Left field closing arguments: Johnny Damon


Each player in our left field closing arguments series has potential upside with considerable downside. Today’s player offers upside with little downside. I think Damon remains the preference of nearly everyone out there, but just in case…

For the past four years, Johnny Damon has been awesome. When the Yankees signed him to a four-year, $52 million contract in the winter of 2005, they were widely praised, though with the caution that they might regret it in the last year or two. Then, when he started off slow in 2007, people wondered if the Yankees would get just one good year out of Damon. Alas, he recovered in 2008 and posted two of the best seasons of his career to finish the contract. Now a free agent without a home, we’re all wondering if Damon will swallow some pride and return to the Yankees.

Issues of money and contract length separate the two sides. Scott Boras originally sought a multiyear contract at $13 million per annum, Damon’s salary through his last contract, but no team came close to biting. While Damon can still produce, he’s just not the same player that signed the contract in 2005. The Yankees acquired him to play center field, but by the end of his contract he was stuck in left field and not playing well even there. His hitting ended up better than expected — his OPS+ was actually higher with New York than with Boston, where he played during his prime years.

How far will Damon’s salary fall? The Yankees, reportedly, offered him a two-year, $20 million contract, but Damon wouldn’t take. Then, when the reports surfaced that the Yankees were talking to Nick Johnson, Damon acquiesced, only to find that he was too late. The Yankees were already too far in the Johnson negotiations, and didn’t want to pay Damon his 2/20 along with Johnson’s salary. We haven’t seen anything linking the two parties — and even saw explicit denials of interest after the Yankees traded Melky Cabrera to the Braves. But this is all part of a larger game. The Yankees and Damon still match up, and we could certainly see them strike a deal.

There’s no questioning Damon’s ability to hit, especially at Yankee Stadium. During his four years in New York he posted a .285/.363/.458 line, dragged down by a poor 2007 in which he hit. 270/.351/.396, mostly due to a terrible start. In the second half of that year he hit .296/.364/.450, much closer to his Yankees career than his terrible first half. He’s even better at home, a big attraction to the Yankees. In the inaugural season of the New Yankee Stadium, he hit .279/.382/.533 in 318 PA. His road numbers, .284/.349/.446, weren’t quite as good, but still very good considering what he does at home.

Damon does show a platoon split, but it’s not an enormous cause for alarm. In 2009 he had a .889 OPS against righties and a .776 OPS against lefties. In 2008 the split was .889/.710, a bit more drastic but still not horrible, especially because of his .342 OBP against lefties that year. No, it’s not an ideal platoon scenario, but the Yankees have help if they want to sit Damon against tough lefties. That’s one advantage of having the lefty-mashing Jamie Hoffman on the roster. But even if Damon plays against tough lefties, he’s not useless. He can handle himself, and perhaps handle himself better at his home ballpark.

On the negative side there are three areas of concern. First, Damon’s age. He’ll play his age 36 season in 2010, an age where many players see their numbers decline. On a multiyear deal that might be cause for larger concern, but on a one-year deal, especially one for seven figures (rather than eight), the Yankees can mitigate that risk. The major risk, really, is that he falls off a cliff, but while that’s possible, I don’t think it’s probable. Again, Damon is coming off perhaps the best season of his career, and if he re-signs with the Yankees will have the same ballpark benefits.

Second, his late-season slump. Damon posted excellent numbers in almost every month of the 2009 season, his best coming in August when he hit .327/.371/.622 and helped the Yankees run away with the division. But he fell flat in September, hitting just .247/.350/.315. Could that have been a sign of decline? Perhaps. He did continue the futility in the first round of the playoffs, going 1 for 12 with a walk in the ALDS. But then he bounced back to have a good ALCS and excellent World Series. It looks like Damon’s slump was just that. Plus, if there really is tiring with age, the Yankees can sit him more in favor of Brett Gardner. In fact, that might be the ideal scenario for Gardner heading into the 2010 season: 4th outfielder who regularly spells Damon in left.

Third, his defense. It was pretty bad in 2009, both by scouting and by statistical standards. I tried to find a glimmer of hope, but was unsuccessful (Keith Law even added a negative scouting report to supplement the numbers). The good news is that, just like players can have bad offensive seasons, so they can on defense. Maybe Damon’s poor 2009 in left was just a blip. Maybe he really did, as he claims, get better as the season moved along. There’s no guarantee, of course, that Damon bounces back. But his bad 2009 doesn’t mean he can’t. He certainly can, and if he does he’ll be of even more value — and perhaps compensate for any decline he sees on offense.

Of all the options we’ve so far explored in this series, Damon makes the most sense. He’s familiar with New York and has thrived in the spotlight. He’s also a much better bet with the bat than any of the other suitors, and though he had a bad 2009 on defense he could rebound in 2010. Money separates the two sides now, but as we get closer to pitchers and catchers reporting, maybe Damon will realize that the market isn’t quite what he had imagined. It might hurt his pride to take a one-year deal with a massive pay cut, but it’s also in his best interests as a player. If the Braves and the Yankees offer the same deal, why would he go to Atlanta? They don’t offer the opportunity and familiarity of New York.

We each have our own reasons for the decisions we make. Maybe Damon wouldn’t be comfortable returning at a greatly reduced salary. Maybe he’s insulted that the richest franchise in the game won’t overpay for him. But if he wants the best chance to win, it’s with the Yankees. At the right price, I’m sure they’d like to have him back.

So now, whenever a rumor surfaces involving Damon and the Yankees, we can refer back to this post and its comments. Have your final say now.

Photo credit: Eric Gay/AP

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. If the Braves and the Yankees offer the same deal, why would he go to Atlanta?


    • Charlie says:

      i’m sorry but that does not really make sense

      • Drew says:

        Returning to your employer at a 60% pay cut is extremely tough on the ego.

        • Charlie says:

          yeah, but does going to another employer with less benefits for the same money solve your problems?

          • It solves your problem of having to walk around work seeing the same people every day, some of whom made less than you and now make more than you.

            Out of sight, out of mind.

            • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

              Exactly. It would be like working at Wendy’s, taking a big vacation, finding out you were fired, being desperate and having to come back at a lower salary, and then finding out that you now received minimum wage while Corky is the manager and makes $12.50. Them’s the breaks in this economy.

              Sort of, but not really.

              Why do you think I quit Wendy’s and went to Burger King? It wasn’t the benefits, chief.

              If word got out what I did with the chili, I’d be mortified. I could never face them again.

        • HeartyLarry says:

          Ask Bobby Abreu about pay cuts and productivity. If Damon is the person he’s seemed to have been in the past four years, he’ll take the deal. I think your arguments in general are reasonable. Think Joe’s overall analysis is sound but I only think the Yankees should re-sign Damon if it does not limit their ability to go after Carl Crawford or one of the other top players to be available after the 2010 season. If they must give Damon two years, it’s a good thing that they’ve given Nick Johnson only only one. Can you see Crawford in the NYY outfield in 2011 with Damon (if his offensive production keeps up in 2020) as a DH for the second of the two year deal? I like Damon’s hustle, his attitude and the decency and openness he brings to the clubhouse and the franchise and his fans. But, and it’s a big but, I don’t want anything to prevent the Yankees from pursuing Crawford next year. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: they have Jeet and Mo to deal with next year too, but Crawford, along with Tex, Granderson, Cano, CC and one of the catching prospects will be the core of a future Yankee dynasty….

      • i’m sorry but that does not really make sense

        For the record, I agree with you. Pride is not very a rational emotion.

        Most emotions are pretty irrational, all things considered.

    • Drew says:

      Generally, I agree. But, a big ‘ol but, he may see hitting in front of Teix and Al, along with YSIII as a cash cow for when the market rebounds.

      • Charlie says:

        the market hasn’t even been that bad this year for a lot of players. damon and boras were out of their minds with what they were demanding. plus, even assuming a big market rebound next year, how much of a market will there be for a 37 year old lf who plays shitty defense?

        • Drew says:

          It hasn’t been that bad but it hasn’t been that good.

          I agree Damon’s initial demands were nutso but next year maybe a team will have some more money to throw around to a LF/DH.

      • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

        On the one hand, Damon appears to be very prideful (even by ballplayer standards) and perhaps may react more with emotion than others.

        On the other hand, every chance he’s gotten, he’s spurned his former team for whatever the highest price the market would bare, so perhaps he thinks strictly in a business sense.

        It would seem that a one-year deal for the Yankees would be more attractive than the same deal for the Braves, but perhaps his sense of pride really is greater than some of us estimate.

    • theyankeewarrior says:

      The difference here is that in MLB, it’s normal for “employees” to take pay cuts as they age, where in corporate America, they tend to get salary increases.

      Damon needs to judge the Yankees by how much they offer compared to OTHER TEAMS and not what THE YANKEES gave him over the past four years.

      If they offer what other teams are or more, then he shouldn’t be ashamed. He should feel good about getting the best contract offered to him on the market.

      Welcome to fucking America, Johnny.

      If the Yankees offer him one penny more than the next highest bidder, and he complains and goes somewhere else, he should be shot.

    • Rose says:

      Or it could be exactly what Brian Cashman has said about Abreu and Matsui. Something along the lines on how Abreu and Matsui wouldn’t have signed with the Yankees for what they did with the Angels because you sometimes just can’t go back into that locker room making significantly less than you did the previous year…especially when a lot of others are making upwards of $20+ million. It’s hard to be happy about it. It’s much easier to go into the Angels locker room with that pay cut.

  2. The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSLlZh9yelk (safe)

  3. Charlie says:

    lets say damon comes back for 1 yr/ 6-7 mil. is he actually upset enough that it affects his play? i don’t think it would but i’ve heard people express concern about this

    • Drew says:

      I don’t think that would be an issue at all. If anything he’ll play better to ensure a raise in 2011.

    • Evilest Empire says:

      No. If Damon so chose to actually accept a contract from the Yankees, then it shouldn’t affect his performance on the field. He’d have willfully rejoined the team, I’m sure he keeps his honor as a professional ballplayer.

      • whozat says:

        People have buyer’s remorse all the time. It would not be surprising at all if he took the contract but STILL had injured pride. This is a guy who came to spring training out of shape one year because he was thinking of quitting baseball. 2007, maybe? I think it was the year he had the slow start.

    • Bo says:

      It’s the Yankees. Why not cover your bases and make him happy? Igawa makes 5 mil. Im sure they can give JD 10.

  4. Steve says:

    What would the lineup be if Damon returned? Jeter, Johnson, Tex, Arod, Granderson, Posada, Damon, Swisher, Cano?

    • Charlie says:

      no. damon would/should def be in the 2 hole

      • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

        I’m thinking the guy with a career OPB north of .400 makes more sense, but hey, convince me why Damon is the better choice.

        • Doug says:

          as i said a bit below, lineup analyzer actually likes his OBP in the 9th spot

        • Charlie says:

          he can run and it clearly worked last year.

          • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

            Why would you want him running with your 3,4 hitters coming up?!

            Just because it worked last year doesn’t mean it will work this year. He’s older and was putrid for the last few months of the season. Outside of a 10-12 game period, he was a black hole.

            • Charlie says:

              he doesn’t have to be stealing, but it’d help to have someone who can take the extra base rather than a fatass like johnson chugging around station to station. that’s why fast runners are traditionally placed in the 1 and 2 holes.

              And i’m confused by your last sentence. are you actually trying to tell me that johnny damon was a black hole in the lineup last year save for a 10-12 game period?

              • Doug says:

                i believe he meant on the basepaths

                • Charlie says:

                  it doesn’t seem like it. that wouldn’t make sense or be true really.

                • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

                  He obviously meant that Damon was bad during the last couple of months of the 2009 season except for a 10-12 game period.

                • Just not true. You can’t put up a near 1.000 OPS in a month and have it be because of 10-12 games. That’s a month-long effort.

                • Charlie says:

                  that was not obvious until you pointed it out and i read it again. two others besides me didn’t think it was obvious either. and even so, his point was still false

                • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

                  Ok. I thought it was obvious. Agree to disagree.

