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Q&A: Johnny Damon
2006-09-15 07:42
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

LICKSHOT GUEST SPOT

As the Red Sox prepare for another late-season, AL East showdown with the Yankees, Hub heartthrob and longtime Idiot Johnny Damon sat down with Bronx Banter correspondent Jacob Luft for an exclusive one-on-one interview.

BB: Johnny, It's been about 10 months since you turned down the Yankees' offer in free agency and decided to stay with the Red Sox. Any regrets?

JD: Absolutely not. What we have here and what we've built here the past couple of years, winning the World Series in 2004 and finally overtaking the Yankees in the East last year ... it's just too special. This group of guys, we've been through a lot together and management has done a great job of keeping this core together.

BB: How close did you come to donning the pinstripes?

JD: I mean, I thought about it. You have to. Business is business and their offer was pretty strong. Pedro went through the same thing when the Mets came calling last year, and Derek Lowe almost went to the Dodgers after '04. But at the end of the day, John Henry and [Boston GM] Theo [Epstein] came to the same conclusion that, as with those guys, they knew I would be too difficult to replace and came through with the years and money I wanted.

BB: C'mon Johnny. We all know you couldn't handle losing those locks of yours.

JD: [Laughs] Yeah, you got me. That was definitely a factor. But I'd like to think there's a little Vanity Smurf in all of us.

BB: You mentioned Derek. With Curt Schilling and Pedro taking turns on the DL, how big have the contributions from Derek and Bronson Arroyo and rookie starter Jonathan Papelbon been in keeping the Red Sox in the hunt?

JD: They've been huge. What can you say about Arroyo? The guy would be an ace anywhere else, especially for any middling NL Central team. Plus he signed a team-friendly contract to stay here and be a part of this. Papelbon is the real deal. His arsenal makes him perfectly suited for the rotation. Cla Meredith is unorthodox but has done a fine job as the closer. And Derek, ever since we shored up our infield defense [the Orlando Cabrera-Nomar Garciaparra trade in 2004] he's been lights out.

BB: That left side of your infield, with rookies Hanley Ramirez and Andy Marte. How tough is it to hit a ball past them?

JD: It's like a brick wall over there with those two guys. I doubt the Red Sox have ever had a better defensive shortstop than Hanley. In fact, we're planning on interrupting a game during our next homestand to honor him with a plaque saying, "Best Defensive Shortstop in Red Sox history."

BB: Didn't you do that already? Maybe I'm confusing that with "Best Fourth Outfielder/Pinch-Runner Dave Roberts Day."

JD: Maybe so. I can't really keep track with all the hype surrounding this team. I mean, every day there's another book that comes out about us. Somebody out there must be buying all this junk or else they wouldn't keep writing them.

BB: Who is the MVP, Manny Ramirez or Big Papi?

JD: Well A-Rod was in the mix there until recently when he went down with those heart palpitations. I hope he's OK. Yankee fans need to give him a break. As for the MVP, it's tough because Papi gets the big hits but he wouldn't have the chance if Manny wasn't protecting him. It's totally a Mantle-Maris thing. I hope they split the award.

BB: In hindsight, how disastrous would it have been if the Red Sox had not backed off of the Josh Beckett trade talks? He ended up with the Yankees, where he has floundered against the tough AL lineups.

JD: Well that trade would have cost us Hanley, who looks like he might be the next Barry Larkin. I'll be shocked if Derek Jeter ever wins a Gold Glove again. Besides, have you heard of this kid Anibal Sanchez? He'll be in the rotation next year for sure. Beckett is a nice talent and maybe he'll turn into the ace the Yankees thought they were getting when they traded Wang and Cano for him, but he's still got some learning to do, and we've handled him pretty well so far.

BB: So has Vernon Wells.

JD: Yeah, Vernon told me the other day he's going to buy Beckett a Rolex for Christmas to thank him for all the gopher balls he's thrown him.

BB: What do you want for Christmas?

