Johnny Damon signs with the Yankees, four years at $52 million.
Today is the first day of winter and it feels quite chilly in Red Sox Nation. The face of the Red Sox has signed with the Evil Empire. While it was still fall, my friends and I were debating how much the Red Sox should offer Damon. I said than, and I agree now, that the Red Sox should have signed Damon for a four years at $40 million. They made that offer but didn’t close the deal. Why? Because the forgot to sell the intangibles – or Damon wasn’t buying them. But one thing is clear. Damon was a much bigger star in Boston than he will ever be in New York. And he has traded his legend status – which would have produced financial payoffs in Boston after his playing days are over (NESN gig anyone?) – for more money now. Whatever.
The thing that bugs me about all of this is the lack of concept of a team. MLB is beginning to look a lot like professional wrestling, with “good guys” turning into “bad guys” and back for the entertainment of a paying audience.
Imagine, for a moment, that Bucky Dent was a free agent after the 1978 season and signed with the Red Sox. He couldn’t do that, he’s Bucky F-ing Dent! It’s (to quote “The Princess Bride”) inconceivable! Dent’s legacy is tied to pinstripes. In New York, they were calling Johnny Damon “Johnny F-ing Damon” after he handed them a defeat in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. It’s inconceivable that he would sign with the Yankees. Yet it is so. So much for his legacy.
I also speculated that Theo Epstein left the Red Sox for one of two reasons: personal or an impending fire sale (that he wanted no part of). It’s now looking like the latter reason is the reason. If I were Theo – or any Red Sox fan – on the staff, I would want no part of letting Johnny go. Or the rest of the free agents that we let go. Oh yeah, I forgot, we kept Graffanino. Great. He’ll be cut or traded by June.
How about this for a new rule? Each MLB team must bring 13 players from its 25-man roster back for the following season. This would either “protect” or “imprison” 13 members of each team each season, depending how they feel about the team. But it would at least ensure that one year’s team is made of a majority of players from the previous year’s team. The 2006 Red Sox looks OK at this point (the pitching looks particularly good, as do the 17 third basemen), but it’s not the same team. It’s an entirely different team. I haven’t done the math, but I doubt the Red Sox will have 13/25 players make it from the 2005 to the 2006 team.
Maybe we could all route for the LA Dodgers, who, with Derek Lowe, Grady Little, Bill Mueller, and Nomar Garciaparra, are looking a lot like the 2003 Red Sox.
The only good news in all of this is that Manny has asked to play on a different team. Now he gets to. It’s called the 2006 Red Sox.