At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Johnny Mercenary is Da-Mon in NYC

– ‘Idiot’ Center Fielder to Sign with Yanks for 4 Years, $52 Million –

Well, it happened. Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon has agreed to sign with the New York Yankees for four years and $52 million, or $3 million per year more than the Sox offered him. According to published reports, the news was delivered to Boston’s management team by members of the media and not by Damon or his agent, Scott Boras. The result this morning is a lot of finger-pointing and teeth-gnashing by columnists and fans, many of whom believe the Sox front office was either overly passive, unreasonably cheap, short-sighted, or unduly arrogant in their pursuit of Damon.

However, let us not forget that Damon himself bears the responsibility for this outcome, for he’s the one who ultimately made the decision to cash in and move on. In this regard, he’s doing precisely what he did in 2001, when he joined the Red Sox in the first place, and he is following in precisely the same footsteps as his new teammates Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, and Alex Rodriguez (who, of course, originally took his money from the Texas Rangers). And if he made his decision without giving the Sox so much as a courtesy phone call, then those of us who want our kids’ heroes to be people of character now at least know what we’ve been rooting for these past several years.

Last May, Damon told mlb.com that “it’s definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me.” Turns out the truth lay elsewhere, and though he says he told Sox manager Terry Francona that “[the Red Sox] had to really get going,” even he can’t believe that’s the same thing as giving his team a chance to match the Yankees’ offer.

Damon always will be remembered for his role in bringing the World Series trophy to Boston for the first time in, well, a very long time. He’s a very good leadoff hitter and can cover a lot of ground in the outfield. But the position he’s about to inhabit notwithstanding, he won’t be the next DiMaggio or Mantle even he does manage to throw again, and we shouldn’t let our love of our ‘idiots’ blind us to the fact that he’s as mercenary as the next guy.

(Here’s hoping that our ‘next guy’ turns out to be Torii Hunter in 2007 …)

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