                • As long as we’re agreeing to disagree that it’s obvious. To say that Damon had a putrid last “few” months (few meaning more than one, thus covering at least August, in which Damon OPSed nearly 1.000), then no, we can’t agree to disagree, because it’s patently false. Again, even in his bad September he still OBP’d .350.

                • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

                  Joe P. – Whoah, there, slow it down. I said nothing about the veracity of JMK’s statement, I just thought it was obvious he was saying Damon was bad in the end of the season except for a small stretch and not for the whole year or just on the basepaths, as Charlie and Doug speculated he meant. I didn’t say what you seem to think I said.

                • No, I get you. Again, I was unsure which part you were agreeing to disagree about. I just wanted to hammer home the point about Damon still being serviceable at the end of the season.

                • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

                  Let me clarify then. I didn’t meant to bring about so much confusion. He wasn’t “putrid” by classic standards. All I was saying is that he wasn’t very good toward the end of the season and then found his stroke later on in the playoffs.

                  He can have a .350 OBP but it’s not all that valuable if his tOPS+ is 60.

                  In short, outside of two playoff series, he was on the whole, pretty bad for the last run of the season.

                  This has nothing to do with base running, either.

                • But he is valuable, because of what he did throughout the rest of the season.

                  One mark of a good player is the ability to still do one thing well when other things aren’t working. Damon wasn’t hitting for average or power in September, but he was still able to get on base. That’s valuable. Not as valuable as when he’s hitting, of course, but more valuable than other, lesser players, who won’t even do that one thing well during a slump. And, since every player slumps, I’d rather have someone who can continue to do one thing well, rather than a player like, say, Gardner, who is all around terrible in a slump.

                • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

                  I’m in no way saying he wasn’t valuable throughout the rest of the season. Why you brought that up I don’t understand.

                  What I’m saying is he wasn’t very good for the last bit of the season and it’s possibly mildly concerning.

                  Sure, he got on base at a decent clip. I’m happy he took some walks, particularly since he was batting in the 2 hole. He wasn’t totally devoid of value, but you can’t possibly argue that he had good value considering what was expected of him.

                  He didn’t hit a lick, didn’t really steal (nor should he have, necessarily) or play defense even close to passably during the last leg of the season. He turned it around during the ALCS.

                  Hell, you could argue Gardner would be more valuable in a slump because he’s further down the lineup and will give you plus base running and plus defense. Damon will give you a decent-to-good OBP and…that’s about it.

                  I still want Damon back if the money is there on a one-year deal, but let’s not pretend that Damon was super consistent the entire season. He slumped, as all players do, and there were some positives during the period, but it still may be more than nothing.

              • that’s why fast runners are traditionally placed in the 1 and 2 holes.

                FWIW, there’s a lot of things that managers “traditionally” did that have been proven, in retrospect, to not be smart.

            • JMK, clearly you’re not referring to Damon with that second paragraph. Because he was not putrid for the last “few” months, just below average for the last one month (and still had a .350 OBP). And considering his season numbers, he was pretty damn good in more than 10-12 games.

              • Drew says:

                Eh, in July and September his OBP was good but his slugging was very unJohnny-like.

              • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

                Hyperbolic. It wasn’t as bad as I remember it. It was largely due to his complete lack of power, and having a few multi-hit games, but not too many.

                He entered September hitting .288/.368/.519/.887.
                He closed October hitting .282/.365/.489/.854

                He declined throughout most of September and the first part of October and found his stride in the ALCS.

                It was probably nothing, but I think it’s still concerning.

        • vin says:

          I like the fact that Damon is a better hitter than Nick. Probably more likely to get a hit (and an extra base hit). I like Johnny’s OBP much better at the top of the order than say Curtis Granderson’s. Your best all-around hitters ought to get the most at-bats.

          Of course if Nick hits like we all are secretly hoping he does, then all bets are off.

          • Doug says:

            commenting on your 1st sentence by expanding on your last sentence, not sure that damon is a better hitter than johnson

            • vin says:

              I think he (Johnny) has the better track record… but yeah, we’ll have to wait and see how this season plays out. Nick’s career is a little hard to get a handle on because of all the crazy injuries.

              Of course this is a discussion of “what SHOULD the Yanks do,” as opposed to “what WILL the Yanks do.” Girardi will bat Johnny 2nd unless he shows considerable decline.

        • Evilest Empire says:

          Very comparable wOBA and wRC+ the past few years, but Damon gets bonus points for familiarity.

        • Salty Buggah says:

          Yea, I agree with Johnson being 2nd. All I got is for Damon is that last year he had a wRC+ of 132 while Johnson’s was “only” 130. For their careers, though, Damon’s is 112 while Johnson’s is 130. And I can assume that Johnson will improve on that in YSIII and as he is further away from his injury.

        • I’m thinking the guy with a career OPB north of .400 makes more sense, but hey, convince me why Damon is the better choice.


          • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

            Damon will be better because he has pride?!

            • No, he won’t be better than Nick Johnson in the #2 hole because he has pride.

              He’ll be the better choice to be put in the #2 hole because of his pride, though. Nick Johnson will probably produce at identical levels whether he’s hitting second or seventh.

              Damon, meanwhile, would probably produce at lower levels if he’s hitting seventh instead of second, though. Especially on the heels of taking a massive paycut and being pretty unwanted all winter.

              There’s only so much hits to a guy’s pride that he should endure. I think we probably get slightly better production out of the #2 hole if we put Nick in it instead of Damon, but that slight upgrade probably isn’t worth the psychological gamble to take Damon out of his comfort zone any more than he already is.

              People like consistency and defined roles. Damon sees himself as a 10M+ player and a top of the order hitter. If he comes back at less than 10M, we should probably at least keep him in the #2 hole until he proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s not worthy of it.

      • vin says:


        I’d be down with:


        Bottom half of the order can easily be shuffled. That lineup would be an absolute meat-grinder.

