There Goes Johnny!

I figure it’s ok for me to post over the top of YF on this one, as Damon leaving the Sox for the Yanks seems to be the type of story that we can both add our thoughts on as separate threads. I wanted to post my initial thoughts on this, before I spent too much time at SoSH reading analysis on what the true impact of the move will be.  So here goes:

Thanks, Johnny.  First, before everything, thanks. Before we start rooting for you to miss the cutoff man (if you reach him), before we advertise our hope that your speed continues to diminish, before we cheer for your second half production to suffer increasingly as you get older, thanks. You were an iconic player on a team for the ages, and we (and apparently the Sox too) will never be able to re-pay you for your efforts in bringing our beloved team a title.  The Yankees will have to do that.  When you signed with the Sox initially I told my Dad this was the smartest free agent acquisition of a skilled player the Red Sox had made in many years, including the Manny deal.  It was. Thanks for everything you gave to the team.

My thoughts continue below.

Now, on to the good, juicy, soap opera emotional stuff.  It’s sure going to be fun seeing Yankees fans reduced to everything they say they aren’t.  They’ll be rooting for Damon to crash into walls. They’ll be rooting for him to steal bases. They’ll be rooting for him to produce, hustle.  Just like they root for pretty much everyone else, his "themness" be damned.  Yankees fans don’t get to occupy any special place in the roster of loyal "don’t come near us you’re not one of us" fans (and nor do we Sox fans, since we’d root pretty damn hard for Derek Jeter if he ended up in Beantown, however "icky" it made us feel).  So Yankees fans, get over yourselves.  Enjoy Damon. For just a moment forget the terms of the contract, forget who Damon spent the last few years with.  You’re getting a damn fine player, an entertaining one, and you’ve improved. 

Now, us Sox fans. What to do. We can hem and haw, we can lament that turncoat Damon, we can foresee rueing the day we didn’t go to 4/50 just to keep that longhair off the enemy.  But we shouldn’t. Yet. Let the Sox’ front office fill the CF spot. If it’s Jeremy Reed, then we’ve gotten younger and cheaper (and have the Yankees’ draft picks, don’t forget).  If it’s Brad Wilkerson, we’ve gotten younger and cheaper (and, still, we have the Yankees’ draft picks). If it’s Willie Mays Hays, we’ve gotten older and fictional. Nonetheless, people shouldn’t overreact like they did when Epstein tendered his resignation.  Damon’s departure will cascade into other transactions. This roster isn’t close to set. It’s not even January.  Epstein articulated the Red Sox’ organizational strategy in a chat on SoSH some time back, and it’s worth repeating in the context of the Yankees signing Damon:

Why are we fiscally responsible? Not because we are cheap; we are not. Not because we are afraid of large commitments; we are not. Not because we would rather pursue non-tenders or particularly enjoy reading through thousands of minor league free agent reports instead; we don’t (well, maybe sometimes). Quite simply, we are fiscally responsible because the alternative would be a disaster. Fiscal irresponsibility is the single quickest way to hamstring a franchise for a decade. You don’t have to look long and hard to find examples of the dire consequences caused by two or three bad contracts, by two or three times when you give in to the "win now" temptation and end up with a bloated roster and no way out.

We are fiscally responsible and we value payroll flexibility because we trust our ability to evaluate talent. Our attitude is: give us a talented core and some flexibility and let us go to work. The more talented the core and the more flexibility we have, the better off we will be. Injuries and down-turns in performance will be more manageable if we have flexibility.

Not much has changed, even absent Theo.  For this we should be thankful, if not disappointed.  The Red Sox, like YF stated, had to know this was a possibility.  Boras’ men always go to the high bidder.  The Yankees, all "financial difficulties" aside, will always be in the place where they can be the high bidder, if they so choose.  So the Sox risked this possibility by not upping their offer, and I can’t imagine they are entirely surprised or entirely unhappy.  Are they a better team? No.  Not yet.  Is it $52M of "yet"?  Time will tell. We bid you farewell, Johnny.  We thank you, sincerely. We wish you good health.  And terrible at-bats.  Now go shave.


19 comments… add one
  • SF, I think that’s one of the more reasonable responses to have about the Damon signing. In the end, I think it will probably mean good things for the Sox in the long-term.

    Nick December 21, 2005, 7:51 am
  • That remains to be seen, but as has been noted by those much smarter than I, it is better to let a guy go a year early than hold onto him a year too long. The only real question here is did the Sox let him go four years early?
    Good post, SF. The (only) thing left unstated is your confidence in the Sox organization to get a good player, to not sign a Tony Womack to play center. I have that confidence too. I just wish I hadn’t invested in a Johnny D t-shirt.
    By the way, YFs are not allowed to call him “Johnny D.” We in Boston retain that trademark. You can call him “Johnny $$”

    mattymatty December 21, 2005, 8:28 am
  • Well put SF.

