Results tagged ‘ Johnny Damon ’

Damon can relate to Ellsbury’s likely move to Bronx

Eight years after Johnny Damon left the Red Sox for the Yankees, another center fielder who led off for a World Series championship team in Boston is about to do the same.

This time, it is Jacoby Ellsbury. It is a story Damon can relate to better than anyone else. I caught up with Damon on the phone a little while ago.

“The good thing is Jacoby brought two World Series championships to Boston and he’s a heck of a player. It just seems like he’s finding a way to stay healthy and he’s going to be awesome for New York. Unfortunately for Boston fans, this is kind of what happens sometimes. As much as your heart belonged to Boston and everything, it comes down to being a business. Unfortunately we’re part of that.”

Ellsbury was a first round pick by the Red Sox in 2005, Damon’s last year in Boston. They were always compared as players, though Damon probably had a little more power while Ellsbury possesses more speed.

“I feel like I was part of the Jacoby Ellsbury business. If they signed me, maybe they would have traded Jacoby. Or Jacoby may not have gotten that shot in Boston,” Damon said. “Things work out for a reason. Unfortunately some fans don’t see it that way. Jacoby has always been compared to me, in a way, since he was signed. So this is just that other comparison. I wish him the best and, yeah, it’s pretty crazy.”

Damon’s power benefited in New York, with the easy pull shots to right and right-center. He hit 77 homers over four seasons in New York, compared to 56 over that same time-span in Boston.

“Oh, I think it’s going to play great for his swing,” Damon said. “He has power and still has a lot of good years left in him. And the thing is, New York needed to do it. They’re not looked at as one of the elite teams. With that signing, it puts them right back into the race again. I thought maybe a month ago, a scenario would play out but I thought maybe Boston would do what they could to sign him.”

Damon hopes Ellsbury doesn’t get quite the same backlash he did from Boston fans.

“I think it depends on what people make of it. Jacoby just helped the team win another World Series,” Damon said. “They’re going to be grateful for that. But the Boston fans are notoriously hateful to Yankee players. The way that Jacoby plays, he’s still going to have the respect throughout the league. The fact is, he hustles, and that’s what Boston wants – somebody who cares about the game and somebody who would run into walls and who would take accountability, and that’s the guy. Yeah, it’s going to be tough at times but he’s a good enough player that the fans are still going to respect what he gave to Boston and what he’s going to give to New York.”

What is it like adjusting to the New York market after playing in Boston?

“I actually thought going to New York was easier to deal with just because there’s so much going on because baseball isn’t the New Yorkers’ everything. They’ve got so many sports teams to follow, they’ve got Broadway, they’ve got actors and actresses, Wall Street, all that stuff. everybody can kind of do their thing. In Boston, it’s great, people invite you to dinner every night. People pay very close attention there, I would say more of a percentage of people. “

And Damon ended the conversation with this.

“And hopefully he enjoys both places as much as I have.”

When Damon left Boston for New York, the Yankees gave him $52 million over four years. The Red Sox were willing to offer four years at $40 million.

In this case, the Red Sox likely weren’t going to go near the seven years the Yankees are willing to invest in Ellsbury.

Pedro unplugged as he returns to work

There was a buzz in the air, as Pedro Martinez put on Red Sox uniform pants and warmup jacket for the first time since 2004, when he dominated the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series.

Martinez is now a special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and he will spend time in camp working with pitchers — particularly Felix Doubront and Rubby De La Rosa.

During a 24-minute session with the media, Martinez was expansive and entertaining.

Does Martinez want to pitch again? “Oh no, not at all. Not to play. Coming back to see the Sox in first place, maybe. No, no, no, no chance. I just don’t think so. I did what I was supposed to do out there.”

What will he add? “I hope to add some knowledge. Any help I can for the staff in any aspect. It could be mechanically. It could be on the field, off the field, it could be mentally, which I know a lot about going through struggles –what we go through in the middle of a season, especially after the first half. I can relate to a lot of them and actually get them going and they can come in and ask questions and I’ll be more than willing to answer.”

Talked to Daniel Bard. What was that all about? “I actually was talking about him feeling comfortable in some of the things that he was doing. He explained to me some of the things that he does where he feels more comfortable. I suggested a couple of things, simple things, like getting into different habits of doing things so he can actually feel comfortable on the mound and off the mound and also to make adjustments.”

