- Johnny Damon and his fans have one person to blame...
And that one person is Johnny Damon.
For every Yankee fan having an irrational conniption fit over the loss of Johnny Damon and overreacting to the signing of Randy Winn as an extra outfielder, Damon and only Damon is responsible for his second career departure from a venue which he never wanted to leave in the first place.
When he left the Red Sox after 2005, he got his money from the Yankees; now that he's been kicked out the door by the Yankees because of agent Scott Boras's unreasonably high asking price for a increasingly one-dimensional 36-year-old, Damon's fans are seeking someone to blame and the easiest target for the expression of their rage is the despised agent, Boras; but is Damon totally absolved from what his agent says and does? Is Damon such a brainless automaton that he simply spouts the company line echoed by too many athletes who have neither the capacity nor the willingness to take responsibility for themselves?
Scott Boras has a job: get the highest amount of money possible for his clients. His tactics are sometimes underhanded in using (at best) flexibility with the truth; or (at worst) outright lies. If Damon wanted to stay with the Yankees, he had a responsibility----not a right, a responsibility----to tell his agent to get the deal done no matter what; or he could've done what Alex Rodriguez did after his ill-advised opt-out during the 2007 World Series and circumvented Boras to get a deal done with the Yankees.
ARod is smarter than Damon; ARod had people around him telling him that he had to go against his agent/father-figure to do what was best for his career; and ARod managed to get another contract of nearly $300 million. Damon is not on a level with ARod on the field and he's certainly not in ARod's realm of intelligence.
None of this is an excuse.
For those looking to blame someone for Damon's departure from the Yankees, Boras, Brian Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner are tempting, though unrealistic, parties. The Yankees are obviously serious about not overspending; about not getting into bidding wars against themselves for players they can take or leave; and had a contingency plan in place if Damon stayed in lockstep with his agent. It's the end of January; how long were they supposed to wait for Damon to come to a decision before making a move?
The Yankees bargained in what appears to be good faith with Damon and Boras. In reading the following clip from the NY Times, I only believe every single word Cashman said:
On Dec. 18, after Nick Johnson agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million deal, Damon said in a text message that the Yankees had offered two years and $14 million, and that he had wanted two years and $20 million.
Boras said Wednesday that it was not an offer, because the Yankees told him they needed to hear from Johnson first. He added that the Yankees never called him to ask for an offer until after they had given one to Johnson, a contention Cashman disputed.
“On Dec. 17, Scott’s exact words were that he would not take a penny less than $13 million a year for two years,” Cashman said. “We believed him.”
The Yankees weren't messing around; and unlike the case with ARod, Hank Steinbrenner had no intention of deviating from the budget or being "flexible" to keep a Boras client who'd made a giant mistake; and truth be told with all due respect to Damon, he's no ARod.
Now Johnny Damon is really screwed. Where's he going?
The Rays? They can use him, but don't have much money; the locale is perfect for him since he lives in Orlando, but he's going to have to take a fraction of the money he would've made had he agreed to rejoin the Yankees.
The Athletics? Do you believe for a second that Damon wants to: A) go all the way across the country to play in the Bay Area; B) for a team that's not going to pay him; and C) join an A's team that, quite frankly, is iffy to contend?
It could be that the best course for Damon and Boras would be to sit out for the first couple of months and see if someone gets hurt for a contending club and they give him a call a la Roger Clemens/Pedro Martinez. (If it's the Yankees, be prepared for a Suzyn Waldman meltdown of freaky/disturbing derangement.)
As of right now, he's painted himself into a corner and it's not in the cage built by his superagent. He wasn't forced into it; he walked in willingly; and for that he has no one to blame but one person----Johnny Damon.
- And what of Randy Winn?
Even the more rational Yankee fan panicked at not simply losing Damon, but at his "replacement". (Of course there were the coldly rational Yankee fans who saw things as they were and reacted accordingly----link.) Others freaked out once they saw Randy Winn's weak numbers from last year.
It was overt and unnecessary.
Despite Winn's poor 2009, he's been a historically good player who hits from both sides of the plate; he's good defensively and can handle all three outfield positions; he can run; has some pop; and is a quiet, stand-up guy. Yankee fans will come to appreciate his hustling, all-around style of play once they get a regular look at him.
And here's a flash: he's not going to be playing all that much unless someone gets hurt or Brett Gardner falls flat on his face. Winn was brought in as a fourth outfielder/insurance----no more, no less. Gardner is clearly going to get a chance to win the job in left field; Winn is a respectable back-up plan and, as I said before, the Yankees can fill an outfield hole at mid-season (David DeJesus or possibly Damon) if needed. Winn will be a defensive replacement for Nick Swisher and get an outfield start twice a week. That's around 250-300 at bats. He's fine for that and a good pickup for the Yankees.
- More context for the Mets:
Before anything else, I want it made clear that while I'm openly a Mets fan, I'm not a Mets fan who sees rainbows at every turn and is positive to the point of needing to be committed to a lunatic asylum (I may need that for other reasons, but that's neither here nor there). If anything is a testimony to this fact, you need only look at my predicted standings from last year for my objectivity on this matter.
