I promise this is (probably) my last entry on Johnny Damon

(This is long and rambling because I’m just so freaking annoyed by all the “Johnny Damon was so wronged by Boston and that’s why he isn’t going back” talk.  Fair warning to those of you who don’t want to read about Damon or anything long and rambling.)

I wasn’t going to write about Johnny again but two things compel me to.  A tweet by Peter Gammons this morning and a ridiculous column by Sports Illustrated contributor Lee Jenkins.

Before I focus on them, I want to say this:  It’s easy for people, especially those in the media, to take the high road in situations like this.  I think sports writers wait for moments like this all year long so they can trot out the tired discussion about how bad sports fans, in this case BOSTON sports fans, are.  I used to think Peter Gammons was better than that.  Now it seems he’s actually worse than most.  Here’s Gammons’ unedited tweet:

Damon’s return to Boston was ugly,unfair, vulgar. Louts who think public obscenity is their right should about 1 reason he declined.

I feel like I’m missing something. That’s a common feeling when reading some tweets but in this case I need more information. Was he talking about Johnny’s return as a Yankee? We’ll get to that. Was he talking about his return as a Tiger? The return that never happened? The man feigned an injury and, essentially, never showed his face while he was here with Detroit.  We never heard one story about him being harassed outside the ballpark and we didn’t get any “the fans reminded Damon that they haven’t forgotten his time in pinstripes” articles.  So if Johnny was abused during his last trip to Boston, he made a good effort to keep it a secret.

If there is anyone involved in baseball in any way who doesn’t understand why the Red Sox fans felt betrayed by Johnny Damon when he went to New York they are either extremely ignorant or lying.  I’m not saying you have to agree with it.  I know plenty of Red Sox fans who shrugged it off as “he followed the money like they all do” and didn’t give it another thought.  But to say that there was no good reason for Red Sox fans to feel betrayed is ridiculous.  You don’t publicly map out what you think your team’s rival will do when you become a free agent and swear it won’t matter because you won’t go to them and then go to them.  You just don’t.

Before I go on about that, I have another issue unrelated to Mr. Damon.  Gammons’ calls Johnny’s return to Boston “ugly,unfair,vulgar”.  Let’s be honest here, sports rivalries get ugly and vulgar, Red Sox fans don’t have a monopoly on this.  I invite Mr. Gammons to visit any ball park and see how the home fans treat their team’s rival on any given day.  Add to the mix a fan favorite, a “hero” who helped bring a championship to the city after 86 years now playing on the rival’s team…”unfair” is not a word I use to describe the treatment of the player.  “Unfair” is how the fans were treated by that player.

Damon didn’t just say “I can’t see myself playing in New York”, he said he wouldn’t be swayed by their coming at him hard and throwing money at him.  He lied.  Even if he didn’t lie, he ended up doing exactly what he said he wouldn’t do and then acting like HE was the one who was treated poorly.

I realize I’m all over the place in this entry, but let’s look at some other members of the 2004 team who are no longer in Boston:

Bronson Arroyo got traded to Cincinnati for Wily Mo Pena largely because he agreed to a team-friendly contract that made him good trade bait.  When he became a free agent, the Red Sox didn’t even pretend to want Kevin Millar, who made no secret of how desperately he wanted to stay in Boston, back with the team.  Same for Derek Lowe.  And Trot Nixon.  Pedro Martinez, initially shared his feelings of being betrayed by the front office (and who, for the record, was possibly the most up-front player the Sox have ever let go.  Everyone knew he was going to follow the money and he never made promises of not going to the Bronx so while we were relieved he didn’t end up in pinstripes, we all expected him to be gone).  Mike Timlin, who was not only an integral  part of the 2004 bullpen but the 2007 as well, was gone from the team before he was ready to give up baseball.

These are all players who helped do something amazing in 2004 and didn’t get lifetime contracts either, Johnny.  Yet somehow they all have managed to act like adults and embrace their history with this team and the fanbase.  Oh yeah, they also didn’t go running to the Yankees when Steinbrenner waves money in their faces.

When the Tigers swung through Boston this season, Damon was still booed.

I’m trying to figure this out. Damon chickened out of playing in Fenway. Even if you believe he DIDN’T chicken out and was genuinely hurt (interesting timing given he was fine both before and after his trip here) he didn’t really show himself did he?  I suppose it’s possible he got some boos during BP but I find it interesting that nothing was mentioned of it in the local media.  All the hype surrounding his visit was deafening and the silence during it was as well.  After the big build up, since he didn’t play at all there was really nothing to respond to.  So when was Damon booed?  Was he booed or was he so convinced he was going to get booed that he couldn’t tell the difference?  We’ll really never know how the Red Sox fans would have reacted because Johnny didn’t give them the opportunity.  That was his decision.  (Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it’s possible it wasn’t his decision…but I happen to not believe that.)

We’ve spent too much time and energy on Johnny Damon.  At the very least, I know I have.  It just infuriates me that the likes of Gammons and Jenkins cast judgments on our fan base, totally ignoring the truth behind why many still feel the way they do.

I’m glad Johnny Damon isn’t coming back.  We shouldn’t be focusing on whether fans will embrace Damon, we should be focusing on the team fighting their way up the division.  I’m pleased the media circus isn’t coming to town.

It’s still raining here at 12:03pm.  I don’t see the first game starting at it’s scheduled 1:35 start (although the gates ARE open)…but stranger thing have happened.

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