Throughout the course of the 2009 season, Johnny Damon spoke, seemingly without his agent Scott Boras’ permission, about his desire to stay in New York and continue to play for the Yankees. “I know where I want to be next year,” Damon told 1050 ESPN New York in early May. “I want to be here in New York.
Two weeks later, he expressed similar sentiments to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “This would definitely be the best place for me,” he said. “I’d sure love to keep taking advantage of that right-field porch.”
Finally, in August, he again made a similar statement. “I don’t know where else I would want to go to,” Damon said. “Obviously, that’s not the right thing to say when you’re about ready to approach free agency, but I’m very happy with playing in New York, and my family’s happy I play for New York. There’s no bigger place to go.”
For a Scott Boras client, Damon wasn’t exactly toeing the party line, and by noting that it’s not “the right thing to say” as a free agent, he acknowledged as much. As the Yankees, then, have been dreaming of wrapping up Damon to a short deal on something of a hometown discount, Scott Boras has tried to take control of the story. Yesterday, the superagent expressed his desire for a three- or four-year deal for Damon at market rate. At that price, consider the Yankees out of the picture.
Yet, this story is far from over, and two competing interviews — one by Damon and one by Boras — suggest to me that Damon and his agent are not on the same page. First, we have David Waldstein’s piece on Boras. Holding forth at the GM Meetings, Scott spoke about all of his clients, including Damon. “I think every player wants his fair market value,” Boras said, “and I think the New York Yankees have a history of paying players their fair market values.”
Damon meanwhile was far more forthcoming about his desire to stay in the Bronx. Speaking with Reggie Jackson and Bill Pidto on Sirius XM last night, the Yanks’ free agent left fielder was unequivocal in his love for pinstripes and his desire to come back:
Host, Bill Pidto: “So all things being equal, Johnny, you’d like to come back to the Yanks?”
Damon: “Why not? I mean, we just won a championship. That new stadium is incredible. The Steinbrenners have been the best owners in the game as long as I can remember. They want to win and they proved it last offseason…So, that being said, I’ve loved playing for New York these past four years.”
He also talked about taking less to stay:
Host, Bill Pidto: “When you look to the financial aspects of your future do you maybe say, ‘You know what? I’ll play for a little bit less if I can stay with the Yanks?’”
Johnny Damon: “Well, we have to go through the system and start negotiating if that’s what it’s going to take. We just need to start talking. We know New York has all the resources in the world but they also know I want to come back. So I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. I’m sure there’s something we can work out.”
It’s clear that Damon isn’t being as free-spirited with his mouth as he was in May and August, but the desire is clearly there. He wants to come back to New York, and the Yankees, for the right price, will have him back. Although these quotes don’t push the story of a contract forward, it does highlight a Boras-driven tension. Scott Boras wants the most for his clients while his clients sometimes just want to stay where they are. We saw this tension flare up between Boras and A-Rod in 2007, and now it seems as though Damon is pushing back on the Boras rhetoric.
All things being equal, Boras should find a way to get Damon back on the Yanks. After all, that’s his job. But if it means fewer dollars for Matt Holliday, another top Boras client, Scott may be less willing to accommodate Damon and his lower future earnings potential.