Before breaking down the Red Sox’s shamelessly business-driven waiver claim on Johnny Damon and why they are to blame for Damon’s rejection, it should first be made clear just how much the former Boston sports hero has fallen in the eyes of Red Sox Nation.
He set himself up for defamation of his Red Sox character when he told reporters back in 2005 that he would never sign with the Yankees. Judging from Damon’s recent comments, he seemed shocked at the fans’ reaction and subsequent treatment of him and his family upon his move to the Bronx. How exactly did he expect the Boston faithful to react when he went from Red Sox star to soldier for the Evil Empire?
Damon should have realized that the reaction was going to be negative, and that if he had returned to the Sox, his first at-bat would be greeted with the same response given to guys like Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts and Gabe Kapler. Standing ovation. It’s an example of just how passionate Boston fans are about their teams, especially the Red Sox.
But if reading deeper into Damon’s comments to reporters, it becomes clear that his beef is not truly with how the fans treated him during his Yankee years, but with the Red Sox front office and how they handled his departure. In what’s starting to become a common theme with Theo & The Trio, several Sox players have parted ways with the organization on sour terms following less-than-inspiring contract offers.
Sox management scoffed at Damon’s supposed $52 million offer from the Yankees, thinking it was just Scott Boras blowing the proverbial smoke. But the offer turned out to be real, and the Yankees snatched one of the Red Sox’s most important stars away from them.
Damon can never be blamed for taking that offer from the Yankees. He’s a businessman, as are almost all baseball players, and $52 million for four years is a significant increase over $40 million by any measure. As Felger & Mazz pointed out the other day, if you work at Supermarket A for $40,000 and Supermarket B offers you $52,000, you take the bigger offer 100 percent of the time. It’s the same idea, whether you make thousands or millions.
The Red Sox lowballed Damon on their offer, and he really came back to bite them. He not only didn’t break down like they may have expected at the time, but he continued to be the same top-of-the-order presence who plays hard, plays every day and plays through injuries, only this time in New York, winning another ring in the process. The Red Sox haven’t had an on-base guy of Damon’s caliber leading off the lineup since his departure.
The Red Sox made this waiver claim purely from a business standpoint. As a baseball move, it certainly made sense- with all due respect to Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald, Damon would have been an upgrade over either of them. But that was not the motivation behind this move. If the Red Sox truly believed the team had a chance to make the postseason, they would have gone out and acquired an outfielder or reliever at the trade deadline, which was eerily quiet this season, or even earlier.
With football season looming, it’s clear that the Red Sox are more concerned about perpetuating the current sellout streak at Fenway Park (617 and counting) while they play potentially meaningless September games without Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis or Jacoby Ellsbury. Bringing Damon back would have certainly boosted revenue and NESN ratings, but now it looks like the famed streak may soon come to an end.
It’s sad that the most compelling story of the Red Sox’s 2010 season involves a player they didn’t acquire. What was already a largely uninteresting season turned into a clear attempt at grabbing extra money from us. The Red Sox front office deserves to lose the sellout streak and the potential earnings that may have come with the Damon acquisition.
Certainly, Damon could have reconciled his differences and returned to Boston, but he didn’t really need to move his family and come here for five weeks just to end up with the same result. Considering how things ended with him and the Red Sox, he can hardly be blamed for staying where he’s at, even if it is a hellhole with a floundering team like Detroit.
For the first time in their tenure, the Red Sox front office got kicked in the gut by a former star who didn’t like the way they treated impending free agents. Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen with David Ortiz this coming off-season. But judging from the way the Red Sox have done business in the past, there’s no reason to believe anything will change.