Archive for Johnny Damon

The Yankees organization prides itself on class and professionalism. Whether or not it lives up to its self-image is a source of constant debate, though they do take measures to ensure that their players represent the team well. One infamous policy they’ve had in place since George Steinbrenner took over is a ban on facial hair below the lip. You wanna grow a pencil-thin mustache? Go for it. But you can forget about a fu manchu. Sal Fasano learned that first-hand.

After years of having an organization tell them what they can and cannot wear on their faces, it’s natural for former Yankees to immediately sport beards. This year’s crop of departures are no exception. Leave Yankees, grow beard. I’d do it, too.

A few of the departed Yankees rocked beards before coming to New York. Here’s Johnny Damon, who started to grow one in spring training with the Tigers, but has since shaved. Maybe the wife doesn’t like it. In any case, it would take a lot to top the beard he’s sporting in the second picture. Oh, what luck. There’s a french fry stuck in my beard.


Photo credits, left: Charlie Riedel/AP, right: Bizuayehu Tesfaye/AP

Chad Gaudin also rocked a beard when he pitched for the A’s, Cubs, and Padres before heading to New York. His beard is not very remarkable, which makes me sad. I wanted to include a wiseass remark with each beard.


Photo credits, left: Jeff Chiu/AP, right: Lenny Ignelzi/AP

I always forget about Brian Bruney. I’m not sure what that says about him, or me, other than I don’t miss him in the bullpen. Great potential, just couldn’t put it all together. But he can grow one mean beard, which should certainly help his future earnings potential once he can’t throw a baseball 95 mph.


Photo credits, left: Rob Carr/AP, right: Duane Burleson/AP

Two more bearded former Yankees never got a chance to rock the facial hair before. Take Phil Coke for instance. He spent his entire career in the Yankees’ system, so he’s always had to keep a razor nearby. Once traded t the Tigers, though, he went all out, growing a mullet, a beard, and picked up the beer gut to go along with it. He kinda looks like Rod Beck, though I’m pretty sure no one will write a song about Coke when he passes away.


Photo credits, left: Eric Gay/AP, right: AP file photo

Finally, we get to Melky. He showed up to Braves camp with a beard, but it appears he has since shaved it. That’s a shame. Melky looks slightly more badass with the beard. Slightly. Which is an improvement upon not at all. I wonder, then, why he shaved. Maybe the women don’t like it.


Photo credits, left: Rob Carr/AP, right: Darren Calabrese/AP

The only one who didn’t grow a beard, it seems, is Hideki Matsui. He should rock the Chan Ho beard this year.

Categories : Whimsy
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Apr
06

Former Yankees on Opening Day

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On Sunday night we got to see the new Yankees in action. Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson batted in the starting lineup, while Chan Ho Park pitched two thirds of an inning out of the bullpen. But what about the guys they replaced? Here’s a rundown of how former Yankees fared in their new team debuts.

Hideki Matsui: 2 for 4

Photo credit: Jae C. Hong/AP

Matsui made an impresion in his Angels debut. With runners on first and second with two out during a tie-game in the fifth, Matsui singled to right field to give the Angels a lead. That chased Twins starter Scott Baker from the game. Then, with the Angels holding a one-run lead in the eighth, Matsui led off the inning with a 401 foot home run to center field. Kendry Morales followed with a shot down the left field line, sealing the Opening Day victory for the Angels.

Johnny Damon: 2 for 5

In his first at-bat as a Tiger Johnny Damon grounded out to second. No big deal. In his second at-bat he flied out to right. He was facing Zack Greinke, so again, it wouldn’t have mattered if Damon went 0 for 4. He didn’t, though. Leading off the sixth, he singled to right off Greinke, advanced on a Magglio Ordonez single, and then scored on a third straight single, this one by Miguel Cabrera. Then, with Roman Colon in for relief the Tigers broke open the game, and Damon contributed by doubling home two, including Austin Jackson.

Austin Jackson: 1 for 5

The Tigers found themselves down 4-2 heading into the seventh, but luckily for them Greinke had left the game by that point. Scott Sizemore walked and Ramon Santiago, pinch hitting for Adam Everett, singled, setting up Jackson with runners on the corners and none out. He lined a double to left for his first major league hit and RBI. He scored his first run one batter later on Damon’s double. He struck out looking twice in the game.