Putting the Red Sox uniform on for the first time since 2004: “You know what, it’s weird, but it feels like the first day to me. I get so excited just to be part of this team and be part of the tradition that we have here. To me, it was just like the first day. I was actually a little bit funny about putting a pair of [Red Sox] pants on again. Shorts are different. And regular pants like a player. Same size, same everything, even though I’m a little heavier.”

Less control than when he was a player: “You know what, when they’re in the field, I think they have ways to go around it, but when you’re not, it’s an empty feeling that you get inside of you. There’s nothing you can do from the front of your TV. Sometimes the few games that I stopped to watch at Fenway, it was painful to see the chemistry wasn’t there, the team wasn’t doing what they were supposed to. I was trying to be optimistic about the team playing together all year. That never happened. I know that was one of the biggest reasons why the team didn’t perform to the level that everybody expected.”

Could you have ever imagined doing this years back? “No, I never thought about it but I knew I wanted to be in the field somehow, not all the time. That’s why I automatically erased probably becoming a pitching coach and probably a manager. I don’t really see myself doing 162 games anymore. I did it for my whole career and if I take part in the field, it’s going to be this way.”

Why was now the time to start working again? “To be honest, I can’t sit still for so long. I have to work. I grew up working. Since I was 14, and I was dropped off at the academy by Ramon, which was a really good choice, after that, I just went on to play and play and play and I was never home. Even though my family needs me and I need my family now, I still need some time to actually go away, actually have a schedule, have something to do and at the same time, be where I like to be, which is in the baseball field, the baseball diamond, exchanging with guys  that I feel are like my family.”

What kind of schedule will you have? “You  know, I became really close to Benny and I offered him my help in any sense I could help. I’m open to help him out. I just won’t compromise  special times with my family. I won’t compromise things that are important to me in my life, in my independent life. As far as anything else, I’m open to do it.”

Working with Felix Doubront, who some say is out of shape this spring: “Well he’s so young and so full of talent that sometimes you take for granted the opportunity we’re given. But the same way it comes, the same way it could go. All it takes is a bad injury and you’re out of baseball. The only thing that prevents injuries is hard work. I believe he just doesn’t know. He hasn’t been taught that he’s going to be held accountable for his performance out there and the way he looks. That this is really a serious business. I think it takes a little while to get him mentally prepared to understand the responsibility that he has on top of his shoulder with the whole Boston community and the team and he’s so young. Nowadays these pitchers come up so young, so talented that they don’t realize how much they’re going to be counted on. And I think Doubront is a good example. I think he needs to know that it’s really important to this team, the organization, the community, to Boston, and that they’re counting on him to be one of the big names. But at the same time, he’s still a young kid trying to develop and he’s already in the big leagues trying to perform. You have to take that into consideration and be patient with him. At the same time, try to guide him through it. and I think I can be a good access to it to learn about some of the things that he has to do.”

Not pulling any punches with Doubront: “Baseball is not easy. It wasn’t easy for me. He has to expect it to be tough. One thing I’m going to be with him, just like I was always with you, I’m going to be straightforward an I’m going to say the way it is, point blank. If he wants to hear it or if he doesn’t, that’s OK. I want the best for him and I want the  best for the organization and I would love to help. I can’t handle the fact that I have all this knowledge and  not give it away. I would love to give it away and I hope he sees me as a good example of hard work and dedication and will to do things.”

On Doubront perhaps not being in great shape: “Being out of shape a little bit is normal, probably not as much as before. But being out of shape a little bit at spring training, this is the only place you can be a little bit out of shape. You’re here to get in shape. He has plenty of time to get in shape. I think he’s going to do it right. At the same time, you have to hold him accountable to go and do his work.”

Does this job feed your competitive juices? “It’s more difficult for me to be as competitive because I can’t pitch. I would love to brush someone back. Hey, hey, get off the plate, this is my area. Now I have to sit and watch and rely on someone to do it so I can get my giddyup.”

More on inside baseball: “You teach them when to do it and how to do it and how to do it properly and effectively. It’s all part of the game. You have to pitch inside, you have to brush them back. You have to make them feel uncomfortable all the time, and one of the things that makes you feel uncomfortable is that pitch inside close to you. At 99 from Rubby De La Rosa or Doubront or Lester can get anybody uncomfortable. I will preach it: They need to pitch inside if they want to have success.”

