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Johnny Be Good
2005-12-24 12:01
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

There was a press conference at Yankee Stadium yesterday welcoming Johnny Damon to the Bronx. The day before, Damon got a new look at a chi-chi hair salon in Manhattan. I wouldn't exactly call it a buzz cut, but when in Manhattan...Damon's hair is still very stylized, he's still sporting the trendy (for ballplayers, anyway) side burns--though he did get a shave. With his cutsie wife standing by his side, a bottle of evian in his hand, I couldn't tell who is prettier: Damon or his old lady. Not for nothing, but the Bombers have some kind of Tiger Beat Beefcake at the top of the order, with Damon followed by Jeter and Rodriguez.

Murray Chass writes:

The Red Sox had wanted to re-sign Damon, but John Henry, the principal owner, said this week that they weren't prepared to pay him $13 million a year, which is what the Yankees gave him for four years. To hear Damon tell it, though, the Red Sox might not have lured him back even if they had matched the Yankees' offer.

Asked if he had been influenced by the Red Sox front-office shuffling and the player exodus, he said, "It's something I definitely thought about, but what really opened my eyes was their first initial offer a month after the season."

In the Daily News, John Harper opines:

That may sound simplistic, and as Damon, the self-proclaimed "idiot," is the first to admit, he is not a deep thinker. But as he pointed out indirectly, part of having fun as a team is coming to grips with the responsibility of dealing with the media - a task the Yankees liken to prison detail.

"We made everyone (in Boston) realize they had a responsibility," Damon said. "I made myself very accessible to the media."

There is a fine line in the clubhouse in that regard. Often players who give too much time to the media are judged and resented by teammates as self-promoters, but Damon has an innocence about him - in addition to a well-earned reputation as a gamer - that made him as popular with his Red Sox teammates as he was with the fans in Boston.

Yes, it seems that everybody likes Johnny Damon, and it wasn't hard to see why yesterday, as he handled the big-event press conference with an ease and friendliness that clearly wasn't staged. He played to the media, rubbing his hairless chin while asking how everyone liked his new look. He responded to the blinding flash of cameras in his face by saying, "Thank you, and obviously, keep on snapping away."

The reaction to the Damon signing has been mixed. Regardless, the Yankees have a new center fielder, just in time for Christmas. This has been a very active off-season, and there will continue to be changes around and about before Opening Day rolls around. Anyhow, hope everyone enjoys and/or survives the holidays with their loved and/or related ones.

Comments
2005-12-24 16:05:40
1.   marc
I never thought I'd get this enthusiastic about Damon but it is clearly a great signing given the alternatives. I'm concerned about still having an arm in center that may allow runners to take the extra base, but one defense to that is that Damon is a guy able to run to and catch the ball. That at least limits some of the damage to guys tagging up. Given the somewhat disappointing performance of big FA signings in their first year as a Yankee, it's a good sign that Damon handles the media so well and looks like he'll fit right in. I still think Boston is a tougher city to play in as I don't recall equivalents of Bill Buckners whose lives and family have to get totally uprooted and disrupted because of an error. That's a function of teams with long losing traditions like Boston and the Cubs. We're also going to have Bernie and Crosby as solid back-ups in center. BTW while most of the Boston reaction is very unhappy, a couple of the sour grapes comments and articles are downright hilarious.
2005-12-24 20:18:47
2.   monkeypants
Johnny Damon = Micky Dolenz ???
2005-12-25 07:50:26
3.   Simone
Happy Holidays everyone!

As Yankee fans' it makes the season more enjoyable to learn that just about everyone in New England has lost their minds over Johnny Damon signing with the Yankees. Check out this Boston Globe editoral, this is an editoral mind you: http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2005/12/24/steinbrenners_folly/
The Boston Globe which owns the Red Sox is writing editorials attacking a rival team's ownership and management in defense of actions of its team's management. How sad is that, really?!

2005-12-25 08:35:08
4.   debris
The only people who don't seem upset about the Damon signing are the performanace analysts who see Damon as a decent player whose value was vastly inflated by Fenway Park.

The like of Rob Neyer and Joe Sheehan see him easily replaced by Jeremy Reed and more than replaced by Coco Crisp, each of whom could have his numbers inflated by Fenway. The task at hand is acquiring one of them. To quote the Yankee fan, Sheehan: "The Red Sox could actually end up huge winners here. There's a rumor making the rounds that they're trying to deal Matt Clement to the Mariners for Jeremy Reed. If they can do that, they will have replaced Damon with, essentially, a Damon Starter Kit, complete with functional arm and 25-year-old legs, and saved $20 million a year in the process. The Sox may feel they don't have the rotation depth to make a deal like this, but the available pool of pitchers is deeper than the available pool of center fielders, and the cost savings could go a long way come midseason. If they get Reed, they'll never miss Damon."