Phil Coke: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R

Joel Zumaya pitched a scoreless sixth for the Tigers, and then came out to start the seventh. After allowing an infield single to Jason Kendall, Jim Leyland lifted him for Phil Coke, who came in to face the lefty troika of Chris Getz, David DeJesus, and Scott Podsednik. Getz singled, DeJesus popped out in foul ground to third, and Podsednik singled. Kendall, had he been a bit faster, might have scored, but Austin Jackson gunned him down at the plate.

Melky Cabrera: 0 for 5

The Braves rallied for six runs in the first inning on Opening Day, handing Carlos Zambrano yet another poor season debut. Melky got things started with a walk and eventually scored on a Chipper Jones single after going first-to-third on a Martin Prado single. Melky made the last out of that inning, and then made outs in his next four plate appearances. He was the only Braves starter, non-pitcher, to not record a hit, though his walk did set up the definitive inning for the Braves.

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AP Photo/Rob Carr)

“I know where I want to be next year. I want to be here in New York.”

Maybe I let myself get suckered in by Johnny Damon last spring and summer. Maybe I listened to him speak in radio interviews and locker room chats in May, after games in August and on Sirius XM as recently as November and dared to believe he was telling the truth.

“This would definitely be the best place for me. I’d sure love to keep taking advantage of that right-field porch.”

It would have been simple for Damon to stay in New York City. All he had to do was tell that to his agent and urge Scott Boras to make one last contract work. After all, Damon will be playing his age 36 season in 2010, and with his defense slowing down, he’ll need to DH. With that short porch in right field, Yankee Stadium was perfectly suited to Damon’s bat, and while Brian Cashman has wisely improved the team’s defense, Damon would have had a role to play yet.

“I don’t know where else I would want to go to. 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.”

Yet, this past weekend just days before he had to report to training camp somewhere, Johnny Damon finally reached an agreement with the Detroit Tigers on a one-year deal rumored to be worth $8 million. He’ll inexplicably receive a no-trade clause, and even though his wife was reported to be unhappy with the move and even though the Yanks had extended him a multi-year offer, Damon will take his bat and glove to the pitcher’s park of Comerica and hope for the best.

In the Bronx, last week Brian Cashman sounded somewhere between a jilted lover and a shocked businessman — shocked at Scott Boras’ hubris and the way Damon and his agent seemingly misplayed this off-season. He offered the incumbent left fielder a two-year deal worth $14 million, and even though that money represented a significant pay cut for Damon, it would remain the best one Johnny had on the table all winter. At the time, Cashman too knew it would be the top offer Damon would get.

“The industry the last two free agent markets seems to be going downward and the player’s ages are going upward,” Cashman said. “It makes more sense to be patient. My attitude is if this is the place you want to be, you will make it happen. Johnny Damon professed his love for the Yankees, wanted to be here and was given every chance to be here. He’s not here anymore and I don’t feel that is the Yankees’ fault. They have to reconcile why they are not here, not me. If people want to be here and be a part of something, then find a way to work it out.”

Cashman was clearly irked at the way the negotiations went down. “Scott Boras said, ‘Bobby Abreu’s contract is $9 million a year right now on the table so why would we do that? So I expect to see a Bobby Abreu contract.’” the Yanks’ GM said. “I hope he does not sign for something less than our offer. That means he should have been a Yankee and that’s not our fault.”

At the same time, Ken Rosenthal wonders if Boras is to blame. The Fox Sports scribe believes Boras wanted to keep the Cardinals believing that the Yanks were interested in Matt Holliday and therefore never engaged the Yanks on Damon until it was far too late. From what we’ve heard in the past about Boras and from a business perspective, this conspiracy theory would make sense. After all, Holliday will make Boras far more money over the next eight or ten years than Damon will, and it just makes sense for Boras to push Damon to the side while focusing on his younger and more valuable clients.

Here we are, then, without Johnny Damon. I know my tone here sounds more annoyed than I actually am. I didn’t like Damon’s defense, and I can see his production completely falling off a cliff this year, especially away from his home run haven. Yet, something about Damon made me believe his sincerity. Today, though, I know how Red Sox fans felt after the 2005 season. Johnny Damon might talk the talk, but when it came time to walk the walk, money — and less than he could have gotten in the first place — ruled the day instead.

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Feb
20

Report: Damon heads to Detroit

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Via MLBTR, the Tigers and Johnny Damon have reached on a one-year deal guaranteeing him $8M. The Yankees offered Johnny $6M ($3M of which was deferred) a few weeks ago, but he turned it down and they turned to Randy Winn. I’m glad it worked out for him. The deal includes a no-trade clause, but I’m willing to bet he’d waive it to rejoin the Yankees, should such a situation arise.