The desire: “If you have all of the ingredients that lead you to it. You have to want it. You have to be crazy enough to do it. You have to be willing to do it. And you have to be willing to learn how to do it. You put all those ingredients together, and you have someone who can compete just as well as I used to.”

Now that you’re not pitching anymore, can you say how many of your hit batsmen were on purpose? “Probably 90 percent of them, but it was all in retaliation for my teammates.”

Did you drill Karim Garcia on purpose?  “Not on purpose. It didn’t even hit him. It hit the bat. Not on purpose. Who is Karim Garcia? He just hit a great homer for Mexico in the last Caribbean Series. Gerald Williams, no. Karim Garcia, no. Some others, I don’t know. There were some in retaliation to show them that there were things I wouldn’t allow them to do. You play around it. They understand it, too. They know they’re going to get hit for something that happened. If you disrespect a player or disrespect me, I’m probably going to take a chance, somewhere where you didn’t expect it or didn’t think I would do it, and there you have it. If you do it professionally and not hurting anybody. I don’t remember hitting anybody with a fastball to the head.”

Jorge Posada thought you were saying you wanted to hit him in the head in ’03. Did you ever get a chance to tell him that you were really saying, “I’ll remember that.”.  “No. No. It doesn’t matter. Posada is a human being. He’s got his family. He doesn’t need me in his life, I don’t need him. I wish him well with his family. There are some things that happen in the baseball field.”

Can you be a liason? “Hopefully we’ll be supportive to some of the players that don’t feel like they can talk to management. There are certain areas where a player doesn’t feel confident enough to express himself and have fun. I was crazy fun in the clubhouse, but the time to play was totally different. I knew I had something to do. There wasn’t anybody more serious on the day I pitched. But if I wasn’t pitching, I was so crazy fun, and those guys are going to get to know that. Even though I’m not playing, I’m going to keep it loose. I’m going to be loud. And you can do those things, but you have to understand that the time to work is the time to work and make a difference between work and loose time. When you have to express something, do it the right way. Hopefully I will be one of the bridges that reaches between the areas they weren’t able to reach the last few years.”

How do you relate to players when you probably had a lot more talent? “This may sound weird, but I never considered myself a great player. I made myself, along with my teammates, a better player than I was. I never thought I was a superstar. I worked like I was a hungry man going for his first game in the big leagues. I know that’s not going to be something you want to teach Doubront or any of those kids coming up, because they are rich in talent. All they have to do is try to stay physically healthy, here’s what they have and suck in a lot of the knowledge that everyone is trying to give them.”

How you put it all together: “I will say I had to learn a lot of little pieces together to become the person I was, the pitcher I was. I have a lot of me with Maddux, with Pettitte, with Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Bret Saberhagen believe it or not was someone I really analyzed a lot, Tom Glavine. I had a lot of little things I learned from everybody. I tried to pack them all together and use them, and that’s how I became who i was in baseball, but I never considered myself a superstar or a superhuman talent. I thought there was a lot of work for me to do each day to be consistent and have success.”

Fans serenading you with love during the workout today: “That’s because I’m probably one more fan out there in the parade. Since I left Boston everything was a parade, and every time I came back it was a parade. People got used to keeping the same attitude. I think I’m the same way. I was really happy that they could feel, in a baseball field, feel for me what they felt for me in the field when I was playing. They were like, ‘Hey, Pedro!’ Some of them even asked if I was going to come back and pitch. I said, ‘No, not a chance.’”

Will you be a Red Sox lifer like Luis Tiant? “Probably. Probably around, yeah, when I’m an old goat running around. I probably won’t have the goatee, but I’ll be around hopefully like Jim Rice and Tiant, without the goatee. Johnny Pesky. Johnny Pesky. I remember him hitting me some fungos in my first year here. Then I saw him in his last days. I was really proud to have the opportunity to see Johnny Pesky. I’m hoping to become someone like that.”