        • JobaWockeeZ says:

          Nick Swishawk and Nick the Stick back to back? That’s like 40 pitches right there. Slightly hyperbolic but damn that would be a pain for opposing pitchers.

          • vin says:

            Yeah, it’ll make Cano’s swinging at the first pitch much more tolerable.

            Also, I really see Curtis being a big run producer in this lineup. Not sure he’s a good enough hitter to bat 5th… but 6th is definitely reasonable.

          • Evilest Empire says:

            No matter where you put them in the lineup, they’ll both see their 20 a piece day in day out.

    • Evilest Empire says:

      I’d probably keep Damon 2nd and have Johnson bat 5th.

  5. JobaWockeeZ says:

    I’d love him back. He’ll make the lineup look unbeatable.


    Or mix it up however you like. Even if Damon doesn’t put up his 2009 numbers, that lineup is incredible.

  6. Salty Buggah says:

    Yes to Damon at 1/7 and not much more. I don’t if he’ll take it but I’m hoping

  7. Meat Loaf says:

    Damon, then Nady for me.

    > Side note, a google news search on Johnny Damon spit this article up as result 2. I was excited.

    • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

      Do you want both or is Nady the second choice?

      • Meat Loaf says:

        Nady is second. I still don’t buy he can get anywhere near 1/4 from anyone else.

        • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

          Gotcha. Wasn’t clear on that. He’s a rigorous wank away from losing an arm; it’s hard to see him getting close to what he’s asking for.

          Still, I think there are better options for whatever he’ll cost.

  8. Tommy H says:

    I didn’t read anywhere that the Yanks offered 2/20- where was that reported? I saw 2/14-

    Cashman has made comments in the past about reluctance to bring players back on reduced salries (ie abreu/matsui)

  9. MattG says:

    In all honesty, in this context, Damon is not my preference anymore. I would rather see what Gardner can do with a half a job, and get a strong defensive fielder that can hit left-handed pitching. I don’t think Damon comes within a baseball’s throw of his 2009 numbers (especially if he’s the one throwing it), and his defense has crossed the Abreu line into unacceptable. It might be blasphemous, but a Johnson/Gardner platoon is my preference.

    • radnom says:

      It might be blasphemous, but a Johnson/Gardner platoon is my preference.

      Not blasphemous, just stupid.

      Unless one of Damon’s legs falls off next season,I can’t see how anyone would take Gardner over him. He probably doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint, but if the Yankees want to pay him it would NOT make the team worse than with Gardner starting every day.

      But hey, at least you’re not one of the guys that pop up in every LF thread, saying we should pass on so-and-so flier and just see what Gardner can do. As if signing a potential backup plan isn’t worth the threat it would pose to Gardner’s playing time. I don’t understand the hero worship of this guy.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

        “Not blasphemous, just stupid.”

        Totally unnecessary.

        I think if they can get Damon on a 1-year deal, it’s a no-brainer. But I’m not so sure about Damon on a 2-year deal. I really don’t want Damon locked into the 2011 roster right now, considering the names that will be available in free agency after the 2010 season and the likely need to use the DH slot for Posada increasingly in 2011.

        If the choice is Damon for 2 years or Gardner + RH platoon partner in 2010 and then re-address the situation either during the 2010 season or next offseason, I’m not so sure I go with Damon. I am sure, however, that you could have made your point and criticized MattG’s opinion without calling it stupid.

        • radnom says:

          I think if they can get Damon on a 1-year deal, it’s a no-brainer. But I’m not so sure about Damon on a 2-year deal. I really don’t want Damon locked into the 2011 roster right now,

          This isn’t even what this guy is saying.

          He just said that the 2010 roster would be better off without Damon.

          • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

            Maybe, maybe not. He didn’t specify.

            • radnom says:

              Well for one, no one is talking about a 2 year deal (least of all the article he is responding to) and two
              “I would rather see what Gardner can do” seems pretty clear to me, but I suppose possible he meant otherwise.

              • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

                Whatever, whether he meant one year or two, I just thought you were a bit unnecessarily harsh. No biggie, either way.

                • Jimmy: Uhh, Mr. McClure? I have this crazy friend who says it’s wrong to eat meat. Is he craaazy?
                  Troy McClure: Nooo, just ignorant! You see, your crazy friend never heard of “The Food Chain”.
                  Just ask this scientician.
                  Scientician: [Looking up from a microscope] Uhhh…
                  Troy: He’ll tell you that, in nature, one creature invariably eats another creature to survive.

                • MattG says:

                  No, it is a biggie. The words immediately after “I would rather see what Gardner can do” were “with half a job.” Yet Radnom called me stupid because “Yankees want to pay him it would NOT make the team worse than with Gardner starting every day.”

                  I’m not considering contracts. Purely from a production standpoint, I can make a compelling statistical argument that a Gardner/Johnson platoon, when considering fielding, age and attrition, might be better than Johnny Damon. That’s what I wrote, and if you don’t agree with it, fine, but it ain’t stupid.

                • radnom says:

                  That’s what I wrote, and if you don’t agree with it, fine, but it ain’t stupid.

                  I don’t agree with it.

                  Sorry if you were offended, I was simply intending to express the (insane) degree to which I don’t agree with it – it was nothing personal.

                  If you’d like to attempt to make that “compelling statistical argument” have at it.

                • MattG says:

                  Fine. Why should I take it personal?

                  Compelling argument pictured here:

                  Johnny Damon, age 36, last 3 seasons: .364/.449
                  2007 UZR/150 in LF: 37.4
                  2008: 11.6
                  2009: -12.1

                  Reed Johnson, age 33, vs LHP last 3 seasons: .395/.483
                  UZR/150 career LF: 23.3
                  Brett Gardner, age 26, vs RHP last 2 seasons: .328/.361
                  UZR/150 career OF: 28.8

                  Its pretty clear from the data that Johnson/Gardner will catch the ball much better, Damon will hit the ball much better. How you choose depends on how much you’re going to ding Damon for getting old, and how confident you are in Johnson/Gardner maintaining the level of performance they’ve established.

