Johnny coming back to Fenway?
Could the 2004 caveman be coming back to Fenway?
David Ortiz certainly hopes so.
“Yeah,” Ortiz said. “Party like a rock star.”
While the Boston fans had a falling out with Damon after his acrimonious exit from the club in December of 2005, his former teammates still have a lot of affection for him.
The ball will be in Damon’s hands, presuming the Red Sox and Tigers can work out a trade by early Wednesday afternoon. There are only eight teams Damon can be traded to without consent, and the Red Sox aren’t one of them.
“Oh definitely,” said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. “That’s my boy, you know that. It would be great. Johnny is a fun person to be around and I’m pretty sure he’d be excited to be back and for all those people that did him wrong, [they] can put that back together and make him forget about the Yankees thing.”
With two-thirds of Boston’s starting outfield (Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron) probably out for the season, Damon could fill an obvious need.
“Johnny’s a special player,” said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. “He’s pushing on Hall of Fame-type numbers. You add that with [the fact that] Johnny’s great in the clubhouse, he’s great on the field and he’s one hell of a teammate.”
The Red Sox entered Monday’s game with the Mariners trailing the Yankees by 6 ½ games in the American League East and Tampa Bay by 5 ½ in the AL Wild Card standings.
“It’s probably as tough of a decision for me to take right now as it was for me to leave Boston for New York,” Damon told reporters in Detroit. “It’s something that fortunately we have some time to think about it. At this moment, I’m not sure I want to leave Detroit for that. I enjoy playing here. I enjoy the kids I’m playing for, the coaching staff. But obviously [Red Sox manager Terry] Francona is amazing. But it’s something that I have think long and hard over.”
While Damon lost favor from Boston fans after departing for New York, his teammates from 2004 still rave about him.
“I didn’t really ever want to see him leave this uniform,” said Varitek. “It would be a nice opportunity. Let him do what he needs to do to see what happens.”
When the Red Sox pulled out their historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 AL Championship Series, Damon played a huge role, belting two homers – including a grand slam – in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. He led off clinching Game 4 of the World Series with a home run, and the Red Sox won it all for the first time in 86 years.
It was Damon who dubbed that colorful team the “Idiots”, his long hair and shaggy beard symbolizing the group.
But after the 2005 season, when Damon was a free agent, he couldn’t come to an agreement with the Red Sox. Boston offered a four-year, $40 year deal. Damon instead went to the Yankees for four years at $52 million. Damon had four productive years in New York, helping the Yankees win last year’s World Series.
“I had a great time playing there,” Damon said. “But I think once it was apparent that I wasn’t a necessity to re-sign there, it started to get ugly. And that’s why I’ve got to think long and hard. I have to think if they do have a strong chance to make the playoffs with the guys beat up there.”
The Red Sox would be responsible for the remaining balance of Damon’s $8 million contract if a deal can be worked out. The Tigers, aside from saving the money, could also get a prospect from the Red Sox.
“The only reason why I would be considering it is to help out [the Tigers] m in the future,” Damon said. “I love the Tigers organization and I love the fact that they’re up-front and honest. If somehow they can get a good prospect back, a player that can help this team in the future, it would be beneficial for them. I would like to remain a Tiger, so I think that’s why these next hours are pretty important.”
The decision might be easier for Damon if the Red Sox were a couple of games closer. But Boston is still in contention.
“I would much rather stay in Detroit than pack up my family for five or six weeks,” said Damon. “But they’re 5 1/2 games out from the Wild Card, I believe, and if somehow if I accept it and we pulled it together and made the playoffs, that would mean a lot to the way people think of me as a ballplayer, what I can do to help change a game.”
If a trade can’t be worked out, the Red Sox will have successfully blocked Damon from going to the Yankees or the Rays. In fact, before Boston made the wavier claim, Damon wondered if he was headed to one of those two clubs.
“I was possibly thinking it was going to be Tampa or New York, but somehow Boston is still staying in this race, which makes it intriguing,” Damon said. “So it’s something I’ll have to think about. I promise I won’t think about it during the game. I’ll think about trying to get hits and stuff.”