Did you get over bitterness about the Red Sox not re-signing you? “I never held it against them. You have to understand, baseball has a dark side and it’s the negotiations. When you’re exposed to arbitration cases, you realize that there is a business part of baseball that forces you to look for negatives about the player, and the player tries to prove to the team that you’re worth whatever you’re asking, that money makes it all difficult. All that love for one day goes away. Then once we settle and reach an agreement, it’s all love again. It’s a lot like two boxers. You shake hands before and you shake hands after. That’s it. It’s boxing. I never held it against Boston, the fact that they didn’t sign me. They thought I wasn’t worth what I was asking, and I thought I was worth what I was asking. That was it. But no grudges, no grudges. Even though I was honest — probably too honest.”

You miss the glory days? “I miss [Johnny Damon], I miss Millar, I miss everybody. I miss every player I played with with the Red Sox. There’s nothing I can think of from ’04 and the previous teams I played, that I don’t miss. I was even telling [equipment manager] Joe Cochran, I was telling Joe I even miss seeing the flowers in the spring, when they first came out, the first part of the season where the leaves are starting to come out and the flowers are starting to come out, I miss that time when it’s starting to get warm and in the summer there’s all the flowers and Boston is green and beautiful. I miss all that over the last few years, even though I did visit — but not like I used to. Now I’m going to get to see it more often.”

Damon gets his due

A very nice moment unfolded during the Mother’s Day home game against the Indians on Sunday, one that, in my humble opinion, was long overdue.

Between innings, as the Indians were getting ready to hit, the Red Sox placed one of their memorable moment montages on the scoreboard in center field. With Johnny B. Goode playing on the sound system, the highlights of choice came from Johnny Damon’s monster Game 7 against the Yankees in 2004. Damon had two homers — including a grand slam — and six RBIs in that game helping the Red Sox complete their historic comeback from 0-3.

After the highlight was over, the Jumbotron camera panned to Damon standing in the Indians’ dugout. The fans gave a nice applause and Damon actually stepped out of the dugout and waved to the fans.

It was a great moment — one that was not possible in 2006 when Damon took a better offer from the Yankees and left Boston.

Damon received boos at Fenway during his entire time in New York. When he came back with the Tigers in 2010, he had an injury and didn’t play. Last year, Damon was back in town several times with the Rays — another division rival — and continued to get boos, though not as hash as the ones he received in New York.

But with the Red Sox celebrating the 100th anniversary at Fenway this season, people can’t help but get a little nostalgic. One of the central figures from the most memorable season in team history is Damon, and I think fans are finally feeling that again. There were two players who drastically changed the culture of the clubhouse in the middle of the last decade. They were Damon and Kevin Millar. Players like that loosened everyone up and played a huge role in the success of the team. And while Millar was a nice player for those teams, Damon was one of the most valuable. He always played, no matter what injury he had. He worked great at-bats. He came through with hits when needed. But it just ended so badly for him when the market dried up for him and the one team that offered him a big deal happened to be the Yankees, who trumped Boston’s 4-year, $40 million contract with a 4-year, $52-million deal.

Damon truly appreciated the kind gesture by the Red Sox on Sunday, and the nice reaction from the fans.

“That was very special. It’s the first time since I’ve been back that they’ve given me recognition for what I did with the Red Sox. It’s the first highlights that I’ve seen of me doing something good. It was definitely very special,” Damon said. “Obviously, I would like to thank the Red Sox for putting it up and I’d like to thank the fans who did applaud me, the fans that really appreciate how I go about my business and play baseball.

Damon doesn’t dispute the notion that playing for the Yankees — and maybe even the Rays — prevented such a display of gratitude before Sunday.

“Possibly. I knew there were hard feelings on both sides for a while,” Damon said. It seems like everything is getting back to normal. I really wanted to come back here when I became a free agent. They failed to sign me. Unfortunately, the only other option was New York, but I’m still happy I had that experience, because I think I know better than anybody now how both sides are. I’m just very appreciative that I’ve been able to play for both sides and also to be able to be playing on my seventh team right now.”

Thanks to MLB.com Indians scribe Jordan Bastian for the quotes from Damon.

Damon unplugged

It’s always good to catch up with Johnny Damon, who is now with, believe it or not, his sixth Major League team. Damon is playing for his hometown Rays, ironically taking Carl Crawford’s place in the lineup.

Will he play for the Orioles and Blue Jays, allowing him to say he’s played for all five AL East teams. “No, I really don’t think so,” Damon said. “I go into every year hoping that I’m stuck with my last team. Hopefully that’s the case for me.”

