MLB: Should the Cleveland Indians Give Johnny Damon the Axe?
What do you get when you mix a 38-year-old with 2,748 career hits, a career slash of .285/.353/.434 and two World Series championships? You get a guy who is hitting .202/.290/.318 who has had his batting average over .200 for exactly four games in the 2012 season (May 6, June 20, 22 and 23), and that guy is Johnny Damon.
Damon was a solid gamble with his contract, just a $1.25 million guarantee with another $1.4 million in plate appearance incentives, but it really just has not worked out for both the Cleveland Indians and Damon.
Sabermetric minds can have a total dork fest with the kind of player Damon is in the field in 2012, but there are scarier things in Nerdville. Damon’s Rbat, the number of runs better or worse than average as a hitter, is actually (minus-3).…Negative…Three.
For all of those who feel like Damon is actually costing the Tribe games, he has. Through the comments, I have seen clamoring for Matt LaPorta, Russ Cantzler, Trevor Crowe, Manny Ramirez (seriously…), and trades for Carlos Quentin, Kevin Youkilis or Alfonso Soriano to help the Indians lineup.
Certainly, you can’t say that those readers and fans are wrong based on Damon’s production to this point, and it is time for the axe to come down upon the man formerly known as “Caveman” by his Red Sox teammates.
Damon may have been someone to look into to help attendance as he approached his 3,000-hit milestone; however, he was not going to get 277 hits this season for any team. The issue with the Damon signing for Cleveland was that they did not need him. No team needed him. If they needed him, he would have been signed before April 17, when the Indians were 4-4 going into their game with the Mariners in the Regular Season.
Cleveland knew it would not have Grady Sizemore for all of spring training, it knew that it had a weakness in left and it sat back. Was it for Damon to lower his asking price? Were they hoping that someone else staked a claim to the left field job over the first eight games in the season?
Whatever Cleveland’s main idea was in the signing of Damon, it has not worked, not to this point, and it does not look like it is going to work out for the Tribe. Sure, Damon went 2-for-2 on Wednesday against Cincinnati and over that series against the Reds, he was an eye-popping 5-for-9 with five runs, three extra-base hits and three RBI.
It’s just strange to think that 12.5 percent of his extra-base hits, 29.4 percent of his runs scored and 23.1 percent of his RBI in 2012 came over those three games (eight percent of his games played).
I say give Damon his walking papers and pocket the extra million-plus that he could have made through incentives. Trade for a left fielder, whether it is Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Quentin, Josh Willingham or any other name that is being thrown out there, they would be capable of more than Damon's tiny totals through 129 at bats in 2012...even Matt LaPorta or Russ Cantzler, a healthy Trevor Crowe, the ghost of Willie "Mays" Hayes, it does not matter.
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