Johnny Damon is a Detroit Tiger, and will remain so for at least the last six weeks of the 2010 season. And that’s as big a non-injury bummer as I can think of this year.
The Red Sox, as you well know at this point, put in a waiver claim on Damon, for a couple of reasons. First, they didn’t want him to go to Tampa Bay or New York, but most importantly, they do have holes in their outfield. Damon would’ve stepped in and been the everyday left fielder immediately, and would have slotted in nicely in the number two hole in the lineup as a lefty hitting behind right-handed Marco Scutaro. It would’ve been a jolt of energy and, most importantly, a jolt of talent to a team desperately trying to climb back into the playoff race.
Of course, Damon had a no trade clause. Not a full one, but one that said he couldn’t be sent to Boston. And after a day or so of wrangling, he turned down a chance to come back to the Red Sox.
There’s a lot of speculation floating around as to why he would turn that down. Damon’s line is that he loves Detroit, loves playing for Jim Leyland, and thinks that the Tigers still have a fighting chance in the American League Central.
There is plenty of chatter about the hard feelings he has harbored for Boston since his exit in the 2005 offseason. There are rumors that he didn’t like the way the Boston brass (who were without Theo Epstein for that brief period) made him an afterthought in their negotiations, and the reception he’s received in Fenway Park since has apparently worn him down.
It should be noted that about 90 percent of Red Sox fans are complete morons, and have been booing this guy for being a “traitor” ever since. I’m on record as stating that that mentality is idiotic. World Series trophies don’t grow on trees, and without Damon, the Red Sox don’t win the 2004 crown.
Over the course of his four-year contract, Damon did his job. He played hard, he played hurt and he was an excellent teammate. Then his contract ran out, and, as adults often do, he moved on to his new, higher paying job. And Red Sox fans, seeing him playing for the team they don’t like, booed him like there was no tomorrow.
Of course, any fan who has actually turned down an additional $12 million is free to boo.
I was furious when he left, but my fury was directed at the team for not doing more to keep him. The Red Sox are swimming in cash, and the thought that they wouldn’t pony up for an elite player was ridiculous. I’ve heard the arguments (he was getting older, he might get hurt), but I’ve still never bought it.
I’m hoping, praying even, that his poor treatment at the hands of this very vocal, very ridiculous majority didn’t have anything to do with him saying no to a Boston encore. If so, that makes all of us look terrible. It makes every Red Sox fan a member of a screaming, drooling pack of hypocrites. I like to think that I know how the (sports) world works, and that I’m a little more thoughtful than that.
Good luck, Johnny. I’ll go back to dreaming what could’ve been.