The situation: “It’s great for me. I actually love the fact that I’ve actually now, this is my sixth team. You get to see how organizations are run, how important it is for teams to have signings that work. Tampa’s not a team that can afford to lock up a guy and not have it work out because that sets teams back. Probably just the Yankees and Boston can get away with something not working. Every other team would be hurt for a few years.

What’s it like being on the Rays with Manny while Crawford is with the Red Sox? “It’s weird. When I was a younger player I never thought I’d be on this many teams. I figured three teams or so, and here I am now. still enjoying it, though, still getting after it. Hopefully it will be another good year to make me want to come back next year.”

Having fun with Manny again? “Nothing of the press conference was rehearsed or anything. We were just two guys having a good time and enjoying being each others’ teammates again and bringing our talents to the St. Pete area. “

Any changes in Manny? “He’s always been great. There was never a question with myself or the team that we were on. Everyone knew what our places were. We enjoyed his company as a person, and obviously we enjoyed him getting the big hits for us.”

What will Crawford’s time in Boston be like? “Only time will tell. We couldn’t really define my time in Boston until we won a championship. Same in New York. Championships are what people remember you for. I was on a pretty good team, pretty stacked team. I’m sure there’s going to be at least one somewhere in his stay there.

Handling big market after playing in a small market? “I think you just have to handle it the right way. if you keep trying to run from it, that’s where you run into talking to one guy here, another guy there, that’s when your whole day is gone. But if you learn how to manage, it’s so much better.

Count Damon among those impressed by Boston’s bullpen: How many closers do they have there? You have Bard, you have Jenks, you have Papelbon. That’s pretty solid. And their starters are really good. They can shorten a game very quickly, kind of like the Yankees of the late ’90s. Pitchers gave them five or six innings and it was game over.

On Jenks: “He’s real good. I’ve always had trouble hitting off of him. Hopefully this year will be a little bit different. But their team definitely went in the right direction. Obviously, on paper, they’re the team to beat. Who knows how many games it will take to win the East? Baltimore’s gotten better. Maybe 90 games and wild card comes from somewhere else? That’s how stacked the division is.

Happy to be back in the AL East? “Absolutely, I enjoyed playing in Detroit, and actually was hoping to get back there. That was a big reason for vetoing the trade. If I would have known at the time that they weren’t going to bring me back, I would have showcased myself for the upcoming free agent year. But I knew then that Tampa was going to be a strong possibility for me, because I knew then that they couldn’t keep Crawford.”

So he would have gone to Boston last August  if he knew the Tigers weren’t going to keep him? “I wanted to stay there for the right reasons. Those kids were very fond of me. They loved the experience factor. Boston was seven games out at the time. At the time, I think a big thing was being able to play. They didn’t give me any indication. The ownership loved me. The fans loved me. So I thought it was close to being a slam dunk. But to find out on the last day of the season.

How perfect a setup is it playing for the Rays, being that he’s a Central Florida native? “Yeah. I was hoping someday it would be great. Obviously, ’98, I was still with the Royals in my fourth year, and the team I grew up rooting for was the Royals. At the time, you think you can play your whole career in one place. Then that first time you get traded, you’re like, ‘Whoa, alright, all bets are out the window.’ That’s why I didn’t mind moving around throughout my career, try to put myself in a great situation, not only for myself and a chance to win but also for my family.” 

Best of Boras

One of the annual events at the Winter Meetings has become the State of
Scott Boras address. It usually isn’t planned ahead, it just sort of
happens. Today, the circumstances were ripe. Boras was at the press
conference announcing the signing of Carlos Pena with the Cubs, so the
assembled reporters gathered with him in the hall once that was over.

Boras
discussed the latest on free agent clients Adrian Beltre, Magglio
Ordonez and Rafael Soriano, while also talking about Prince Fielder’s
uncertain future, and a lot more. Here is a sampling.

Beltre:
“Well that’s a very busy market for Adrian. We’re in the middle of lot
of negotiations with a lot of teams for him and they’re ongoing. “

The
Angels are a team that could be a fit for Beltre, and Boras maintains
– contrary to recent reports — that his client still has interest in
the Oakland Athletics.

Magglio:”Actually we had a workout
today with Magglio where he got a chance to illustrate where his
baseball abilities were at, just to show he’s 100 percent. That took
place this morning. Teams got to see that. I really don’t know [how
many teams] because I haven’t gotten the report. I know that Detroit
was there for sure.”

