At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Thursday, December 22, 2005

With the New Day, Some Clarity on Damon’s Departure

– Sox Decision Not to Counter Yanks Apparently Sealed the Deal –

One day after Johnny Damon dropped a bombshell on Red Sox Nation by agreeing to join the rival New York Yankees, it is becoming clear that (a) he did indeed give his former team a chance to retain his services, and (b) the Sox made a conscious decision not to increase its existing offer. (See today’s piece in the Boston Herald for more.) This being the case, Damon’s fate thus was sealed, and I have but two observations to make:

  1. I have to admire the senior Sox business managers for sticking to their financial guns. They decided that Damon wasn’t worth more than $10 million per year to the club, and they would not be moved. Whether this ends up costing the team in the standings – and whether that will concern those same managers in the way it will bother fans – remains to be seen, but you have to at least give them credit for staying their chosen course.

  2. I can’t blame Damon for proceeding the way he did. New York also had a salary limit in mind, but theirs was higher than Boston’s, and in the end, that was simply that. For Damon, it came down to the money and, to a lesser extent, the sense that the Yankees simply wanted him more. One wonders whether the outcome might have been different if the Sox had wooed Damon a bit more actively. But without any additional green to put on the table, perhaps it just wasn’t worth their while.

The whole point of free agency is to give players the opportunity to choose where they want to play, and for how much. This Damon did, and along the way he reminded us that the athletes on the field – and their employers in the front office – just don’t approach the game the way we do. We all want our team to win, but our team is “our team” forever, and theirs is whatever name is stitched on their uniforms or printed on their letterhead.

Could Damon have declined the Yankees’ offer and remained with the Red Sox? Of course. But he didn’t, and while we don’t have to like it (and we don’t), it isn’t fair to condemn him for it. He gave us his all for the entire time he was here (can’t say the same for Manny, now, can we?). So let’s give him his due and wish him well – except, perhaps, for the 19 games he’ll play against us during the regular season.

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