While it would have been ideal to acquire Reed or Crisp before cutting ties with Damon, who could have been a decent fallback, Cashman gave Boras a deadline, Boras knew the Sox weren't going to come close to matching, and he took it. The only way the Sox lose in this exchange is if they can't complete a deal for either Crisp or Reed.

2005-12-25 08:48:39
5.   singledd
While I love reading about Sox Fans 'pain' over JD, there is a lot of (typical) Boston media flogging-the-dummy journalism. I would not take this seriously. Boston media has always had a doom and gloom attitude towards the Sox. Its all good (2004) or all bad... there is little in between. NY media may be tough, but fair. Boston media is seriously disturbed.

In reading a number of Sox blogs, here is what I get from Red Sox Nation:

1) They feel betrayed that JD left.
2) They feel betrayed that the Sox FO did not try harder to keep JD
3) They feel betrayed (exp 8) that JD went to the Yankees.
4) They feel that now yet another piece is missing in the team.

However, even those crying in their soup the hardest admit:
1) Damon is still a good player, but not a GREAT player, and will definitely decline in the next 4 years.

2) That the Sox FO felt this way too... hence, the decision to let JD go without a fight.

3) That they Love JD (much like we love Bernie) but can (now that he is gone) admit the reality of his talent and future (much like it took some of us a while to do the same for Bernie).

My conclusion on JD being a Yankee:
1) We have a much better offensive team now. This trade might put us over the top.

2) JD's arm may be worst then Bernies... certainly will be down the line.

3) Over 4 years, JD is not even worth 40 mil... that was a 'we want you to stay in Boston, and will overpay you... just because' price. We overpaid by 20 million. JD MIGHT be worth 10 mil this year (might), but it will definitely go south in coming years.

4) He is a tough, hard working, likable guy. Had he not been a 'Sox guy', we would love him immediately. He will be a good teammate.

5) I have been to Fenway a number of times. It is a harder and more dangerous CF to play (garage doors, triangles, etc). If he is healthy, I expect him to play a decent CF for us. I also expect Torro to rest him some, as Bernie with get some starting assignments, and Bubba et al will be used as late inning and blow-out game replacements.

6) It is not that horrible a deal simply because we had little opportunity to get a good CF'er without losing something in exchange. This deal only cost us money. By 2008, when we have a lot of big contracts off the books, we can deal with moving/replacing JD if it is necessary. Like Bernie, he might not even be fit to PH.

To think that Vlad went for 13$ mil a few years ago. Just shows how the market fluctuates. Add to that that many teams are now spending money, who were not, 4 years ago.

We certainly have a better team then last year, but as always (especially with us) SP and RP will tell the story.

2005-12-25 10:38:22
6.   Zack
debris,
you can quote that quote all you want, but until the Sox actually DO aquire another CF and SS, and until said CF and SS put up numbers, then its pointless to speculate. What we DO know is that the Sox are in a bind, and that the Mariners would be insane to trade away their cheap CF for a headcase pitcher Boston WANTS to get rid of. If the Sox have to trade Lester AND/OR Papelbon AND/OR Arroyo to fill those spots, will you still be so happy? Its great to put the positive spin on the loss, but Damon WAS their first choice, they will now turn to backup choices that wont come without their prices.

The thing everyone forgets is that a) we have won with a weak armed CF before, the problem last year was the balls that weren't caught, not the throws, and b) the Yanks don't HAVE to play Damon in CF the entire time he is there. By year three, hopefully his replacement will be ready to take part time duties...

2005-12-25 12:39:53
7.   debris
singledd,

I think you pretty much nailed it. That said, Red Sox Nation has no need to feel betrayed. If anyone should feel betrayed, it should be Damon as the Sox made basically no effort to sign him.

From everything I've read, and there's basically no disagreement with you, this is how it played out.

Early on, the Sox made Damon an initial offer of $27 M over three years. Damon said yesterday he knew at that point that the Sox had little interest in him and that he should look elsewhere. Somewhat later on, the Sox increased their offer to $40 M over 4 years. Damon now says he took that to be their final offer; the Sox front office pretty much said that they weren't going to budge from that and gave him a Christmas deadline. They also somewhere along the line decided they wanted to move in a different direction, ideally Crisp or Reed, both younger, lots cheaper, and not having the benefit of seeing their accomplishments padded by playing in Fenway Park.