Damon was a great player for the Yankees during his time here, and I wish him the best in Detroit. At least now Austin Jackson won’t get thrown to the wolves and be forced to hit leadoff.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League
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Snowpocalypse 2010 has hit, so ride it out with these links…

Death to the Joba Rules

At long last, the Joba Rules are dead. “He’s not going to have any restrictions,” said pitching coach Dave Eiland, “so Joe (Girardi) and I are not going to have to go into the game thinking, ‘Oh, he’s got 85 pitches or six innings or whatever comes first.’ We don’t have to game plan it out. The kid gloves are off, and he’s just going to go out and pitch and he knows that and he’s going to come in and be all geared up to win that job, as are the other guys. Competition should bring out the best in everyone.” Of course, this won’t calm the conspiracy theorists who think Joba is going to return to the bullpen next year, because there was both a bullpen and rotation version of the rules. Either way, so long Joba Rules, and thanks for the shirt.

Big leaguers give bloggers a bad name

At his blog earlier this week, former big league catcher Brent Mayne told a story about how he once told a batter what pitch was coming. That batter was J.T. Snow, who was with the Yanks at the time and grew up playing with/against Mayne in Southern California. Long story short, he mumbled to the pinch hitting Snow that he was getting a fastball away, which Snow promptly ripped for a double and his first big league hit. Except, of course, that never happened.

Mayne said Snow was a September call-up with the Yanks, and they were playing in Kansas City. Snow went 0-for-5 in the only game he played against the Royals as a Bomber, and even though his first big league hit was in fact a pinch-hit double, it came off of Tom Henke of Toronto with Pat Borders behind the plate a week later. Here’s the easy to read game log. I expect it from the mother’s basement dwellers, Brent. But not from you.

Damon’s still looking for two years

Yeah, amazing, isn’t it? We’re basically a week from pitchers and catchers, Damon has received offers from just one team (that we know of), and yet he and Boras are still holding out for a two year deal. Matt at Fack Youk wonders if Johnny’s lost his mind, as do so many others. I can’t imagine Damon is happy with how Boras worked him over, or maybe he’s just naive and thinks someone will meet one day his demands.

Thames No. 1 on an all-time Tigers list

Marcus Thames doesn’t stand out as someone who would hold a franchise record, but according to Tom Gage of The Detroit News, he does. His 99 home runs in 1,463 at-bats is the franchise record for home run pace among players with 1,500 or more plate appearances as a Tiger. That also amounts to a home run every 16.28 times he stepped to the plate, which, considering his lack of bases on balls, is probably an even further record. Cecil Fielder, who ranks second on the AB/HR list, hit a home run once every 17.36 plate appearances.

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Preface

In no way do I believe the Yankees will do this, nor do I think they should. Johnny Damon had an excellent pinstriped tenure that ended with a World Series title. Retaining him seemed like an option, but only if his contract demands fell into the Yankees’ desired range. That didn’t happen, and the Yankees moved on. While I’d love to see Johnny back in the lineup this year, it’s so unlikely at this point that I had to concoct this crazy scenario. As the price for acquiring one year of Damon, it hardly seems worth the trouble.

The set-up

In the MLB Rumors and Rumblings section of his Weekend Update on Baseball Prospectus, John Perrotto mentioned Damon’s desire to play for the Rays, citing his nearby residence in Orlando. In the next sentence, Perrotto drops the bomb. “He has not completely ruled out a return to the Yankees, even though they have signed Randy Winn to presumably take his place on the roster.” Ignoring the one-for-one replacement of Damon with Winn — and further ignoring the flawed idea of “replacing” production — this is an interesting statement. How could he not rule out a return to the Yankees when it seems everyone else has?

Last week, just after the Winn signing, SI’s Jon Heyman wrote a column about the situation between the Yankees and Damon, quoting both Brian Cashman and Damon at length. Both sides expressed the desire for a reunion, but both recognized the obstacles that stood, and continue to stand, in the way. Both also conceded that they could get back together at some point in the future. “You never know,” said Cashman. Not the most specific of endorsements, but like any good GM, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility if a favorable situation arose.

