Detroit Tigers outfielder Johnny Damon was claimed off of the wavier wire by the Boston Red Sox, the team with which he won the first of his two World Series rings. The first ring came in the 2004 Fall Classic, the first World Series Boston had won since 1918.
Johnny was a hero when he played in Boston but was reviled by Red Sox fans as “Johnny Demon” and “Judas” after he signed with the team’s hated rival, the New York Yankees, after the 2005 season.
Damon played four seasons with the Red Sox from 2002 to 2005, during which he was twice an All-Star. Those were his only All-Star selections during his 16 year-long major league career. He also won a world championship with the Yankees in 2009, his last season in New York.
With a no-trade clause in his Tigers contract, Johnny Damon can veto a move to Boston. Boston was one of the teams he named that he could not be traded too without his permission. He reportedly is still hurt by the abuse Red Sox fans gave him in the four years he was with the Yankees and might not approve the move.
In 111 games with the Tigers this season, Damon is batting .270 with an on-base percentage (OBS) of .355. He has exactly one hit for each game he has played this season, as well as seven home runs, 40 runs batted in and 65 runs scored. He has played the outfield and DH’ed for the Tigers.
Damon is not a good fielder, but he is a gutsy, clutch player who can spark an offense, as the Yankees found out in their drive to the World Series title last year. He batted .364 in the World Series with an OBP of .440 with eight hits in six games.
He punished his old team in a late season showdown between Boston and New York, when the American League East title and A.L. wild card were on the line. Finishing second to the Yankees, Boston was the wild card in the playoffs but got swept by the Los Angeles Angels. Johnny & Co. went on to win it all.
USA Today quoted Johnny Damon as saying it will be a tough decision on whether to accept a move to Boston. He has 48 hours to accept or decline the move.
“It’s probably as tough of a decision for me to make right now as it was for me to leave Boston for New York,” Damon said. “It’s something that, fortunately, we have some time to think about.”
Damon went on to tell reporters, “At this moment, I’m not sure I want to leave Detroit for that. I enjoy playing here. I enjoy the kids I’m playing for, the coaching staff. But obviously, Terry Francona [manager of the Red Sox] is amazing. But it’s something that I’m going to have think long and hard over.”
Damon played under Francona in the 2004 season, in which the team went all the way to the world championship, and in 2005.
Will He Stay or Will He Go?
In the next two days, the Detroit Tigers can pull Johnny Damon back off the waiver wire, trade him to the Red Sox (with his permission), or allow the Red Sox to take him, if he approves the move. Johnny might want a financial bonus to go to Boston, if the Red Sox genuinely want him, and perhaps a contract extension for the 2011 season.
The Boston Globe quoted Damon as saying about Boston, “”I had a great time playing there. But I think once it was apparent that I wasn’t a necessity to re-sign there, it started to get ugly. And that’s why I’ve got to think long and hard. I have to think if they do have a strong chance to make the playoffs with the guys beat up there. I have to think long and hard if I’m going to once again be probably one of the nicest guys in baseball, but be once again the most hated guy in baseball. That’s what it boils down. You guys see how I get booed in every ballpark already.”
As for Detroit, Johnny said he would hate to leave but would do so if it were good for the Tigers.
“The only reason why I would be considering it is to help out this team in the future,” the Boston Globe quoted Damon as saying. “I love the Tigers organization, and I love the fact that they’re up-front and honest. If somehow they can get a good prospect back, a player that can help this team in the future, it would be beneficial for them. I would like to remain a Tiger, so I think that’s why these next hours are pretty important.”Boston’s Move
If the Boston Red Sox pick up Damon, they will pay the remaining $1.8 million left on the one-year, $8 million contract he signed with Detroit. Boston can use some help in the outfield, as two of their Opening Day outfielders, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury, are out for the season.
The only problem is, Damon — who will be 37-years-old on November 5th — was never a good fielder, and his fielding skills have deteriorated with age. Some baseball analysts, knowing Johnny”s feelings about Boston, believe that Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein claimed Damon to keep him from going to the NY Yankees or to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The parting between the Red Sox and Damon in 2005 was bitter. Epstein tendered Damon a three-year contact worth $11 million a year, but the Yankees trumped the offer by offering a fourth year plus an average salary of $13 million. Johnny went for the higher numbers.
Baseball Reference.com, Johnny Damon Career Statistics
Boston Globe, “Damon on return: ‘It’s something that I’m going to have think long and hard over'” by Peter Abraham
USA Today, “Claimed on waivers, Johnny Damon not sure he would accept trade to Red Sox” by Peter Barialai