At about the same time, the Yanks decided to get serious. They upped the ante by $12 M and gave Damon the same Christmas deadline. Knowing the Sox weren't going to budge from their offer and knowing that the Yanks offer was considerably more generous than anything Damon was going to get elsewhere, Damon jumped ship.

The fans are going nuts, the press is going nuts. Everybody is going nuts except the performance analysts and the front office. There seems to be no gnashing of teeth on Yawkey Way.

Is the front office in disarray as the Boston press seems to think? I personally don't think so, but no one will really know until April 1, when they have to put a team on the field. They have plenty of chips to deal and about $20 M to spend.

2005-12-25 12:42:02
8.   debris
Correction in the first line of the prior post. I wish this board allowed editing. I said the RSN had no "need" to feel betrayed; what I meant was that RSN has no "right" to feel betrayed as the front office basically made no serious effort to sign Damon.
2005-12-25 12:51:49
9.   Simone
I get the bitterness about Johnny Damon from the Red Sox fans who I totally enjoy mocking, but I find the baseball media to be useless at this point. They are just writing to get paid because they have nothing of substance to contribute.

When the Yankees had a hole in center with only Bubba there and no reasonably ways of trading for a center fielder, there was criticism and hand slapping glee all the way around. Now that the Yankees have ponied up for Damon which indisputably makes them better for the next couple of years, there is moaning, groaning, and bitching. So what if Reed or Crisp (who last time I checked weren't Red Sox players) end up producing for the Red Sox? What does have to do with the Yankees? They didn't have enough to trade for either of these guys. Also, so what if the Yankees overpaid for Damon? He was their best shot at a centerfielder which out giving up any of their young inexpensive players. Neyer and Sheehan know this so why are they wailing away? Why aren't they busy discussing how the Red Sox are going to fill their holes at center and short? Last time I checked these were important positions.

As a Yankee fan, this has been the most exciting off season for the team since the last championship, imo. George Steinbrenner recognized that he couldn't afford to lose his GM so he gave into Cashman's demands for more control. The front office finally appears to have one person in charge with a solid plan.

Cashman held on to the Yankees' prospects/rookies, got the team slightly younger and lowered payroll. In a couple years with many of those huge contracts ending, the Yankees' should being paying limited luxury tax and with their revenue sharing money going to new stadium, the rest of the league will be cut off from their free pocket money.

There is nothing for Yankee fans to complain about or be unhappy about, really. The baseball media just wants to rain on our parade because they can no longer say, "Bronx Zoo" and point their fingers at the Yankees laughing. They need to turn their attention to the decision-making of the Red Sox' shadow GM (Epstein according to Edes), Lucchinio and Co-GMs.

2005-12-25 13:03:15
10.   debris
Simone,

Last I checked, there were no games played between December and April 1. The Sox clearly decided that they could field a better team without giving Johnny Damon $52 M or even $40M. They have several months to prove it.

Certainly they can do better than Damon with Crisp or Reed plus the $11.5 M left over. If they should have to move for Corey Patterson, the task will be that much more difficult.

They made a decision which I believe was the right one. Certainly overpaying Damon would have been the easiest route but would it have built the best ballclub? Time will certainly tell.

2005-12-25 14:08:39
11.   yankz
Who in his or her right mind would trade Choi AND Izturis for a really old, really fat, really unhealthy pitcher (Wells)??? These rumors proposed by Red Sox fans are getting hilarious. If that actually happens, I'm going to start sending malicious e-mails to Bud Selig.

Merry Christmas!

2005-12-25 14:55:19
12.   singledd
debris..
I agree with you (and your agreeing with me) except: "ideally Crisp or Reed, both younger, lots cheaper"... talking about players you don't have, who have posted average numbers to date, but MIGHT get much better is silly. Should we compare our team to your team based on getting Clemens and A. Jones in 2 years? Now the Sox have serious holes in their line-up. WHEN you have flesh-and-blood signed to fill these holes, then let us know what you think.

The Sox let Damon go because they did not want to make a 4 yr/40++ mil committment. Possibly a good move... we shall see. But the Sox FO is not hand-slapping because they 'dumped' JD. Like letting Pedro go, it was a calculated rock-and-a-hard-place decision, and only time will tell us it's wisdom.