The scenario

The Yankees have three outfielders who have guaranteed 2010 contracts: Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Randy Winn. Beyond that they have Brett Gardner, who will make the league minimum and who has two options remaining, and Jamie Hoffmann, whom the Yankees must offer back to the Dodgers if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training. By all appearances, the Yankees will use Gardner and Winn in left, doling out their playing time as their performances warrant. Hoffmann, if he makes the roster, would serve as the fifth outfielder and late-inning defensive replacement — perhaps as a pinch runner with Gardner already in the game.

For now, we can discount Hoffmann. I doubt the Yankees will make roster moves to accommodate him. If he plays well enough to earn a spot, he’ll get it. If they have another player who can fill his role better, they’ll go with that player. That leaves four outfielders, which sounds about right. Winn and Swisher can play both corners, while Granderson and Gardner profile best in left or center. That seems to cover the outfield. So where in the world would Damon fit?

In any return scenario, Gardner would be the odd man out. He not only has an option or two remaining, but he has drawn interest from other teams this off-season, namely the Reds, Padres, White Sox, and Royals. Because any Damon contract would cover just one year, the Yankees wouldn’t necessarily have to trade Gardner to open a spot. They could simply start him in the minors and use him to fill in when needed. This makes the Yankees situation a bit more flexible.

The main obstacle in a Damon-Yankees reunion is the same as it ever was. Before acquiring Winn the Yankees had just $2 million left in their Opening Day payroll budget. All of that went to Winn, so unless Damon is willing to play for the league minimum the Yankees would have to free up some salary. Of their players currently under contract, only Chad Gaudin makes sense from a salary standpoint. He’ll make $2.95 million to start 2010.

In his column, Heyman notes that Cashman floated “a contract of $6 million with $3 million deferred at no interest.” The idea, apparently, is that while the entire $6 million would count against the official Opening Day payroll, Hal Steinbrenner might be open to a deal with deferred money. With around $3 million in savings from dealing Gaudin, presumably for a low-level or low-ceiling minor leaguer, the Yankees could put this offer back on the table. They could go even lower, too, because we haven’t seen much interest in Damon since the Winn signing.

Why it makes sense

If Damon hits as well as he did last season, he’ll be more valuable than Winn at the plate in 2010. If his defense, as Damon himself says, “was only the first two months, and it involved probably five plays,” then perhaps he can play a capable left field. We know that his bat plays well at the Stadium, and that he’s a good guy to have in the clubhouse. His speed, while not what it was when he first signed, is still an asset.

Why it doesn’t make sense

To list them:

  • Trading away pitching depth to sign another outfielder doesn’t seem like a great idea.
  • The Yankees seem to like Brett Gardner, probably enough to give him at least a half-season’s worth of at-bats in left field.
  • The chances of Damon replicating his 2009 season remain low. He’ll be a useful offensive player, but it’s doubtful that he replicates a career year — one in which he slipped considerably toward the end.
  • Stats and scouts agreed that Damon played poorly in left field last season, so his return to league average doesn’t appear likely.

Why it won’t happen

Judging from his track record, I don’t think Brian Cashman will alter his roster, trading away valuable pitching depth, just to accommodate Damon. They’re likely mindful that 2010 Damon isn’t 2009 Damon, and that the latter outperformed most reasonable expectations. True, for $6 million, with $3 million deferred, he wouldn’t have to replicate his production to justify the contract. But, again, the Yankees would have to make a further sacrifice in order to even think about bringing back Damon. I just don’t see them doing that.

Really, this is just a crazy thought based on Johnny not yet ruling out a return to New York. The door might remain unlocked, but it’s definitely shut. I doubt the Yankees would go through the trouble at this point. They should be too busy preparing for another championship season in 2010.

Photo credit: Eric Gay/AP

Categories : Hot Stove League
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Via Jon Heyman, Brian Cashman ran the idea of a one-year, $6M contract by Johnny Damon last week, however he never received a response. The deal would have included a $3M salary in 2010 with another $3M deferred without interest, and came with the promise that Hal Steinbrenner was going to sign off on it. Cashman simply never heard back from Damon and his camp, so they moved on to Randy Winn, who was ready to sign elsewhere.

Will Damon get more than $6M guaranteed? We’ll wait and see, but my guess is no. He might get $6M, but not a penny more.

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Jan
27

Open Thread: Images of Johnny

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When the Yankees agreed to a deal with Randy Winn this afternoon, it effectively ended Johnny Damon‘s tenure in pinstripes. I’ll admit it, I was one of the many who hated the Damon signing when it first happened because I despised him for his time with the Red Sox and that grand slam off Javy Vazquez in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. Although it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, Damon’s four years in the Bronx were more than enough to make me appreciate him as a player and as a person.

