Johnny Damon was among the most idiotic of the idiots. And with his majestic grand slam in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, he'll be forever tied to that magical Red Sox run.
But, honestly, wasn't it just a little bit fun to see Damon — not to mention agent Scott Boras — twisting in the wind looking for a contract for 2010?
Some former Red Sox players will forever be adored here in the Hub — your Nomar Garciaparras of the world — but it's been tough for members of the Nation to forgive Damon for leaving Boston to sign with the Yankees following the 2005 season. Sure, he had 52 million reasons to head to the Bronx for four years (one year more than the Red Sox offered), but that meant little to once-affectionate Sox fans.
In leaving town for the glitz, glamour and money of New York — especially after pledging something resembling his never-ending love and dedication to the Red Sox franchise — Damon immediately became persona non grata. He was dead to us even before he took scissors and a razor to his patented caveman look, cutting his hair and shaving his beard upon arriving in the Bronx.
But give Damon credit. In his four years in pinstripes, he stayed healthy, playing in an average of 144 games a season, and hit the heck out of the ball, ripping at a .285 clip with an average of 19 homers, 74 RBIs, 23 stolen bases and an .821 OPS.
There's no denying, either, that Damon had a terrific season for the hated Yanks in 2009 as he won his second career World Series title. Playing in the friendly confines (and the wind tunnel of a right-field power alley) of the new Yankee Stadium, the 35-year-old tied a career high with 24 homers, knocked in 82 runs and was the everyday starter in left field.
He hit .364 in the World Series against the Phillies, and though his contract was up at the end of the year, he stated almost immediately following the season that he would love to return to New York.
Whoops, but there was one small problem with that scenario. Damon, who turned 36 in November, wanted somewhere in the vicinity of $20 million over the course of a new two-year deal. Yankees GM Brian Cashman reportedly offered $14 million.
When Boras suggested that he and his client would look elsewhere, so did the Yankees, who inked first baseman Nick Johnson to a one-year, $5.5 million deal to be the everyday designated hitter. Five weeks later, they added free-agent outfielder Randy Winn to the mix, effectively ending any chance of Damon wearing a Yankees uniform in 2010.
Then, after a plethora of less-than-mouth-watering offers, news came earlier this week that Damon had finally agreed to a deal with the Detroit Tigers. The White Sox, Rays, Blue Jays and Braves were all reported to have interest in adding Damon, but he ended up with a one-year contract worth $8 million.
It's not exactly $20 million over two years to play for the defending world champs, but hey, Damon says he's happy with it.
It's "where I wanted to be, from Day 1," Damon said.
"I probably felt," he claimed at one point during a news conference Monday, "like I was a Tiger probably a month and a half ago."
While Damon may have "probably felt" like a Tiger around New Year's Day, he wasn't one. In all likelihood, he was hoping the Yankees would see the error of their ways and invite him back for the money he wanted. But when they signed Winn, Damon and Boras went off in search of the highest bidder.
"Any time you have offers thrown out there from the richest team and they say that's all they can do," Damon said Monday, "well, it's definitely going to be a tough market. … I think it's a shock when you go into the offseason and you win the World Series and you have a good year and the market's tough. But you deal with it. You move forward with it. And that's exactly what we did. I'm happy with how it turned out. And I'm glad to be a Tiger."
Sure, Johnny. You're delighted.
Last we saw, the Tigers were trading away Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, two 2009 All-Stars, to rebuild for the future.
But this is where Damon wanted to be from Day 1. Sure, whatever you say.
He may no longer be one of the idiots, but it seems like he's taking those of us who have followed his career after Boston to be precisely that: idiots.
But admit it, Red Sox Nation. There's nothing more gratifying than baseball schadenfreude. There's little that makes us feel better as fans than seeing the players who deserted us — especially for the god-forsaken Bronx — come across hard times.
And even though he'll no longer be in pinstripes, Damon will still get a rousing … ahem … "welcome" from the Fenway faithful. See you soon, Johnny.
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