Because the Mets still had that lingering hangover from the prior two years of failure on the last days of both seasons; and that they still didn't "feel" right despite their acquisitions to shore up the bullpen, I couldn't rightfully pick them to make the playoffs even though they were the odds on favorites in the National League.
Now, they've become fodder for ridicule. No one is sparing them the vicious sword and Mets fans have become so beaten down by the last three years that they've either joined the bashing or sit quietly by without protest.
And it's enough.
To put things into context, in 2007, the Mets were the favorites in the National League to build on their game 7 loss in the 2006 NLCS and bust through to win the whole thing. There's something interesting to have a look at though.
Here's the Mets starting rotation from 2007: Tom Glavine; John Maine; Oliver Perez; Orlando Hernandez; and a cast of thousands in the fifth slot.
Here's the Mets lineup from spring 2007: C-Paul LoDuca; 1B-Carlos Delgado; 2B-Javier Valentin; 3B-David Wright; SS-Jose Reyes; LF-Moises Alou; CF-Carlos Beltran; RF-Shawn Green
Digest that for a second.
That team with that lineup and starting rotation was the favorite in the National League.
Now here's the Mets projected 2010 starting rotation: Johan Santana; John Maine; Mike Pelfrey; Oliver Perez; Fernando Nieve/Jon Niese.
And the lineup: C-Omir Santos; 1B-Daniel Murphy; 2B-Luis Castillo; 3B-David Wright; SS-Jose Reyes; LF-Jason Bay; CF-Carlos Beltran; RF-Jeff Francoeur.
Aside from the floating piñata or the convenient punching bag the Mets have become, the teams---one that was a World Series favorite; and another that's considered to be a disaster----are almost identical.
What's the difference between then and now?
In 2007, the Mets were one inning away from the World Series six month earlier; a World Series they would've won.
In 2010, the Mets are coming off a season that was a train wreck. No team anywhere could have withstood the injuries that hit the Mets last season. Nowhere, no how. I don't care if it was the Yankees and Red Sox with their money and farm systems; the Cardinals with the strategic wizardry of Tony La Russa; the A's with the "genius" in the front office; the Dodgers with Joe Torre----each and every one of those teams would've fallen to 72-90 or worse.
The avalanche was compounded by the allegations of medical missteps and the communication failures of GM Omar Minaya. The sense of ineptitude became a cause unto itself with everyone jumping onboard to kick and torture the wounded animal.
Is it logical?
Is it fair?
Is the Mets starting rotation worse than that of the Phillies? The Phillies, whose back-end has Jamie Moyer penciled in?
Everyone has an agenda in attacking the Mets. The Yankee fans think it's hysterical even though I've been told privately by a large segment of them, in a conspiratorial whisper, "Look, we know how good the Mets should've been last year; what happened to them was ridiculous."
Phillies fans think it's a great joke. I guess they got tired of cheering at the possibility of Michael Irvin's paralysis.
Stat zombies----Keith Law, Rob Neyer----tear into them because they want to get one of their "own" into the Mets front office. With Billy Beane teetering in Oakland, it's repeatedly suggested that he or Sandy Alderson take over the Mets.
The leeches in the media----Joel Sherman----savage the Mets without providing rational solutions to what supposedly "ails" them.
And the others----the true bottom feeders like Buster Olney----attack, attack, attack because they have neither the skills nor the ingenuity to formulate a coherent thought on their own.
Of course it's unfair. But it's easy and it's fun.
The truth is this Mets team, if healthy and without another move, has enough talent to jump right back into contention. The club is reeling; they've been tormented so completely that the above mentioned "experts" are rubbing their hands together with glee at the pending collapse.
A cornered animal is most dangerous. I expect the Mets to come out swinging with both fists. Then we'll see who's right and who's wrong.
- Viewer Mail 1.28.2010:
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Hall of Fame:
I hope Mussina gets into the Hall. Not that I'm in any way prejudiced!
I have to believe that Mike Mussina will get in. Not on the first ballot unless it's a weak, weak class, but he's a Hall of Famer.
Becca writes RE Tom Glavine:
I was the one who left the comment about Glavine/Smoltz/Mussina/Schilling.
I agree that Glavine should be in the Hall. However, out of those four, he is the most borderline to me, though I agree with you that the "total package of durability and success" means he should be there.
If he was a control/finesse pitcher, then he should have struck out some more guys and, probably more importantly, walked a bunch less. He had arguably one of the greatest control/finesse pitchers of all time, Maddux, pitching alongside him for many years. Then again, I don't think "well, he wasn't as good as Greg Maddux" is really an argument that proves much, so yeah. Heh. I do think it's fair to mention strikeouts. In general, good strikeout pitchers are good pitchers (though let's not pretend Glavine wasn't a much, much better strikeout pitcher than most pitchers can hope to be) and Glavine's K/BB ratio is a liiiiittle ordinary...
As for the Cy Young argument, he should have won in 1991, but Glavine's 1998 Cy Young should have gone to Maddux or Kevin Brown. I'm not gonna list the stats here, but look 'em up.