Meanwhile, the Yanks look better (in the present) then the Sox. But there are still 162 games to go.

I'm pissed that the Yanks didn't offer JD 44 mil (instead of 52). I think JD was pissed at the Sox (like Petite was at the Yanks a few years ago), the Sox would not have topped the offer, and we could have saved 8 mil.

2005-12-25 15:51:12
13.   debris
Yankz,

That really old, really fat, really unhealthy pitcher won 15 games last year and has made 30 starts 9 of the last 10 seasons. As for Choi and Izturis, Choi was nearly non-tendered and Izturis is going to miss at least half of 2006. I sure don't want to see the Sox trade Wells for them. I'd like to see them trade Wells for the prospects that will bring Lugo to Boston.

singledd, re: Crisp posting average numbers. Crisp put up better overall numbers than Damon last year. And vastly better road numbers. The reason the Red Sox hired Bill James was to make sure that they didn't overpay for Fenway inflated numbers. Let the Yanks do that.

2005-12-25 16:08:04
14.   debris
Simone: "What does have to do with the Yankees? They didn't have enough to trade for either of these guys. Also, so what if the Yankees overpaid for Damon? He was their best shot at a centerfielder which out giving up any of their young inexpensive players. Neyer and Sheehan know this so why are they wailing away?'

Simone, First off, Sheehan is a Yankee fan. I don't think either Neyer or Sheehan is saying the Yanks shouldn't have signed JD. They are simply saying that he is not the player they think he is. And you're also absolutely right that the Yanks don't have enough to trade for either of these guys. The Sox believe they do and so they let Damon go. Would you rather have Crisp or Reed and $12.5 M to take on other talent or Damon? The Sox asked themselves that question and the answer was the former. We'll learn in the upcoming weeks just how smart they are.

The Sox also know that due to the paucity of free agent talent, the price of talent was going to spike this winter. Johnny Damon is going to make more money than Vladi Guerrero or Miguel Tejada. That's nuts for a guy who puts up mediocre numbers when he's not in Fenway Park. Prices will go back down next winter when there's a more normal free agent crop.

2005-12-25 19:55:38
15.   Schteeve
CF and 2B project to be the only positions from which the Yankees get improved offensive production in 2006 compared to 2005. I say this based on my gut, someone tell me if I'm wrong.

Damon will play better defense than Bernie. He'll hit lots better than Crosby. He was overpriced. He was less overpriced than a lot of the other overpriced guys the Yankees have inked over the last few years.

Other than those facts, I don't understand all the hoo-ha about this move. Let's just see how it plays itself out, already.

2005-12-25 21:13:19
16.   Zack
"Crisp put up better overall numbers than Damon last year. "
Umm, no he didn't. Crisp hit .300 .345 .465, Damon .316 .366 .439. Crisp had 69 rbi, 15 sbs, 6 cs, Damon 75, 18, 1. Crisp has a .05 higher ops, clearly a matter of his 6 more HR. Damon is far more consistant against both right and left, and his road numbers in 2005 weren't nearly as bad as you seem to make them out to be. Plus, add that into the fact that Crisp is a CF of below average range according to RF, and you need to amend your argument. I will give you that he is improving, but on the other hand, jacobs field played as a greater hitters park last year than Fenway, yet Crisp was much worse at home than the road, so I wouldn't call a move to Fenway a huge improvement. And as faras I can tell, they overpaid a lot WITH james, so thats not really working so well...

And as for having the extra 12.5 mill to take on someone else, well, the Yanks still have that. They are below last years payroll and filled their biggest weakness. For both teams, its not the money that is the issue, its what you have to give up in a trade.

2005-12-26 00:26:33
17.   jdsarduy
The only reason David Wells won 15 games last yr is b/c he got the run support.
He gave up 36 more hits then innings pitched. And we can't even use Fenway has a factor. Even though offensive numbers are inflated in Fenway Wells was 8-1 with ERA of .307, on the road he was 7-6 ERA of 5.56.
Don't see why anybody would want Wells especially in the NL where he would have to bat and run the bases, but the Red Sox have suckered some GMs out there into one-sided trades in their favor. I wouldn't be surprised if Wells gets traded and the Sox get back something useful.
2005-12-26 03:08:10
18.   debris
You're right, Wells shouldn't have won 15 games. He should have won 18; the bullpen blew three.