JD: Another ring. We got one two years ago but last year we fell to the White Sox in seven games in the ALCS. We have a veteran group here that has been together a long time and knows how to win. It's a good thing the front office never carried out those elaborate plans for overhauling the ballclub. Sometimes, it's just better to stick with what works and not to outsmart yourself.

BB: Thanks for your time, Johnny. Just for the record, I think you would have enjoyed being a Yankee. I know the fans here in the Bronx would have loved it. Instead we're stuck with Coco Crisp.

JD: [Laughs] I'm not touching that one.

Jacob Luft is the baseball editor for SI.com and, as you can tell, an aspiring fiction writer.

Comments
2006-09-15 08:20:44
1.   rbj
Great laugh, one scary line:
"traded Wang and Cano"
That puts it in Stephen King territory.
2006-09-15 08:27:12
2.   Cliff Corcoran
1 That really puts things in perspective. I mean Sanchez + H.Ramirez vs. Wang + Cano is a pretty good comp, really. Just brutal.
2006-09-15 08:31:14
3.   3rd gen yankee fan
Such subtlety, Alex. You covered all the bases on this one. All hail Cas$hman. Nice.
2006-09-15 08:35:32
4.   sam2175
This is no fun without debris. I wonder where he is.
2006-09-15 08:37:32
5.   wsporter
That Wang and Cano line sent a shiver up my spine. Ca$hman = MVP. Brian for president.

I guess when you look at things from this POV they really have made a mess of things overthere.

2006-09-15 08:40:04
6.   vockins
I imagine some people expect that Bronx Banter should be above taking potshots at the Red Sox.

I'm not one of those people. Great post.

2006-09-15 08:41:09
7.   Cliff Corcoran
3 This post was written by Jacob Luft of SI.com, Alex merely posted it for him.
2006-09-15 08:51:57
8.   yankaholic
a truly enjoyable post.. this lull before the october storm is like stuffing up beer on saturday night before the superbowl..

and great job by Jacob.. i credit JL for me finding BB.. from one of his SI pieces taht discussed Womack moving to the OF..

its been 1.5 saesons already?? amazing.. really amazing..

look at all the young studs taht Boston's dream boy traded away..

maybe their 04 win was the worst curse of al.. Theo became so golden .. he thought he was Beane and has gone on with some awful signings and extensions and trades..

maybe the 04 break was to put a new curse..

2006-09-15 08:56:26
9.   JeremyM
This is an incredibly damning review of Boston's management. I love it.
2006-09-15 09:01:29
10.   rsmith51
That was quite amusing. I will have to send the link to my friends who are Red Sox fans.

The best thing about Tony Womack is he became Cano. If the Yanks had signed Polonco, who knows...

2006-09-15 09:03:11
11.   Maniakes
You want scary? I remember reading somewhere that in the 94 or 95, the Yankees offered to trade Jeter and Rivera for David Wells, but were turned down.
2006-09-15 09:07:47
12.   wsporter
11 Did you read it in the Onion? Maybe Balto offered Wells for the Captain and Mo? Maybe Watson and Stick couldn't stop laughing?
2006-09-15 09:09:47
13.   rsmith51
12 Or Bernie to the Tigers. I remember that one. Very scary...
2006-09-15 09:14:35
14.   Chyll Will
4 FINALLY!!! Someone had to ask! I loved that guy?girl?
2006-09-15 09:15:11
15.   wsporter
13 Or Jay Buhner to the … Oh wait.
2006-09-15 09:34:46
16.   yankee23
15 "What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?!?"
2006-09-15 09:39:51
17.   Rich Lederer
Awesome. Very clever. Congrats, Jacob and Alex.
2006-09-15 09:42:16
18.   LI yankee
PeteAbe is saying that the MVP race is over and it isn't even close. Yet I read all these articles from the major media sites (ESPN, SI, foxsports, etc...) supporting Dye and Morneau. Aren't these the same writers who vote?
2006-09-15 09:42:38
19.   Knuckles
greetings from my honeymoon in sunny croatia. glad the yanks have stayed hot while i've been gone. hoping to arrive home sunday afternoon and watch them clinch the east that night.
2006-09-15 09:42:52
20.   wsporter
16 One of my 10 favorite episodes:

Frank: What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?! He had 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs last year. He's got a rocket for an arm. You don't know what the hell you're doin'!
Steinbrenner: Well, Buhner was a good prospect, no question about it. But my baseball people loved Ken Phelps' bat. They kept saying "Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps."