A .285-.363-.458 hitter with the Yanks, Damon hit more homers in pinstripes than with any other team he’s played for, and of course he was an important part of last year’s World Championship. His nine pitch at-bat against Brad Lidge in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the World Series was one of the greatest at-bats in recent Yankee history, and his double steal one pitch after that was perhaps the biggest moment of the postseason. Damon was tremendously productive with the Yanks, and he was integral in changing the culture from uptight and corporate to fun-loving.

We should all thank Johnny for his service in pinstripes. Even though I hated him at the start, I’ll readily admit he was worth every penny.

After the jump, we’ve got some of Damon’s finest moments with the Yankees. Pictures are worth 1,000 words, after all. Once you’re done perusing them, then go to town on this here open thread.

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Judging by the way he’s spoken to the media this week, Brian Cashman is as sick of the Johnny Damon drama as the rest of us. I can understand, to an extent, the attention surrounding the situation. Damon is the best remaining free agent, and the Yankees have a perceived hole in left field. But they also claim to have a tight budget, making what appears to be a perfect marriage a bit dicier. And so, the more time Johnny spends on the free agent market, the more we hear about his prospects, both real and fabricated.

This week Cashman has seemed a bit irritated when a reporter raises the topic. Over the weekend, when Jon Heyman floated the story about the Yankees putting a weekend deadline on their offer to Damon, Cashman wasn’t too friendly when asked for a comment.

“Long long it’s taking certain people to wake up and smell the coffee, that’s what surprises me,” Cashman said. “Wake up and smell the coffee,” seems to be one of his favorite phrases. But who, in this instance, should roll themselves out of bed and take a whiff of the French roast? “When you get on the phone with agents, they tell you one thing, and certain agents can’t honestly believe what they’re trying to convey. Do they think I’m stupid?” Emphasis, of course, is mine.

I wasn’t with Cashman when he said this. I don’t know what tone he took, though having heard him speak before I can venture a pretty good guess. But even absent that information, it sounds like he’s referring to Scott Boras. If Bill Madden is right about Boras continuing to float mystery teams instead of talking numbers, I’d say it’s almost certain that the above quote could read, “…Scott Boras can’t honestly believe what he’s trying to convey.”

Yesterday Bryan Hoch asked Cashman about Johnny Damon, and he started off frankly. “I’m not having any discussions with him,” Cashman said. Fair enough. Straight forward, answering the question — things you expect. But then he added a bit of a zinger, again presumably targeted at Boras.

“His abilities exceed the money that I have.”

I definitely chuckled at this a bit. Boras has gone on and on about Johnny’s invincibility this winter, and now that his other major clients have homes he has probably ramped up that effort over the past week or so. I can only imagine Cashman’s annoyance at constantly hearing it from Boras. His quote is also, I think, a hint at the dissonance between Boras’s demands and the current market. Yes, Johnny is a valuable player, and in a different year he’d probably have received a multiyear offer. This year that will not happen. But Boras continues to bang the drum.

All parties seem to think the Yankees are moving on. That’s just public discourse, however. Until Johnny signs elsewhere, the possibility remains that he’ll again don pinstripes in 2010. But, in case he does sign in Oakland or Cleveland or some other team, the Yankees do have options. As Joel Sherman tweets, the Yankees are still considering their options, including Reed Johnson. Also, if Rocco Baldelli comes to Spring Training, it will be as a non-roster invite. That makes plenty of sense, considering Baldelli’s injury history and performance last season.

Over the weekend, Damon said he’d have a team by the end of this week. Please, oh please let that be true. I don’t think I have the stomach for much more of this.

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Update (1:58pm): Nady got $3.3M, plus another $2M in incentives. The base salary is a 50% pay cut.

11:00am: Via MLBTR, free agent outfielder Xavier Nady has agreed to a contract with the Cubs, ending his brief tenure in the Bronx. Nady still has to take a physical, which is no given considering he’s coming back from his second Tommy John surgery. The Yanks didn’t offer him arbitration because he would have probably accepted given his elbow, so they won’t get a draft pick even though he was a Type-B.

Nady hit .270-.319-.469 in close to 300 plate appearances with the Yankees, and was a potential left field option. Let’s see what the dollars are before everyone gets fussy.

Also, the A’s have signed Ben Sheets to a one-year, $8 million deal, though some sources say $10 mil. Rumor had it that Johnny Damon was their Plan B if they couldn’t land Sheets, so do the math.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League
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