Johnny Damon and the shadow of 3000

Olney: Yankees have "serious interest" in Jorge Soler
Looking ahead to 2013: The Bossman cometh?

As the Hot Stove League draws to a close and the Grapefruit League looms, the Yanks in a holding pattern of sorts. They haven’t yet traded A.J. Burnett, and they haven’t yet filled the left-handed part of their DH platoon. While Raul Ibanez‘s name has come up a few times and Vlad is a potential option, Johnny Damon seems to hover around these happenings.

In some combination or another, Damon either wants to rejoin the Yanks or the Yanks are interested in him. Either way, I made a lukewarm case for him back in January. As a left facing righties while playing his home games in Yankee Stadium, Damon could still show some pop in his bat, and the Yanks aren’t asking him to carry a lineup. He may fall off a cliff or he may just continue to push toward career milestones.

Damon, you see, is 277 hits away from 3000, and it seems to be on his mind. While with the Rays in 2011, he spoke about approaching the milestone and what it means to him. If he reaches 3000 hits, his would be an interesting case for the Hall of Fame as his longevity is his most compelling argument, but that’s neither here nor there. The 3000-hit plateau seems to be sustaining his career, but it could be threatening it too.

Over the past season or so, Damon has spoke about his desire to reach 3000. Now, Joel Sherman claims that desire may be impacting his game. According to Joel Sherman, “executives from three teams that had interest in Damon expressed concerns a fixation with 3,000 has diminished an attribute that greatly contributed to the perception of Damon as a winning player: patient, tough at-bats.”

Sherman goes on to analyze Damon’s swing and walk rates, but his analysis is suspect. Over at the Captain’s Blog, William took at skeptical look at Sherman’s statistical conclusions. Still, the rumblings are there. Damon may be a good teammate, but he also has his eye on personal milestones.

So with Spring Training a few days away, Damon remains jobless. Maybe the Yanks come calling. Maybe the two sides will find their relationship mutually beneficial. Damon can aim for 3000 while aiming for the right field seats. If not, the two sides will move on, and Damon, who wants to be everything for every team he’s on, will don yet another uniform in his never ending quest for baseball immortality.

Olney: Yankees have "serious interest" in Jorge Soler
Looking ahead to 2013: The Bossman cometh?
  •!/OhhFreddy Freddy

    I already know the Yankees have signed Ibanez..You heard it here first.

  • RetroRob

    Where Damon’s drive for 3,000 may be hurting him is not in his swing/walk rate, but in the decisions he’s making on which team(s) he’ll join, and how much playing time he needs. If the Yankees were to offer him a 2/3rds playing time DH job and he turns it down because he wants a fulltime job, then he may find himself with no job, no playing time at all.

  • Johnny

    I would be in favor of signing him simply in light of the milestone. I know that’s not an approach that will help the team if his baseball number is up, but the lure of him getting 3000 hits in pinstripes is strong. It’ll be nice, won’t it? He’s not exactly a stranger to the team; the fans seem to like him; he surely won’t go off the deep end in terms of ability; any team would love the revenue pulled in from 3000 hits, even if it’s from a journeyman like Damon that hasn’t anchored himself to a particular club. It’s no DJ3K in terms of marketing but it must be worth something.

    And I like Johnny. He’s a cool cat. And I like his batting stance.

    • Plank

      Damon is two or three seasons away (probably 3) of full time hitting. I wouldn’t touch that with a 10 foot pole.

      • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

        It’s JD 3K

  • Rich in NJ

    A-Rod and Jeter are seeking personal milestones and it is seen (correctly) as largely positive. This shouldn’t be viewed any differently.

    • Captain

      I don’t fault him for trying to reach 3000, like you said its a positive. I think the difference is in him being a free agent and approaching teams with his goal as the main selling point over how he would fit in and contribute to the team.

    • Ted Nelson

      I think it’s pretty fair to try to analyze the issue objectively, rather than going into it assuming it’s a positive or negative. I’m not going to conclude definitively that he’s changed his approach to get to 3000… but for some reason his approach has changed.

      Damon swung at more balls (outside the zone) last season than he ever has in his career. He made less contact than he ever has in his career. Of course, his second highest % were the year before… so maybe it’s just decline. Whatever the cause, I’m not sure how that can be a good thing (maybe if combined with an increase in power).

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Can’t sign Damon now. “He was just going for 3000” every time he makes an out is bound to become an RAB meme after this post.