2006-09-15 09:46:28
21.   Knuckles
and what's this about cutting ties with the clippers?
2006-09-15 09:46:56
22.   yankz
I think there's a positive correlation between the Sox's winning percentage and the number of times debris posts here.
2006-09-15 09:47:34
23.   3rd gen yankee fan
7 Whoops, sorry about that, Jacob.
2006-09-15 09:54:37
24.   Jim Dean
18 I'm fairly certain the ESPN crowd doesn't get a vote in the post-season awards unless they usually work through a local paper (Klap, McAdam, etc).

3 & 5 Let's not go crazy. Remember Scott Erickson and Terrence Long were also on the team this year. The Abreu trade was fantastic but I'd like to see a ring this year and no stupid trades for a few years. Dumb signings will always be a fact of life with the Yanks. It's the trades that are killers.

2006-09-15 09:54:39
25.   Chyll Will
22 Positive as in Tom Petty "Don't Come Around Here No More" or postive Ray Charles "Hit The Road, Jack" or Peanuts "Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back!)" ???
2006-09-15 09:57:31
26.   Simone
It is scary thinking about how badly things could have gone if Cashman hadn't been given more power in the Yankee organization. Just a couple years, Theo was Boy Genius and Cashman and the Yankees were being criticized in the media. The worm has definitely turned.
2006-09-15 09:58:43
27.   Jim Dean
Oh, and great column. That must be very painful for Sox fans, but even still I bet that team would have trouble with this year's Yanks especially since they'd still have no bullpen, bench, or closer.
2006-09-15 10:13:04
28.   Chyll Will
The worms will definitely be turning tonight if we can manage to get the game in...
2006-09-15 10:17:00
29.   Chyll Will
Yep. Alternate Universe or Schadenfreude, that's good penscratch up there.
2006-09-15 10:28:22
30.   Alex Belth
debris is a man, a native New Yorker now living up in New England. Originally he was a Dodgers fan I believe (either than or he rooted for the Giants, but I think it was the Dodgers). I too have wondered what he's up to these days...
2006-09-15 10:36:22
31.   RI Yankee
30 My guess is he's less a Sox fan and more of a Yankee Hater.

Great "interview", Jacob!

2006-09-15 10:47:33
32.   Alex Belth
No, bro, if you go back and read through old comments sections he was definitely a Sox fan. I mean, no question, he is Yankee-hater, but I think his feelings for the Sox were legit. He could make a good case for any and virtually ever transaction Boston made.
2006-09-15 10:57:28
33.   standuptriple
Tis a great time to rile up Sox-fans. I know I enjoy it. A 3-of-4 this series (or better?) would be a nice twist of the knife. I'd also like to see this winning streak extend out at least another game or two, beginning with a paddling of the unofficial "sheriff of baseball" tonight.
I'd settle for everyone remaining healthy considering the difficult playing conditions.
2006-09-15 11:09:13
34.   vockins
33 I'd rather see the Sox sweep the B team than have the Yanks sweep and somebody, anybody, gets injured.
2006-09-15 11:17:18
35.   wsporter
Got to agree with Alex on debris. He is one died in the wool Sawx booster and card carrying member of RSN. It often took 3 or 4 of us to stay up with him on the trades the Sawx made last winter. he is one tough nut when it comes to defending those B town clowns.
2006-09-15 11:20:21
36.   bobtaco
Hey Alex, I may have missed someone saying it earlier... but great article over at SI.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/alex_belth/09/15/yankees.future/index.html

2006-09-15 11:32:38
37.   pistolpete
36 Agreed- just got done with that myself. It's too bad you can't find a way to write for ESPN, Alex. Would be refreshing to see some pro-Yankee stuff amongst all the hatin'.
2006-09-15 11:40:24
38.   pistolpete
37 Not that you couldn't write for ESPN - that was worded weirdly. :-D
2006-09-15 11:52:29
39.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Great piece.

