and still held onto our top five prospects. That's an amazing statement."

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    It all depends on how desperate he gets.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    Damon likes the bright lights. I imagine Cincy is one of the last places he'd sign.
    "Baseball is a very, very complex business. It's more of a people business than most businesses." - Bob Castellini

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    Maple SERP savafan's Avatar
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    Quote Originally Posted by lollipopcurve View Post
    Damon likes the bright lights. I imagine Cincy is one of the last places he'd sign.
    Shift the bright lights to Cincy. The Aroldis Chapman signing was just recently the talk of baseball. There are some good young players here. Winning would put them in the national spotlight. Maybe Damon could make that happen?
    My dad got to enjoy 3 Reds World Championships by the time he was my age. So far, I've only gotten to enjoy one. Step it up Redlegs!

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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    Quote Originally Posted by lollipopcurve View Post
    Damon likes the bright lights. I imagine Cincy is one of the last places he'd sign.

    There's always Mt. Adams and Newport on the Levee.
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    Family men tend to like Cincinnati.
    I have a love-hate relationship with Albert Pujols. Mostly hate.

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    RaisorZone Raisor's Avatar
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    only sign him if he agrees to regrow the beard and long hair.
    "But I do know Joey's sister indirectly (or foster sister) and I have heard stories of Joey being into shopping, designer wear, fancy coffees, and pedicures."

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    Baseball card addict MrCinatit's Avatar
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    Quote Originally Posted by Raisor View Post
    only sign him if he agrees to regrow the beard and long hair.

    I liked that Captain Caveman look he had. It seemed to give him quite a bit more personality, which was gutted when he became a Yankee. I think Pete Rose would have taken the same look had he played around the same time.

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    Greatness In The Making RedLegSuperStar's Avatar
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    He'll end up signing with the Yankees. It probably will be a one year w/ option or a two year deal for around $5-6MM a year. If we are going to spend that kind of money I'd rather have Tajada or Cabrera.
    "I could watch video of Griffey swinging all day. It's like baseball porn." - C. Trent Rosecrans


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    Member Jpup's Avatar
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    Re: A Career Crossroads for Johnny Damon

    Quote Originally Posted by RedLegSuperStar View Post
    He'll end up signing with the Yankees. It probably will be a one year w/ option or a two year deal for around $5-6MM a year. If we are going to spend that kind of money I'd rather have Tajada or Cabrera.
    Damon's better than both of them. Orlando Cabrera is horrible and the Reds already have a 3rd baseman.
    "My mission is to be the ray of hope, the guy who stands out there on that beautiful field and owns up to his mistakes and lets people know it's never completely hopeless, no matter how bad it seems at the time. I have a platform and a message, and now I go to bed at night, sober and happy, praying I can be a good messenger." -Josh Hamilton


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