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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Strictly business

Greed: excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions.

After helping the New York Yankees win their 27th World Championship, outfielder Johnny Damon became a free agent. Damon, a former all-star, displayed common symptoms of greed and received poor advice from his agent, Scott Boras. Unforunately for the two, their blatant desire for more resulted in less.


The obvious option was to re-sign with the Yankees and defend their title. It was the perfect match; the Yankees wanted Damon to continue patrolling left field, and Damon wanted to perform on the biggest stage for the greatest show on earth, playing for the New York Yankees.

Now the 36 year old Damon is a step slower and a sprint away from pulling a hamstring. He has the worst arm in baseball, which typically resulted in a double-cut on a play to third or home from shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano. Though his home run and RBI totals were high last season, they are significantly exaggerated, receiving a boost from playing in the sand box known as the new Yankee Stadium.

Nevertheless, going into free agency, Boras declared that his client has earned the right and deserved to be compensated as one of the best in the game, even going as far as comparing Damon to the all-time great Jeter. To their credit, Damon does have a legitimate chance of becoming a member of the 3000 hit club, currently sitting at 2,425 hits through 15 seasons. The Damon camp demanded to be rewarded with a multi-year contract in the range of two to three years with an annual salary of $13-15 million.

As the Yankees should, they did what was in the best interest of the organization. Understanding that the negatives highly out weighed the positives at this stage of Damon’s career, the Yankees offered him a two year, $14 million deal to stay with the club; that was quickly rebuffed by Boras and his client. Assuming the phone would be ringing off the hook and the bank would be broke by the Yankees, they waited, and waited. New York did not.

Moving forward with business as usual, New York reunited with a former Yankee, Nick Johnson. Johnson will serve as the team’s designated hitter. Damon and Boras claim that the Yankees never offered an acceptable offer, while disrespecting Damon by negotiating with other players. Regardless, the Yankees still hoped that Damon would come to his senses and re-sign with the club; no dice. The organization called Damon’s bluff and moved on, turning the page on the Johnny Damon era in New York. The Yankees traded for center fielder Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers. A younger, more talented Granderson fills a void in center field and will be a great addition to the Yankees clubhouse.

Now stuck without a team and spring training right around the corner, Damon needed a spot to land. With a vacancy in their outfield, Detroit approached the Damon camp. On the day position players reported to spring training, the two sides came to an agreement. Damon accepted a one year, $8 million offer, far from his previous demands.

Damon will be missed in New York. He was the ideal Yankee. No matter the circumstance or situation, Damon ate it up. His free spirit attitude and big city persona was the perfect mix for the corporate, white collar Yankees. His double-steal in game four of the World Series will live on in Yankees history forever.

The Yankees will go into the season with Brett Gardner and Randy Winn platooning in left field. Gardner is much more valuable as a sparkplug off the bench and Winn is way past his prime. Do not be surprised if the Yankees make a move at the trade deadline, bringing Mr. Damon back to the Bronx. By that time, the Tigers will be out of contention and will want to get any value out of Damon before he leaves for free agency the following year.

In the end, greed overmatched the potential production of this aging outfielder. Maybe Damon received bad advice from Boras, but the two men should have realized what a special opportunity they had sitting right in front of them. Hitting behind Jeter while being protected in the lineup by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez? Having the opportunity to play with the World Champion New York Yankees? Whoops!

With all due respect to Damon, it wasn’t personal…it was strictly business.

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