                  I don’t expect Johnson or Gardner to improve, but I do expect Damon to decline significantly, especially with the glove. For 2010, I would like to see the Yankees finally field an outfield that goes and gets the balls. All things considered, I see this competition as too close to call.

                  Enjoy. I’m going to bed.

                • MattG says:

                  Let me change that. I don’t think Gardner improves overall, but used strictly vs RHP, I do expect him to bump the numbers into the .340/.390 range. .328/.361 is too crappy.

                  How far then would Damon have to slip offensively before Gardner’s defense makes up the difference? Would .355/.420 do it? Could you see that happening to Damon in 2010 (career .355/.439)?

                  I can.

                • Drew says:

                  Gardy’s ridiculously awesome UZR150 shouldn’t be referenced too often. He doesn’t have enough innings to account for 105 games, let alone 150.

                • MattG says:

                  I’m still here, and looking at these numbers more…

                  If I were to average out Gardner and Johnson’s composite platoon lines, weighting Gardner for 2/3rds the at bats, and compare it to Damon, I get roughly:

                  G/J: .350/.401 +27 UZR/150
                  JD: .364/.449 -12.1

                  That’s still in Damon’s favor, but its close. Now, if you figure Damon to decline a bit, especially fielding where he seems to be on a steep slope, you might get:

                  G/J: .350/.401 +27
                  JD: .355/.420 -20

                  I think that just swung to Gardner/Johnson’s favor. This is not as clear cut as you seem to think.

                • radnom says:

                  Why should I take it personal?

                  You shouldn’t. You seemed a little riled up.

                  Anyway, there are several problems here.

                  One is the fact that you expect Damon to fall off the table on defense. It could happen, but this projection actually expects him to bounce back next year:
                  There are many possible explanations for why Damon had to much trouble this past year, but I wouldn’t be so quick to assume he will be complete dead weight in the field. Yeah, he won’t match Gardner/Johnson, but it is not certainty that he would be completely unproductive.

                  Secondly, your offensive numbers are intentionally cherry picked to make it seem closer than it really is. Reed Johnson over the last three years? That is barely half a seasons worth of at bats. It isn’t fair to compare that to Damon’s sustained production. Besides, platoon’s don’t work that way…you can’t just plug in a guys #’s against LHP and assume that is how he would produce as that half a platoon. If the real world worked that way, there would be platoons everywhere and they would be much more successful.

                  As for Gardner (who would be getting the vast majority of the ABs in this situations, it is more than a half-job) his OPS is far inferior to Damons. Add the fact that much of Gardner’s production has come in short stints and he had some “shouldn’t even be in the league” rough patches last year – I don’t think its fair to just assume he can sustain those numbers over a full season. It could happen, but its a gamble.

                  I’m not saying Gardner/Johnson is a bad idea. I would be completely comfortable with that situation going into the season. They could even outproduce Damon. The thing is….there is an insanely small chance of that. The defense helps, but in the end such a platoon is less of a sure thing than Damon, has a lower floor and lower ceiling for 2009.

                  Not to mention the insurance is provides if someone else goes down.

                • radnom says:

                  Surely you realize how many arbitrary assumptions you are making + expanding out small samples?

                • radnom says:

                  Whoops hit enter by accident.

                  Surely you realize how many arbitrary assumptions you are making + expanding out small samples? All just to make the production between the players swing slightly to the platoon’s favor? Yeah, it could happen, but a million things would have to break the right way.

                • MattG says:

                  “Besides, platoon’s don’t work that way…you can’t just plug in a guys #’s against LHP and assume that is how he would produce as that half a platoon. If the real world worked that way, there would be platoons everywhere and they would be much more successful.”

                  So how do they work?

                  No, that’s exactly how they work. In the real world, teams carry 12 pitchers and have salary constraints. That’s why there aren’t more platoons. But ask Casey Stengel–platoons work.

                  Nothing was intentionally cherry picked. I went to ESPN, which has 3 years of splits only. You want career? I looked it up a B-R instead, RJ: .313/.378/.463 in 1027 PAs.

                  I say: Damon will continue to decline defensively. His problem is stride length, and in slow-motion, you can see his head bouncing around, and the ball is moving in his glove–and sometimes out of his glove. He doesn’t run as smoothly as he should anymore, it’s affecting his ability to track balls. I suppose he can try to improve flexibility in the off-season, but stride length deteriorates with age, and it is not an easily fought battle.

                  As for the prediction that he will bounce back, I think that is nothing but regression to the mean. Why would he bounce back? People have suggested he needed to get used to the new stadium, but that sounds hollow. Supposedly, his UZR improved during the year, but if one season of UZR is supposedly unreliable, then certainly stretches inside a season are unreliable, too. No, UZR is not instructive in predicting what will happen, it is only useful in establishing what has happened, and Damon has been on a very steep defensive decline.

                  As for my getting irked, you called it stupid, and have since decided “unlikely” is the better word. Instead of apologizing if you offended me, you probably just should said that first.

                • MattG says:

                  I’m not sure what an “arbitrary assumption” is. I am making assumptions, as are all who cannot tell the future. One of them is that Damon will decline. Very likely. Another is that Gardner and Johnson will stay the same. Also very likely. A third is that the stats reflect their true ability. Still very likely.

                  Maybe arbitrary is synonymous with “very likely?” No, that’s not right.

                • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

                  Not that I’m involved in this conversation anymore, but I’d like to say that MattG’s ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to his newsletter. I’m still not sure I’d choose the Gardner platoon over Damon in 2010, but he has certainly explained his reasoning well. He has clearly thought through this issue and has not arrived at his conclusion without careful consideration of the evidence available to him – making his opinion, in my mind, whether I agree with it or not, anything but stupid or arbitrary. Kudos to you, sir.

                • MattG says:

                  Heh, thanks! I’ll get you the link for my newsletter!

      • MattG says:

        Nice. Class act.

        FYI, I do not (and did not) intimate that Gardner is now or ever would be a better player than Johnny Damon. I did suggest that Gardner might fair well with half a job. But I supposed you stopped reading and started name calling.