    Bozo December 21, 2005, 8:55 am
  • Gonna miss Johnny…miss him a lot. He’s a decent centerfielder who can steal bases and has been a catalyst for the Sox. I am surprised the Sox let him get away on a four year deal though. While his skills may be declining, over four years, I do not think he will be Bernie Williams. That said, I don’t view this as a screwup. If anything, I think the Sox have approached this from a strict business and baseball approach…much like the Patriots. Whether you agree with them or not, I believe they assigned a number to Johnny, his production and all the intangibles he brought to the clubhouse and field and they stuck with that number. Time will tell if they are right. But I will miss him and I wish him well…just not when the Yanks and Sox go at it.

    PBrady December 21, 2005, 8:58 am
  • One good thing for Sox fans: Steve Phillips thinks this is a good deal for NY.
    Damon is a good player, but people are jumping off bridges over this. Damon isn’t a great player. The off season isn’t over.
    And most importantly, unless Damon can throw 200 innings of 3.30 ERA ball…

    mattymatty December 21, 2005, 9:10 am
  • people are jumping off bridges over this
    Mattymatty, I don’t think people are jumping off bridges over this, at least not in Boston. Maybe in New York they are, though I think that’s more surprise then anything else. The tenor of most posters at SoSH is one of understanding. One can always cherry-pick the “Damon that goddamned traitor mother**er” comments, but after spending some time reading the posts over there (if it’s any representation of RSN, which I think it is) it seems that people understand this deal and it’s ramifications, which aren’t entirely good for the Sox. But people are looking at it in context, for the long-term. That seems like a mature reaction, not exactly what the media (or Yankees fans) might want from us Sox rooters.

    SF December 21, 2005, 9:21 am
  • Well said, SF. I’m sure all of us Yankee fans will grow to very much enjoy having Damon around, and it won’t be long before the sight of him in pinstripes is such a familiarity that the thought that he once wore Beantown pajamas will be far out of our minds. Just as we have with other players (Clemens). Especially in 2009. (Which is a scary thought, what’s that arm gonna look like in 2009?).
    We still wonder if this is a good deal for the Yanks. It’s been rough watching the team’s poor defense, and knowing how much that has hurt the pitching stafff. They’ve now got one very expensive ballplayer who will be declining in this department over time. It would really have been nice to have a young player. Frankly, it might be worth occassionally puttng him at DH so that Bubba can go track down balls in center.

    YF December 21, 2005, 10:17 am
  • Did I write Clemens? How about, um, Boggs.
    The folks over at Bronx Banter seem pretty gung ho over this deal. And for the short term it’s hard to disagree that it’s going to be a nice improvement for the Yanks (and a corresponding gutpunch to the Sox, notwithstanding their replacement parts and added draft pick).

    YF December 21, 2005, 10:34 am
  • I think that this is a pretty good deal for the Yanks. Not only is Damon one of the better center fielders in baseball, it is, as YF mentions, a corresponding loss for the Sox.
    I also agree for the most part with the tenor of SF’s post – this may make long-term sense for the Sox. But…what price the face of the franchise? A year after letting Pedro walk, the Sox have done the same with another cornerstone. Surely sentimentality is worth something? Maybe giving the extra year and dealing with it when it happens (which is what the Yanks basically did with Bernie) is a price worth paying to see one of your legends end his career with you. And surely JD’s clubhouse role had some value? My point is, maybe the Sox are leaning too far the other way in terms of the business-only approach.
    As for his age and declining skills: I agree that it’s often better to let a player go a year early rather than a year late, but aside from the issue of whether he meant more to the Sox than your average player to another team, he’s only just turned 32. He’ll be 35 when this contract is over. That’s hardly over the hill for an outfielder. Yes, his speed will diminish somewhat, but Kenny Lofton (and Woemack, for that matter) still have what it takes into their mid-to-late 30s. Maybe the whole “he’s on his way down” argument is one RSN is using to make themselves feel better.
    Finally, (sorry for the long post), how do other Sox players feel about this? They’ve seen a bunch of teammates – Millar, Mueller, Pedro now JD – leave what was supposed to be a tight-knit, all-for-one squad. I wonder how this will affect morale.

    Sam December 21, 2005, 12:13 pm
  • Surely sentimentality is worth something?
    To whom? Ownership? Scott Boras? Johnny Damon? The fans? I know the answer, and it’s the party with no say.
    maybe the Sox are leaning too far the other way in terms of the business-only approach
    Most likely not. They have a big payroll, albeit not by Yankee standards. But they do spend money. Read Theo’s quote in my post for the crux of the matter. I think it holds in this case, no matter whether Theo is the GM or not.
    how do other Sox players feel about this?
    My guess: Some think it stinks, they will miss Johnny’s skills and presence. Some think it’s neither here nor there, they are playing a team sport after all and will play with whoever replaces JD. (Did Manny and Ortiz stop producing after their buddy Pedro left?) And somebody, specifically the guy who replaces Johnny, is probably thrilled.