Speaking of near disasterous moves by the Yanks, the grandaddy of them all was when they nearly let Bernie sign with the Sawx in order to sign Albert Belle.

When was that? 98 or something. That's 3 world championships we would have kissed goodbye, and not telling how many the Sawx might have won.

2006-09-15 12:04:33
40.   Bama Yankee
37 If Alex did start writing for ESPN, would he go back to linking to the ESPN game recaps? ;-)
Just kidding...
In honor/memory of Rob Gee, I could not resist.
2006-09-15 12:08:07
41.   Cliff Corcoran
[39} Actually, the Grandaddy would have been Mo for Felix Fermin in spring '96. See the Alan Sherman interview on the sidebar.
2006-09-15 12:36:38
42.   mehmattski
Awesome satire, but I must nitpick: I don't think anyone will be considering Hanley Ramirez a "Best Defensive Shortstop" Currently he ranks dead last in ZR in the major leagues, with a .741. Not even the much maligned Jeterian defense was ever that bad...
2006-09-15 12:49:41
43.   rbj
21 Knuckles, there's going to be some shaking up in the IL in the next two years. Ottowa is moving to Allentown PA - Phillies want their AAA team nearby. It looks like the Yanks want the same, so they may move to Scranto-Wilkes Barre

The Clippers franchise is owned by the local county, so the Yanks can't pick up and move the Clippers; they have to associate with another team. This isn't 100% done though. I think the Mets have already cut ties with Norfolk, and Baltimore is looking at snagging the Tides, most likely just to keep the Nationals from getting them.

Also, the Mudhens are now down 2-1 in the best of five series after losing 10-4 last night. Rochester pounded out 17 hits, but to me it seemed that the Hens didn't want to get their uniforms dirty.

Tune in next week for the next installment of "As the International* League Turns"

*soon to be a misnomer as Ottowa is the only non US team.

2006-09-15 12:50:50
44.   Jim Dean
I really liked the article too, Alex. Any one know if the Yanks are able to sign Japenese players before they sign with the Japanese league? For the 30 million it will take this summer they could throw 1 million each at 30 high schoolers - seems like a beter investment strategy. Or would those players first have to 'defect' to another country to make themselves free agents?
2006-09-15 12:58:41
45.   LI yankee
Here are the VORP leaders for MLB from BP:

1. Travis Hafner 80.4
2. Derek Jeter 75.6
3. Albert Pujols 74.8
4. Miguel Cabrera 74.6
5. Ryan Howard 74.2

So Jeter has more value than a guy who's hit 56 homers. How can this guy not be MVP?

2006-09-15 13:17:24
46.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
42 That was a sly dig at Sawx fans, who have been proclaiming the awful A-Gon as the 2nd coming of Ozzie Smith all season.

Ramirez seems a slightly below avg ss. His BP Rate has hovered just below 100 all season, and is at 97 right now. For comparison's sake, A-Gon is at 99, just about where he's been all year, which is several pts better than his atrocious career rate of 95.

But, as any Sawx fan wil tell you -- tho there are many skeptics on the Sons of Sam Horn "is this the best Red Sox defense ever" thread -- A-Gon is the best defensive ss in the majors!

2006-09-15 13:28:11
47.   Sliced Bread
Hey, late to the party, but beautiful piece. Excellent. Perfect day to revel in the bungling of the Boston Marlins (with apologies to the Marlins)
2006-09-18 03:40:34
48.   Yu-Hsing Chen
ROFL, great post.

Shoulda added in that

"Wang won more game than Beckett down in Florida, where he has been having a Cy young like season thx to the super spacious ball park." he's setting a record for the lowest HRs allowed. While Cano is making a great case to winning the batting title. while suffice to say Tony Womack have bombed even more than last year (you have to remember, they would have kepted him if they traded Cano)

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