When the defending World Series Champions, the New York Yankees, take the field on opening day 2010, they will be doing so without Johnny Damon for the first time in four years. It seems like only yesterday that Damon decided to cowboy down, shave his beard, and join the pinstripes. He batted leadoff and second for the Yankees and tallied up some awesome numbers, building towards a hall of fame career. During his stint with the Yankees, Damon eclipsed 77 bombs, 410 runs, 125 doubles, and 93 sb, as well as being a key component in their 2009 championship season.
The Yankee are going to miss Damon’s enthusiasm on and off the field as well as his bat in the lineup. Scott Boras and the Yankees played a chess match for months regarding Damon’s contract. Early in the offseason, Damon’s camp turned down a two year 14MM deal, which prompted the Yankees to immediately sign Nick Johnson to a one year deal. In hind sight, Damon and Boras should have taken the money and ran and, I must admit, I thought the two sides would reach an agreement for 2010.
Brian Cashman has brought in solid stop gap players in Winn, Thames, and Johnson. The Yankee Dynasty of the late 90’s always consisted of unusual suspects in left field, whether it was Curtis, Ledee, Raines or Spencer, they all put rings on their fingers. However, these players, can’t be expected to slide into the two hole of the lineup and produce at the high level Damon did for four seasons. I like all three of these guys and two of them are returning home. I was never in favor of the Yankees dealing away Johnson to the Expos and am glad to see him back in pinstripes. I only hope he can stay on the field and slide in-between Jeter and Teixeira successfully.
It would be naïve not to bring up the fact that following the 2010 season, Carl Crawford will become a free agent. I would love to see the Rays lock him up long term, nothing makes me happier than seeing home grown talent stay within an organization. That being said, the chunk of real estate in left field at Yankees Stadium may be on layaway for Mr. Crawford. I am and always will be a huge Johnny Damon fan, I wish him well wherever he ends up, and will give him a standing ovation when he steps up to the plate for the visiting team. And if he blasts a “Johnny Rocket” to the short porch in right field, you’ll see a silly smile on my face.
Jay Ferraro is the Executive Producer of Baseball Digest LIVE and Gotham Baseball LIVE. He is also a columnist for Baseball Digest ,Baseballdigest.com, and Gothambaseball.com. You can reach him at Jay_Ferraro@Juno.com , follow him on Twitter here and add him on Facebook here.