The Red Sox are a team that could compete with the Tigers for the services of Magglio Ordonez.

Soriano:
“The closer market is always an interesting one in the sense that teams
never ever want anyone to know that they’re interested in a closer.
Mainly because there are few closers who are the sure 90 percent
closers available and they never get to free agency. It’s almost like a
dynamic where you don’t want anyone to know in your organization that
the candidates you have to be a closer are not efficient for the role
because you may end up with them. unlike starters, because there are
five of them. Clubs I think are very cautious about interest in closers
because it has such an impact on those who may have to do the job if
they in fact don’t get the contract with the closer that’s a free
agent.”

Prince: “I can’t really address that. I think
that, in each situation, a general manager has got to look at the
probability and whether the ownership wants the player to stay vs. the
prospects and/or draft picks they may get. In each scenario, it really
depends on the judgments of the variables given to the general manager.
sometimes ownership gets to reflect on what goes on in the marketlplace
and they may evaluate their positions on what they want to do with
their existing players. We’ve certainly, had discussions last year.
Doug and I met at the GM Meetings. We continue to talk. Whether mark
and I are going to sit down, I don’t know. Doug and I are going to have
meetings further about prince’s short term and potentially long-term
situation.”

Fielder is eligible for free agency at the end of
the season and Adrian Gonzalez, who was just traded to the Red Sox, is
likely to sign a contract worth roughly $154 million over seven years.

Strasburg: He
began his rehab oh, a month and a half, two months ago. Working out
every day. Our Sports fitness people are working with him daily. He’s
well into … the doctors say it’s obviously going to be the middle of
next year before he’s going to be looking to get back to things.

There was a bit of controversy about Strasburg’s mechanics following the revelation he had to have surgery.

“I
think we’re going to leave that to the Washington Nationals. There’s a
lot of things that have been said. But we’ve been through the Tommy
John situation with a  whole host of pitchers in my career. To suggest
when you’re a young thrower with all that ability, to determine when
that occurred or why that occurred … certainly the medical staff has,
with the certainty that many prognosticators have placed out there,
they’re not quite so certain that’s the case.”

Manny Ramirez: “Manny
has certainly told me we’re out looking for a one-year contract. But
remember, too, that this is Manny Ramirez. We’re talking about a
contract that certainly will have incentives in it. But I think there
are short-term contracts for players, and there are short-term
contracts for players who have a historical history of being a great
player like Manny.  We found out Manny had some medical maladies that
had to be surgically repaired in the offseason, that we did not know
about and that he played with during the season. I think it had a
pretty big impact on his performance. He’s ready to go. he’s a guy
that’s got his full health. Obviously, he’s looking for a situation
that allows him to DH and play a bit, that he really thinks will aid
him to stay in the batter’s box.”

Carlos Beltran:  Carlos
is doing well. obviously having gone through his surgery early in the
season last year helped him. His return to play, he’s doing fine. He’s
working out with a conditioning plan daily. His plan right now is to be
a New York met. He has a no trade clause. If anything were brought to
him, I think it would depend on what the situation were. I would say
certainly now that his expectation would be to be a Met next year.”
 
The Red Sox have had least had mild discussions with the Mets about Beltran.

“He
has a no-trade clause, so whatever decisions that he and Jessica make
are going to be around the idea that any other information will come
forward. I can only say that’s something the Mets would have to bring
to Carlos. To date, Carlos’ plan is to be a Met, because he does
control whether he is a Met or not. For those reasons, unless something
unforeseen happens, I would say he will be a Met.”

Johnny Damon:
“I think Johnny’s open to playing on winning teams. He definitely wants
to be a part of an organziation that’s got a chance to do something. I
think any club that he feels has a chance to win, he’d be interested
in.”

And down the stretch they come — without Damon

It sure would have been fun to have Johnny Damon back down the stretch. There would have been an element of excitement, just because of the lightning rod he can be. Or perhaps Damon put it even better yesterday after explaining his decision to stay in Detroit.

“I texted with Varitek and I talked to Big Papi. And their whole thing is they want a spark,” Damon said. “They obviously feel like they need a spark. If I was going there, obviously, it’s going to be the biggest story in baseball to detract them from what’s going on the field, because the attention’s on me and my wacky self. But that’s not going to happen. That’s done.”