    SF December 21, 2005, 12:37 pm
  • wow….i feel like i drank a bottle of tequila last night and woke up with someone banging on a spaghetti-pot next to my ears! Damon in NY! how fitting an end to the 2004 series hoopla…isn’t this the guy that wrote the freaking book on being a member of that storied team? perhaps it’s just me (think not), but why is it that players can’t approach ownership and say ‘hey, the freaking yankees just offered me $13M a year? i hate those guys, as you know, and would love to reject that offer and stay here with the sox (the team i loved for 4 years)…just make it close, please, and i’d be happy to play another 4 and kick the Yankees butts another (4×19) 76 times!” huh? are their egos so freaking large that they require caviar breakfasts and champagne lunches everyday along with some ‘courting’ in order to RE-SIGN with the freaking team that gave him the opportunity to win a world series afterall!!! i don’t blame the sox at all on this…yes, the theo thing still bugs me and i don’t think this would have happened had he been GM, but damon is still the one that pulled the trigger. if he doesn’t care that he won’t be playing with schilling, ramirez, and ortiz, why should i care who replaces him? good luck, johnny. you now fall into the hated pinstriper category and you forever will have to live with your career being summarized NOT as a pure sox player immortalized for your efforts in bringing the sox a championship after 86 yrs, but just another mercenary player in the era of mercenaries who went for the $….you’re no longer to be remembered fondly, a name passed down for the ages in beantown. you’re name no longer shines.

    SFinSF December 21, 2005, 1:10 pm
  • ah…JD could be president they way he shucks and jives…reminiscent of bill claiming on camera that “i did not have sexual relations with that woman”….JD on playing for the hated yankees:
    “There’s no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they’re going to come after me hard,” he said on May 3. “It’s definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It’s not what I need.”
    Yet sometime in the next week, Damon will don the pinstripes and a Yankees cap at the Stadium, smiling proudly while flashbulbs pop all around him…..JD for Pres 2008?

    SFinSF December 21, 2005, 1:48 pm
  • Hate to say it but if there’s anyone who might actually run in 08′ it would be a certain aging Sox pitcher.

    walein December 21, 2005, 2:19 pm
  • Sorry I had to do that…he’s a Yankee now.

    walein December 21, 2005, 2:21 pm
  • I think this is another thing the local media will make a really big deal over – Damon has never been injured for any length of time. He will regress to the mean as he ages. He is an above average fielder with a below average arm who will have to patrol a much larger center field than he has been patrolling for the last 4 years.
    On the other hand, he is an excellent leadoff hitter who will help the rest of the Yankees lineup.
    If the Sox are smart, they will be able to fill the leadoff slot. Getting a decent fielding center fielder is easier than getting a good leadoff hitter.
    Whatever, this is not the end of the world – although the local media will have it that way. Also, they will blame Red Sox management – when clearly they were unwilling to get into a bidding war at 13 million per annum – which would have gone higher – especially because it is clear that Damon liked the idea of NYC and the national media attention potential.

    Waldomeboy December 21, 2005, 3:21 pm
  • Hometown Discount
    Paul O’Neill
    Jumping Off Bridges
    I’ve read three or four Sox fans saying, “He’s dead to me.”
    That’s bush league. SF’s sentiments were much better.

    john yf December 22, 2005, 3:43 pm
  • no comment

    Anonymous December 24, 2005, 8:02 pm
  • wait and see what happens.

    Anonymous December 24, 2005, 8:03 pm
  • well I’m a hardcore yankee fan. I believe that when it comes to our short term future, this is good. I personally feel that this is a slap in the face for Boston. And I am pleased with that, but when it comes to long term effects, I actually feel it may hurt the yankees. Damon is already past his prime. He may do a decent job this coming season, but i believe that his days of good playing are numbered to no more than season or two. However, I am really hoping that the Yanks could come out and get another world series win with the lineup they have this season.
    Now I am not one of those Yankee fans that denies the truth about how god the Red Sox are. I’ll give it to them, they had an incredible team thise season. How else could they have beaten the Yankees four games in a row? They had skills… is what messed it all up for you Bosox fans.
    I am looking forward to another season win for the Yankees. We havent managed to win a world series since 9/11…ironically
    I’m against this whole unfriendly rivalry that has been going on for so long. I personally think it ruins the game. The fans of each team should just stop all of this and admit that both the Yankees and the Redsox are great teams. And the rivalry has actually helped the popul;arity of both teams and players. The Yankees and the Red Sox are ( in my view ) the two most famous teams in baseball. And they both aquired the most famous player to top it off. ( Babe Ruth anyone? )
    The politics of the game is getting rediculous. Just support your team no matter who is on it. Johny Damon is a Yankee now….it isnt the end of the world. I’m a yankee fan…and I still admit that Boston is a good team. I feel that most of the animosity comes from the boston fans. If you hadm ore than twenty world series wins under your belt…would you change your strategy? Honestly……

    Yankeeman85 February 7, 2006, 11:27 am

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