Wells got off to a slow start out of spring training. He also had three lousy games, one in which he hurt his ankle, two when he should have been in rehab, but wasn't. Around those 5 miserable turns, Wells had 17 so-called quality starts, pitching 6 or more, allowing 3 or fewer. By comparison, Mussina had 15, Johnson 22. Wells will earn between one-sixth and one-half of what Mussian will earn in 2006, making him an extremely valuable commodity.

2005-12-26 05:10:17
19.   debris
Zack,

Damon's road numbers last year were .780 OPS, playing away from Fenway which boosts offense.
Crisp's home part suppresses offense. Away from Cleveland, Crisp's OPS was .888. That's a huge difference.

Crisp is entering his prime; JD is leaving his.

I don't know where you came up with your park factors. According to baseballreference, where 100 is neutral, lower numbers favoring pitchers, higher number pitchers, The Jake was a 94 last year, a huge pitcher's advantage. Fenway was a 101, a slight hitter's advantage. Fenway, as we know, suppresses power and boosts batting average. With the elimination of the 400 Club, Fenway should again be a huge hitter's park, both for average and power.

2005-12-26 08:25:51
20.   Zack
I looked at ESPN's which is much more basic in looking at road vs home stats of all players there. It rates Fenrates just below and Jacobs just above. No matter, we shall see what happens if the Sox do in fact trade for him, if his defense improves, if he fills the need. It would be interesting to see, I know all RSN would, of course, love the move and claim him as even better than Damon, and then blame everything on him if he fails, a la Renteria. But until the Sox have completed their roster and traded away their prospects, we can speculate all we want. For every stat in favor of Crisp and Reed and against Damon, we can give you the opposite. Fun to spin, isn't it?
2005-12-26 08:45:24
21.   singledd
For those in need of REAL entertainment:
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/blog/index?name=simmons

debris.... please ignor above.

2005-12-26 09:02:39
22.   jdsarduy
Blown saves happening to every pitcher, I'm sure there were quite a few games, probably more then 3, the Yanks middle relief blew for Randy and Mussina. And just because a player doesn't earn much doesn't mean he's valuable. You can't compare Wells to Randy or Mussina b/c their not on the trading block. Has a matter of fact Wells posted an ERA of 4.50 in the month of September, so not all his bad numbers came early.
B/c of his age, ( 42 now, 43 next yr in May )his declining numbers and the fact that he said publicly he wants to be traded it's impossible for Wells to be an extremely valuable commodity. If any team can something for him it's the Sox I'll give you that much.
2005-12-26 09:52:35
23.   debris
Zack,

It sure beats talking football or hockey, whatever they are.

2005-12-26 12:15:57
24.   Zack
True true debris, though I am afriad the Yanks won't be doing anything else interesting until Spring Training. The Sox will be the area of focus clearly...
2005-12-26 17:08:56
25.   Start Spreading the News
Re: #15

Schteeve's comment started me thinking position by position where the improvements will be for next year. I think we will improve at 1st, 2nd, CF and catcher.

Jason Giambi will probably play most of 1st base for us this year. He hit 5 homeruns in April, May and June. He probably won't do that again. Of course he probably won't hit 14 homers in one month again either. If his Post-All-Star numbers indicate his true performance (1.057 OPS w/22 HRs), then we will see a better year from him in terms of consistent performance. I also expect him to hit higher in the lineup, like #3 where he will see more pitches to hit. Last year, he hit in front of Posada and his batting average suffered.

2b: A full year of Cano should lead to better results than last year where Womack/Sanchez/Bellhorn/et. al played 23% of the games. There is still time for Cano to learn to draw walks. But I used to say that about Soriano...

CF: Damon is going to be produce more than the .688 OPS that Bernie gave us last year. ESPN has JD as having created 105.9 runs while Bernie had 55.7. Even assuming a decline, JD won't be as bad as Bernie was last year.

Catcher: Flaherty "contributed" 4.3 runs created and .458 OPS in 47 games. His replacement, Stinnett, has got to be better. Last year, Stinnett, posted a .736 OPS and 16.4 runs created in 59 games. The Flaherty/Stinnett difference of about .200 OPS should (at least) offset any continued decline by Posada.

All other positions should either stay the same or decline slightly -- barring injuries.

2005-12-26 19:44:18
26.   debris
SSTN,

I agree with all of the above, however, on the other side:

1. Mariano will start showing his age somewhere between now and 2015. It could be this year.

2. Farnsworth is no replacement for Flash.

3. Lightning doesn't strike twice. It just ain't gonna happen again for Aaron Small.

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