He's not, however, a very smart man.
Obviously, any guy who holds a media meeting like this one fits into that category, but that's not what this is about. It's more about this: If he can't see a golden opportunity staring him in the face, how could he be smart? And as he's shown this offseason — and in offseasons past — he has unquestionably been unable to recognize a good situation.
Most recently, he reportedly turned down a two-year, $14 million offer from the Yankees in December, as he and agent Scott Boras apparently wanted nearly double that money. Damon and Boras were nice enough to settle for $22 million, but the Yanks — rightfully — weren't willing to budge.
To understand the issue in this decision, you'd first have to understand Boras' expectations for the tail end of the outfielder's career. Both seem to think the 36-year-old is destined for Cooperstown.
"Basically he's got four years to [reach 3,000 hits]," Boras said during the playoffs last season. "You get to 3,000 hits with a [World Series] ring on your finger, and you pretty much get the red carpet."
Damon currently has 2,425 hits. To get to 3,000, he'll have to play baseball. Currently, that's not working out for him, as the market for an aging outfielder with a quick bat but a noodle arm is small. So small, in fact, that the Yankees wouldn't even have to offer $10 million if they wanted Damon for the next two seasons.
If he wants to make the Hall of Fame (which is a long shot to begin with), he'll need to swallow his pride and take a pay cut. He's even acknowledged in the past that playing for the Yankees is the ideal situation to reach that goal.
"Right now, with this group of guys, this is the group of guys I want to play with for a couple more years," Damon told The New York Times last August.
At this point in his career, after he's made $97 million over 15 years, what's more important: earning a paycheck or cementing a legacy? So far, it's been the former, and until he realizes that the goldsmiths don't include salaries on any plaques in Cooperstown, he'll only be hurting himself.
As troubling as that may be for folks not named Johnny or Scott, there's a much more disturbing issue. The thing is, Damon has been more fortunate than most. He's spent the last eight years of his career in Boston and New York, two of the best sports cities in the world. In both locations, athletes are kings, placed on a pedestal and showered with support. What more could he want?
The answer, obviously, is a big, fat contract. It shouldn't be surprising, but it is. Despite all the love, Damon just doesn't seem to appreciate being appreciated. He couldn't do it with the Red Sox, whom he ditched in December of 2005. Though he alienated himself from the fans in Boston, he was met with open arms in the Bronx, where he once again established himself as a fan favorite. That status only grew through his four seasons, culminating with his .327 average in the ALCS and World Series this past October. He may have even had the defining moment of the Fall Classic.
In a tie game in the ninth inning of Game 4 in Philadelphia, Damon stepped to the plate with nobody on and two outs. Inning over, right? Well, no. Damon singled, then promptly stole second base … and third base. On the same pitch. Moments later, Damon scored, and with Mariano Rivera in the bullpen, the game was already over.
Shortly thereafter, it was the Canyon of Heroes and adoring chants from the New York fans. This was the same guy who had ridden on a duck boat. For most people, it would have been enough to re-sign with the home team and finish a career the way it should be finished. For Damon, it was apparently just another day.
He should have jumped at the two-year offer. After all, it was more than the Yankees wanted to give the World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui. Instead, Damon turned it down and is now left to stick his foot in his mouth, or eat crow, or some other hackneyed phrase.
Cliches aside, maybe the best way to say it is to use Damon's own words — the guy is an idiot.
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