Saturday, October 4, 2014

Remembering Yankees of the Past: Johnny Damon

Johnny Damon was the caveman, center fielder, and self-proclaimed “idiot” that came over to the New York Yankees from the Boston Red Sox after winning the World Series in 2004 with Boston. Damon helped exercise the demons and the ghost of Babe Ruth and brought the Red Sox their first World Series championship in 86 years. Damon went from the most beloved and loved Red Sox in history to the most wanted man in a matter of a year and a few months, all because he put on the pinstripes. Damon left Boston after the 2005 season and signed a four year deal with the Yankees worth $52 million and a free haircut and shave.

Johnny Damon unofficially started his Yankees career when he was quoted as saying “there’s no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they’re going to come after me hard. It’s definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It’s not what I need.” Damon also addressed the Yankees facial hair and dress code policy by saying he was going to shave his shoulder length hair and beard anyway but waited until after switching sides of the rivalry in order to prevent speculation.

Damon wasted no time becoming a Yankee as he helped annihilate the Red Sox and crush their 2006 playoff aspirations in the five game series that many called the “Boston Massacre II” that saw Damon hit two home runs, collect eight RBI, and score eight runs in the first three games with nine hits in 18 at bats. After less than notable 2006 and 2007 seasons Damon collected his first walk off hit as a Yankees on June 7, 2008 when he went 6-6 in a 12-11 win over the Kansas City Royals. One month later Damon ended up on the 15 day DL for the first time in his career with a bruised AC joint in his left shoulder. Damon at the time was one of only three players who had played at least 10 seasons and never had to go on the disabled list.

Damon really made his mark as a member of the Yankees in the 2009 season which started when he hit his 200th career home run on July 27 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Damon finished the season with a .282 average and scored 107 runs. The Damon led Yankees had the best record in all of baseball in 2009 and went storming into the postseason. Damon was a huge contributor in taking down the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009 when he hit a home run in Game 3 and Game 4 of the ALCS. The Yankees went on to the World Series and Damon was right in the middle of it again for New York. Damon got credit for two stolen bases in one play when the Phillies shifted against Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and left third base unoccupied.  Damon would win his second World Series ring of his career when the Yankees won their 27th World Series championship in that 2009 season.

Damon entered the 2009 offseason expressing an interest to return to the Yankees but at his price range, at least $13 million a season for four years. After hearing of his demands New York went in a different direction signing 1B/DH Nick Johnson to a one year worth $5.5 million despite Damon lowering his demands in the final days. New York also signed outfielder Randy Winn to a one year deal worth $2 million closing the door on Damon and his Yankees career. We had memories, the walk off weekend against the Minnesota Twins, the double steal, and the World Series, and after 2009 it was over. 

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)