Friday, August 19, 2005

Tempting but nahhhh.....

A Red Sox Nation representative sneeringly informed me that Johnny Damon has publicly stated that he would be willing to entertain a contract discussion with George Steinbrenner, and of course he would cut his hair if he signed with the Yankees. “Figures,” he pouted. “The Evil Empire can’t let an All-Star play for another team after all.”

I don’t have time at the moment to discuss the convoluted logic involved in that statement, but the idea of Johnny Damon signing with the Yankees got me thinking. The Yankees don’t really need another bat, but they do need a center fielder. The question is, do they want Johnny Damon?

Johnny Damon is one of a small number of Red Sox players whom I respect. He is maddening to me as a Yankee fan for all the right reasons. He’ll foul off 12 pitches looking for the one that he likes – and that pitch might be the one he golfs off his shoes. He gets on base, and once on base is almost guaranteed to steal an extra. Defensively he is aggressive and unconcerned about his own body, and will get the ball. He drives me nuts. I love watching a Yankee pitcher strike him out, because it means something.

He seems to have a good attitude, understanding that bottom line, it’s about the game and the game stands above any player, team, or age-old rivalry. I was impressed that he stayed out of all the public trash-talking the Red Sox did against the Yankees over the winter. When asked about the Yankees as competitors, he seems to view them with respect for their ability as fellow athletes, and stays away from any comment about what he may think of them as people. When Melky Cabrera had so much difficulty with that fly ball in Fenway, Damon sought him out after the game to offer advice and encouragement. Sounds familiar….like something *Jeter* would do?

But he’s in his 30’s, and players in their 30’s are on the back ends of their careers – nobody really knows how much longer a player will play at that point. Injuries start to become more of problem, and just plain getting old becomes more of a problem. Well, “old”. Only in professional sports and modeling do you look at someone in their 30’s and think “wow, the twilight of their career.”

I think the Yankees should pass on Damon, if he should come their way. They need younger players, and they have the chance to bring in a kid like Bernie Williams was when they signed him, and let him learn in the Bronx. Oh, don’t get me wrong. The idea of putting Damon in the batting order as lead off hitter and going through Jeter/Sheffield/ARod/Matsui/Giambi is a very tempting thought, but the Yankees don’t need bats. (Christ look at the batting order they already have.)

Boston should do right by Damon and pay him what he asks – he’s earned the opportunity to finish his career out of Boston if that’s what he wants.