        Gardner should not be expected to be a full time outfielder, but he’s done well in part time duty, and he brings a lot with his glove. And although Johnny Damon is also a much better player than Reed Johnson, vs left-handed pitching Johnson is more than capable (.329/.395/.483) over the last three seasons, and Reed is the far better fielder.

        I’ll tell you what is stupid:

        1. totally misrepresenting what someone writes while calling them stupid
        2. not even considering that a Gardner/Johnson platoon could provide equal or even superior production to 37 year old Johnny Damon

        • radnom says:

          A couple things.

          1. There was no name calling. I was talking about your idea, not you.

          2. I already apologized, as my choice of words was much more harsh than intended )see above).

          3. totally misrepresenting what someone writes
          I only said Gardner because in a platoon like you suggested he would get the vast majority of at bats. My comments were addressing what you meant.

          4. not even considering that a Gardner/Johnson platoon could provide equal or even superior production to 37 year old Johnny Damon

          Oh I considered it…..

    • vin says:

      I assume you mean a Hoffmann/Gardner platoon?

      If Cashman can upgrade LF for what he feels is a reasonable price, he will do it. There’s no need to give up a positional advantage if an upgrade is there for the taking.

    • JMK aka The Overshare's Excessive Back Hair Complex says:

      It’s not blasphemous at all. The thing is, Damon is a better player than Reed Johnson, even with his unbearable defense and troubling end to the regular season.

      This is all dependent on how much money is left in the bank. A platoon of

      Gardner+Damon >>>> Gardner+Reed Johnson

      If the Yanks are truly concerned with Damon’s prideful state in taking a low contract or he simply costs more than they have, Reed Johnson should unquestionably (in my mind) be the guy they go after.

      To me, it’s just about the budget. If you can get Damon for $7 million and the money is there, that’s a much, much better option than Reed Johnson for say, $2 million.

      Either one makes me happy.

    • Bo says:

      Gardner isn’t half the player JD is. You’re comparing a typical 4A player to a possible HOF. Let Bret be the 4th OF.

      • Steve H says:

        Hank Aaaron is a HOF, is he better than Gritner at this point? Again, he didn’t say Gardner was better than JD, but you can’t act like JD is 27 years old either.

      • MattG says:

        Gardner isn’t half the player JD is. You’re comparing a typical 4A player to a possible HOF past his prime.

        You’re familiar with the Branch Rickey saying, “I’d rather trade a player a year too early than a year too late?” The same can be said about free agents, with Johnny Damon in mind.

  10. pete luciano says:

    If we go cheap a reed johnson gardner platoon is ok. Better defensively than Damon but both are unproven in the clutch and the playoffs. I’d still like Johnny at 1 yr 7 million but I really think Cashman has moved on. He’s setting everything up for Mauer next yr if he doesn’t get an extension. This would move Posada to DH. Could you imagine Jeter Granderson Mauer Tex Arod Posada Cano Swisher and Gardner/Johnson. 1000 runs easy.

  11. JobaTheHeat62 says:

    from day 1 i wanted johnny D back…i like his presence on the team, and heck he hits more than enough to make up for the poor defense. gardner can always spell him in the later innings to relieve some of that rough defense. if there is no chance johnny will take a 1 year or 2 year deal worth about 7-8 annually, then xavier nady would be the other guy im comfy with. didnt have that much time to show what he can do, but he was decent in limited Yankee action. other than these 2, ill be pretty much disappointed. also if this budget is so set in stone, trade either mitre or gaudin and pray to every team in baseball to take kei igawa…man what an awful deal

  12. Brent says:

    I’m all for Damon coming back, but:

    This is nice.

  13. jim p says:

    Seemed Damon’s fielding was herky-jerky at times, like he wasn’t getting a good read on the ball. I wonder if that was the case, and if it’s fixable. Then, he says he wasn’t doing so bad, but it sure looked pretty uncomfortable to me.

    Different than Swisher’s awkwardness, because I expect Nick to just come up with something that’ll work to compensate.

  14. Damon should realize what benefit is he getting from the Yankees. His home run numbers blossomed to 24 per season because of the short right field porch. And Damon will have a chance of winning another World Series title as the Yankees have improve their roster in the outfield and the starting rotation.

    • Januz says:

      There is little doubt in my mind that Damon is playing a game……….. The game Boras instructed him to play. Which is wait until guys like Beltre and Holliday are signed, so that Boras can use the threat of the Yankees to boost the price up for guys like Holliday. Why would he do this? Think of all the money Boras put in Damon’s wallet down through the years. Boras is simply playing poker with teams: You just don’t know when he is bluffing (See Oliver Perez and the Mets), or really has an another option (See Damon with the Yankees being an alternative to the Red Sox).
      As far as “Feeling Insulted”, I honestly don’t think Damon cares where he plays, as long as he gets paid for it. He was traded from his beloved hometown Royals, because he would not sign an extention, then he loved the Red Sox, and swore he would never play for the Yankees (We know where that went). He has his rings, so it is not like he needs that. Finally, as far as Cooperstown is concerned, and needing a superior team like the Yankees, to increae his odds, he is NOT close to a Hall of Famer (2 All-Star Game appearances, NO Gold Gloves, only ONCE leading the league in any statistical catagory (Runs scored), a .288 BA and 2,425 hits for an OUTFIELDER is not going to cut it).
      Gut feeling he will be back, because the market is not there for him.

      • He was traded from his beloved hometown Royals, because he would not sign an extention…

        Damon was born in Fort Riley, an army base in Kansas. His mother, Yome, is from Thailand and his father, Jimmy, is American of Croatian and Irish descent. They met while his father, a staff sergeant in the United States Army, was stationed in Thailand. Johnny spent much of his early childhood as an “army brat,” moving to several bases from Okinawa, Japan, to West Germany before his father left the Army and settled the family in the Orlando area while Johnny was still a pre-schooler…

        Damon attended Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida when during his senior year in 1992, he was rated the top high school prospect in the country by Baseball America, was named to USA Today’s High School All-America team, and was the Florida Gatorade Player of the Year.

        Kansas City, Missouri: Not Johnny Damon’s “beloved hometown”

  15. Omar says:

    Johnny Damon, i.e. the right choice.