Can the Red Sox do it without Damon’s wacky self, even without Ellsbury, Youkilis and possibly Pedroia the rest of the way?

“This has been who we are, and it’s been who we are all year and we’re in the right place,” said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. “And it’s come down to the same thing it has all year: We throw the ball well, we present ourselves with good opportunities to win. And we have to continue to do that, and that’s going to be even more important over this next month and a week.”

Or as Jonathan Papelbon notes, maybe the urgency of the situation will inspire the team to do something memorable.

“I think that once the playoff race heats up a little bit more, we can kind of see where everybody is at on the scale of, if it comes up to a couple weeks, whether our backs are against the wall or not will really determine a lot in how we go out and play,” Papelbon said. “When this team’s back has been put up against the wall, I think that’s kind of when we’ve been at our best.”

“We’re trying, we’re trying,” said Ortiz. “We’re trying to play our best and everybody knows it. It’s a ride or die situation towards the end of the season. You have to win as many games as you can so you can be playing in October.”

Can they do it with this cast?

“It’s not like we have other options,” Ortiz said. “Of course, we’re battling and we have to ride with this.”

The ride starts today for a day-night doubleheader. A sweep would be a good start for the Sox.

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 games in the American League East and Tampa Bay by 5 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.”

Time for Sox fans to get it right on Damon

Four years and nearly three months ago, Johnny Damon came back to Fenway for the first time since leaving the Red Sox and the fans had a chance to thank him for the vital role he played in helping the team win their first World Series in 86 years.

Sox followers responded with some of the loudest boos I have ever heard in my nine years covering the team. Each Damon at-bat for the next four seasons had a similarly negative response.

Yes, he had the gall to wear Pinstripes. All the boos that took place after the first at-bat? Perfectly understandable. Damon was a Yankee, and all Yankees are booed at Fenway.

But in that first visit back, he deserved recognition and appreciation for four terrific seasons in which he played hurt and played hard constantly.

Listen, the Sox offered Damon four years at $40 million. It was a nice offer. The Yankees offered four years at $52 million. It was a much better offer. Damon took the money, which isn’t all that out of the ordinary in today’s sports landscape. Whether you agree with his decision or not, there is no disputing what he did in his time with the Sox.

So now, on Friday night, he comes back to Fenway again, this time wearing a Detroit Tigers uniform. Time to get it right, Red Sox Nation. Now is your chance to let bygones be bygones and give Damon — who coined the “Idiots” moniker in ’04 — his due for being one of the key Idiots.

Remember the two homers Damon hit in Game 7 of ’04 at Yankee Stadium, the first being a game-breaking grand slam? Remember the leadoff homer Damon hit in Game 4 of the ’04 World Series against the Cardinals? Remember the severe concussion Damon endured in Game 5 of the Division Series against Oakland in ’03, and how he got himself back in the lineup by Game 3 of the ALCS? Remember the overall numbers (.295 average, .362 OBP, 461 runs, 98 stolen bases, two All-Star appearances) put up for the Sox? Think about those things on Friday night when Damon steps to the plate in the top of the first.

After that, do whatever you want. But every other key member of the ’04 Sox who went to other teams has been appreciated at some point the last few years. Dave Roberts, Orlando Cabrera, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Kevin Millar, Trot Nixon. They’ve all gotten their due. Now it’s time to give Damon his.

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WWJDD?

What will Johnny Damon do? Shocking, really, that he’s yet to find a home. Damon proved last season that he still has a lot to offer on a baseball field. I think he was a huge difference-maker in Game 4 of the World Series, working the pivotal at-bat of the series, and then making that memorable double steal.

Every year, one guy seems to get left out in the cold. Last year it was Bobby Abreu. This year it’s Damon. I think the Rays are the team that makes the most sense for Damon. He would get to stay in the American League East, the division he’s played in the last eight years. Damon lives in the Orlando area, so he could commute to work. Really, it would be a perfect situation. He is exactly the type of player the Rays could use. I’m sure Gabe Kapler will give him a ringing endorsement.

Another one of the lovable “Idiots” from 2004 found work today, with word surfacing through ESPN.com that Kevin Millar will sign with the Cubs, a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. I think he will be great for that clubhouse, and obviously he knows what it’s like to help relax a team that hasn’t won a World Series for the better part of the century.

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