Glavine had an awesome season that was definitely Cy-worthy - this wasn't the embarrassment of giving Bartolo Colon the award in 2005 - but two other guys just had better seasons. But clearly, the only reason he won that award was because he had the arbitrary 20 wins and the other guys didn't.
As for Cone, I think he belongs in the Hall of Very Good (same with Hershiser). He was a great pitcher, but he didn't pitch 3000 innings throughout his career and he obviously didn't have, like, ridiculous Sandy Koufax numbers. But he had a really good career that he can be very proud of.
Glavine's modus operandi was to never give in to the hitters. He'd rather walk them when he fell behind in the count and hope for a double play than to throw a fat pitch and risk giving up a bomb. You can't argue with his success in doing that. The walks were a strategic pothole that he worked his way around. I have to look at John Smoltz's gamelogs to get a better gauge on his position as an "automatic". It's possible that the Braves sometimes shoddy bullpen cost him something on his win totals.
In Colon's Cy Young year, Mariano Rivera deserved the award and got screwed. We may be seeing a change in the way the awards are doled out as Tim Lincecum didn't have the flashy win total, but deserved the award and won it.
Had Hershiser not blown out his shoulder, he's be in the Hall of Fame right now. That he returned as a different pitcher and used his brain, determination and experience to still win gets him into the outskirts of the conversation even though he's not a Hall of Famer.
On a note about Becca's comment, she added some WAR stats that I snipped out. You can feel free to cite stats with me, but in many instances, I tend to Z.O.N.E.O.U.T. when confronted with out-of-context numbers. I run my unit how I run my unit, taking everything into account including numbers and my powerful green eyes.
Jeff (Underboss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the HOF:
While I'm enjoying the debate on these fine pitchers, let us not lose sight of the real harrowing issue here: Schilling's bloody sock is in the Hall of Fame.
If ever there were a publicity stunt designed to make everyone focus on one rat-turd of a man, that was it. Schilling's pissy attitude was one thing, but creating that whole bloody sock thing to promote HIMSELF -- oh gee, imagine that -- was way out there and in my opinion, unforgivable.
Your ankle hurts? It's a little bloody? A little sore? Fine. Grow a pair and go about your business, pal, like every other man who plays the game and gives it his all. No need to go blab to the media about.
Schilling was a great pitcher and I respect that, but as a human he always reminds me of the BASEKETBALLS character "Lil Bitch".
I would so pay to see Mitch Williams kick his ass.
I've been open in casting an askance gaze at the dubious nature of the bloody sock. With most pitchers, no one would consider such a think to be phony; but with Schilling, it simply seems like something he'd do.
Ah, Mitch Williams. He never hid his feelings for Curt Schilling after the 1993 World Series ("It wouldn't have been a problem because I would've kicked his ass.")
"Here's a guy" (thanks Harold Reynolds) who's a winner on the MLB Network.
Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Orel Hershiser:
I saw Hershiser on the Indians-Marlins world series in '98. I admired his poise and his attitude, although my aunt told me his prime was past, when Valenzuela was his teammate and they made a hell of a 1-2 punch.
I support the small Hall of Fame. Most baseball players are famous, some are good, some are superstars, but only a tiny slice should be considered heroes, and only a very tiny slice of them should be considered legends. To me, the Hall of Fame is a place of legends, and Cone, Hershiser and Pettite are not legends, but they surely are heroes. I don't know about Smoltz, because of the three aces, he's the one with the "weakest" numbers, but he had some versatility. I think I'd vote for him. Glavine and Mussina are legends, and they should get in. I'll comment on Schilling tomorrow.
No one who didn't witness Hershiser's devastation firsthand in real time in 1988 can appreciate what it was he did as he carried the Dodgers on his back to the World Series.
The problem with the call for a "small" Hall of Fame is the unfairness that would be prevalent by scaling back the criteria. Once X player get in, how can you leave out Y player? You can't without it becoming even more capricious in excluding those that were better than players who are currently enshrined. Besides, it makes for some interesting arguments.
John Seal writes RE Billy Beane:
If the A's have an extra ten million to flush down the loo, why the heck not sign Bed Sheets? It gets the fans excited (hey, look! I'm excited!), theoretically takes some of the pressure off the Verducci Effect twins (Anderson and Cahill), and will provide a tempting target for contending teams come June/July, when Josh Outman (love this guy, and he wears his socks right!) returns from the DL. Assuming of course Sheets isn't on the DL himself by then...and if he is, so what, it's only somebody else's money!
It's not just the money that perplexes me; it's that they agreed in the contract that they wouldn't offer him arbitration to get the first round pick after the season. Supposedly, because he missed all of 2009, it's highly unlikely that he'd be designated as worthy of a first rounder, but still, what if he goes 18-8? It's hard to see happening, but with his stuff, it's certainly possible.
Sheets is worth a shot, but that's a lot of guaranteed money and they're on the hook for all of it if he gets hurt---a 50/50 proposition. Beane's getting desperate and it shows. This team literally can't hit either. With that young pitching, they might be really good----or superbad. Beane's all in now because he might be on the way out in Oakland depending on his new strategy that doesn't appear to be a strategy at all.