  16. Omar says:

    As for the line up if Damon comes back?


    As for batting Damon 7th get Giradi to tell him that it’s a “circular line up” and Johnny Damon is the bottom half’s lead off hitter. Most ballplayers wouldn’t be smart enough to realize that they’re being fucked with.

    • I’d do:


    • Bo says:

      Because Jeter-Damon 1-2 worked terribly last yr or something??

      FYI: There is zero chance that if JD comes back he doesnt hit 2.

      • Steve H says:

        Can you see merit in Johnson hitting 2nd? Do you agree with JD hitting 2nd, or do you just think that will happen because that “worked last year”. Why trade for Granderson and get Vasquez afterall, what they did last year worked, right? So is any change coming off a title a bad idea because something worked last year?

  17. [...] Yankees Blog, RiverAveBlues.com looks at a possible Johnny Damon return to left [...]

  18. Sorry dudes but as a student of Cashman’s chess-like triangulations (the masterful Granderson deal only being the latest) I state confidently the following:

    1) Stick a fork in Damon’s Yankee career and all these rumors. His departure and Matsui’s were both planned from the beginning. Matsui signed for short-time chump change and so will Damon, and it will be elsewhere.

    2) Johnson is seen as a serviceable, affordable place holder at DH until they snag Mauer next winter, and Posada finishes his pinstripe career as DH, where he will be great. Catcher is and always has been one of the Yankees signature positions and Mauer will be able to resist neither the pull of history, greater stats, rings or the Yankee dollars associated with it. Besides, nobody prefers to live, work and play in Minnesota — not even Twins fans believe it — and especially when NY beckons. (Just ask Tex.) The Twins don’t want to wind up screwed like the Jays for waiting too long to pull the trigger with Halladay. They’ll take the Yankees’ prospect Montero, some cash and ship off Joltin Joe to the Bombers happily.

    3) In a down economy and a terrible free agent year, the rest of the league should be applauding Cashman and Steinbrenner for re-calibrating player values and payrolls to more realistic relative values and the long-deserved public spanking they’re now delivering to Scott Boras. Next year, the beatings continue as the Yankees payroll drops further with old contractual obligations lifted and Yankee prospects Montero

    4) Carl Crawford will join Mauer as a Yankee next year. Outfield of Granderson, Crawford and Swisher locked and loaded with young Gardner the able and appopriately payroll slotted backup.

    Acquire Crawford, Mauer and also a pitcher to be named next year to replace the outgoing Pettite. That’s all the Yankees will need then and that is Cashman’s plan, no more and no less, and everything he is doing this year is with an eye toward that. There are no mirrors or hidden gems anymore. Everybody knows everybody else’s needs and who’s becoming available and when. This isn’t rocket science. The rest of the league is driven by fan pressure, phony intrigue and ridiculous public posing. The Yankees answer only to Papa George and son Hal, and are simply committed to field the best team – period. No rocket science, no surprises. They pay the luxury tax and subsidize the rest of the cheap and greedy millionaire corporate owners who pocket the profits instead of investing in product because that’s the cost of doing business when you’re the 800-pound gorilla.

    happy new year everyone….and you’re welcome. :-)

    • Montero and cash doesn’t even get you into the hypothetical trade-for-Mauer discussion, let alone the real one.

    • TarHeelYankee says:

      One(1)-I do not think Mauer is going anywhere. Minn. will either sign him long term or if they can’t he will be traded for a HUGE package. Two(2)-What makes you think Crawford will even come to N.Y ? What makes Crawford THAT much better then Holliday ? If we were not willing to give a long term contract to Holliday, why would we give a long term deal to Crawford ?

      • Brian says:

        What does the 2011 plan have to do with signing Damon to a 1 year deal? Let’s all realize that we’re the defending champions, and it would be nice to win another one in 2010.

      • Bo says:

        What team in their right mind would give up a huge package for a catcher in his FA yr? ESp one who will command 24+ a yr?

    • Chris says:

      I don’t see the Yankees signing Crawford. If they weren’t willing to put up the cash to sign Holliday (a superior player to Crawford), then why would they go after Crawford?

    • MattG says:

      You started losing me on 2, when you didn’t acknowledge Mauer is not yet a free agent, and thus not in Cashman’s official plan, and you completely lost me when you suggested Montero would be traded to bring Mauer in. The Twins are winning the central. Mauer will never be on the trading block. And Cashman wouldn’t trade Montero for a couple of months of anyone.

      Also, you didn’t do your math. There isn’t enough salary coming off to fit Mauer + Crawford + pitcher. There is only enough for Mauer.

      Lastly, as a close follower of Cashman’s, I don’t think he cares for Crawford, and I don’t expect him to get his best offer from the Yankees. Crawford is a Mike Scioscia guy, through and through.

  19. Geek says:

    The night the Yankees’s won the series the first words out of Damon’s mouth were about his contract, that was when he was being interviewed on the field! I thought that odd but revealing about his ego and self interest. OK so that is his personality and combine that with his agent pay to play is the principle motivation. Damon is certainly a “spark plug” but given his age and salary demands I would pass as well.

    I like the Yankee’s options and see no reason to tie up salary for 2 years when I have other prospects that could pay off equally well at a lower cost.

    Unless Damon is willing to take a lot less money he will not be playing for anyone next year that has a serious shot at a championship. There is a side of me that players reconsider how Scott Boras does business.

    • Januz says:

      Damon’s comments were in line with what I posted earlier about this guy’s history. As for Boras, players rarely walk away from Boras, because of his success rate. Even A-Rod who “walked away” from Boras, came back. Guess who reached out to Boras? The Yankees. Because they knew that Boras is the one guy Rodriguez will listen to (They need a productive A-Rod cause they are essentially economically married to this guy, and can’t afford him producing like Barry Zito) and for that reason ALONE, it is easier to deal with Rodriguez WITH Boras, then Rodriguez and Madonna and the Hollywood crowd. Damon is not leaving Boras.

    • Bo says:

      Reconsider how Boras does business? I’m sure the actual players dont care what people think of him. He does what they want. And does it well.

  20. Boogie Down says:

    If Damon comes back on a one year deal for Matsui money, the Yanks do it. Otherwise no.

  21. Mac1 says:

    I’d like to see the Yanks bring back Damon, if its two years, who really cares? Even if they met Damon’s 2/20 (and I doubt they’d have to to get him), would that really preclude them from signing whomever they wanted in 2011?

    There’s no guarantee any of Posada, A-Rod, Jeter, Nick Johnson stay healthy in 2010 or 2011. Damon fills a need – a premier hitter who you can live with in LF for 120 games if need be.

    I laugh at the numerous “GM’s” here who are trying to save a few million $ or go with broken down guys at major league minimum. Its an unnecessary risk.

    The Yanks budget, until definitive info comes out to the contrary, has nothing to do with the going concern of the franchise, its an arbitrary #, and if NJ gets hurt and Grandy continues his OBP slide, Cash is going to look as foolish as THeo did last year (wasting 20 mil on guys who were damaged) rather than doing what made Cash successful last year – paying market price (+) for proven talent.


    • I’d like to see the Yanks bring back Damon, if its two years, who really cares?

      The Yankees would probably care.

      Even if they met Damon’s 2/20 (and I doubt they’d have to to get him), would that really preclude them from signing whomever they wanted in 2011?

      Probably not, but I don’t think it’s a money issue as much as it’s a future flexibility issue.

    • MattG says:

      “Even if they met Damon’s 2/20 (and I doubt they’d have to to get him), would that really preclude them from signing whomever they wanted in 2011?”

      Not at all, but that’s not the purpose of the budget. The purpose is to make smart decisions. I have no doubt that the Yankees would conveniently ignore their budget in the right circumstances. Is a 37 year old Johnny Damon the right person to ignore the budget for? He is not.

      • Bo says:

        It’s not like hes getting a 4 yr deal here. They will have to go out and get a bat mid yr if they nickel n dime here anyway.

  22. tony says:

    go get him

  23. Bo says:

    Damon resigning makes too much sense. Esp when the alternatives are Reed Johnson and Gardner.

  24. BoSux says:

    Don’t know why my take on Cashman’s plan spawned such confusion for some so here it is boiled down: Mauer and Crawford both go FA after next year, so there WILL BE NO “package” whatsoever required to get either. Rays will hang onto Crawford until the bitter end this year because they are going all-out to battle the Red Sox for the wild card behind NY. So securing him will be simply a matter of outbidding others with $$$. And he IS MUCH better than Holliday, being far more athletic, sure-handed fielder, far more healthy and a proven AL All-Star slugger/hitter with enormous upside potential as who absolutely kills both the Yankees and Red Sox whenever he faces them. Twions, however, know this is NOT their year and will try to get “something” for Mauer and let him go early in exchange for exclusive negotiating rights ala the Jays-Halladay deal. That’s where Montero comes in. A blue chip MLB-ready (next year he will be) catcher/slugger and some cash will be enough. And using addition by subtraction, we will definitely have the money next year as we will be shucking Johnson and Pettite after this season. Simple. :-)

    • Steve H says:

      #1, there are no guarantees that either Mauer or Crawford hit free agency, Maure likely won’t. And #2, you are dead wrong on Crawford being much better than Holliday, he’s not better, period. He doesn’t have any upside potentinal (which is redundant, btw), he is what he is at age 28 (29 this year).

      • Bo Sux says:

        You keep saying Mauer “likely won’t” go free agent and that has no validity whatsoever. He has said repeatedly that he’d “like” to stay with the Twins (which they ALL say) but that he will listen to “all offers.” If it comes down to offers, then, your betting the Twins outbid the Yankees for him? Color him gone, dude. And upside potential is NOT redundant, btw — there’s also DOWNSIDE potential, dickworth. And the latter, BTW, is all Holliday has. All his good hitting numbers are in the NL against crappy pitchers and with the Colorado Rocky Mountain Highs where every swing is a golf shot. As for age, Holliday is 29 and Crawford is 28. Nice try, Steve, but you just struck out on three straight pitches….lol! Wanna try for 4? Check their fielding stats. Wanna try for 5? Check their comparitive hitting numbers against common AL East teams as I pointed out earlier. That’s where the rubber really meets the road and the end of this comparison. If Holliday was so hot, he’d have gone way before Bay did. Nobody in the AL with a pennant shot wants to waste the long-term $$$ on him. And if Crawford was FA this year he’d have been the first guy everyone jumped at, not Matt “oops the ball hit me in the chest” Holliday.

    • Virtually everything you said in that rambling block of text is incorrect.

  25. Bill says:

    Damon is our best option for LF if he’ll take a 1 year deal. That has been the case all offseason. I really hope he comes back. Our lineup would be absolutely insane as the entire lineup would include guys that would likely hit 1-5 on virtually any other team in baseball with at least 3 MVP candidates.

    Its a pretty low risk move too because on a 1 year deal there’s no longterm implications and the guy you were going to start in his place is on the bench if you need him.

    If he gets a multi-year deal elsewhere so be it, but before making any other move we should see what happens with Damon and make him our preferred option.

  26. Avi Frisch says:

    I am a fan of the correct usage of the word alas. It is “used to express sorrow, regret, grief, compassion, or apprehension of danger or evil.” American Heritage Dictionary. So unless you are a Red Sox fan, you usage of alas is totally incorrect.

  27. A Lifetime of Question Marks says:

    Does Johnson ground into a lot of DP’s? Is he likely to do so with Jeter on first base all the time? One of the great parts of JD in the 2 hole was that he almost never hit into DP’s.

    Regardless, Johnson’s OBP probably offsets any of this.

    Probably a very minor point, but just wanted to if it was worth looking at.

  28. [...] with another team than he would with his former employers? Joe tackled just that question in his closing arguments, and it’s worth noting that some people are more comfortable taking lesser money from a new [...]

  29. dalelama says:

    Nobody looks as pretty as Brett Gardner taking a third strike right down the middle of the plate…Do forget that !!!

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