Comparing How Jacoby Ellsbury, Johnny Damon Became Red Sox Nation “Traitors”

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Comparing How Jacoby Ellsbury, Johnny Damon Became Red Sox Nation “Traitors”
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Another chapter was written in perhaps the greatest rivalry in baseball earlier this week, as former Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury jumped ship and signed a seven-year, $153 million deal with the New York Yankees.

Not since Johnny Damon joined the Yankees prior to the 2006 season has a major free agent moved from one side of the rivalry to the other.

Seeing as both players were leadoff hitters and center fielders, and both players moved immediately after a Red Sox World Series, immediate comparisons have been made between the two.

Johnny Damon/Jacoby Ellsbury Stats in Final Year With Boston
Name State Contract
Johnny Damon (2005) .316/.366/.439, 10 HR, 75 RBI, 117 R, 18 SB 4 yr/52 million
Jacoby Ellsbury (2013) .298/.355/.426, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 92 R, 52 SB 7 yr/153 million

Baseball Reference

Damon hit a combined .285/.363/.458 while averaging 19 home runs, 74 RBI and 23 steals per season in his four years with the team. That included three postseason trips and a World Series title in 2009, before he finished out his career with one season each in Detroit, Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

Beloved during his time in Boston, Damon was immediately vilified after signing with the Yankees, and the fans let him hear it in his return to Fenway and in subsequent trips thereafter until the end of his career.

Washington Post article written back in May of 2006 further demonstrated the range of emotions fans showed in Damon's return to Fenway Park.

Before the game, one bearded, middle-aged man tossed the clean-cut Damon a ball from behind the visitors' dugout, a souvenir 2004 World Series ball. "You remember that, don't you?" the fan asked. "You helped with that. Thank you."

Not everyone felt the same. One female fan wore a Red Sox shirt with tape over Damon's name on the back and the word "Traitor" put in its place...Fans also displayed captious signs, notably "Benedict Damon" and "Judas Demon."

Ellsbury was not quite the fan favorite that Damon was, as he had a much more reserved personality, but he'll no doubt be in for a similar response when he makes his first trip back to Fenway Park for a three-game series from April 22-24.

Damon himself chimed in on the signing and how he thinks Red Sox fans will greet Ellsbury upon his return in an interview with Anthony Rieber of Newsday.

I think it's a great signing for the Yankees and a great signing for Jacoby. He's a real game-changer. He's had some injuries and that could be an issue, but there's no doubt he's going to help New York.

I think he'll hear some cheers and some boos. Some people are going to forget what he did there, but he'll be able to handle it. Maybe the Red Sox could have come up [in their contract offer] if they wanted him to stay. Jacoby did better than me in Boston—he won two World Series and I only won one...He's a baseball player, I think he'll love playing in New York.

Early reaction to the Ellsbury signing was obviously emotional on the part of Red Sox fans, and there were no shortage of over-the-top responses.

An NJ.com article entitled "Dumb and numb: Red Sox fans call Jacoby Ellsbury a "trader" on Twitter" drew attention to the myriad of Red Sox fans who confused the difference between the word "trader" and "traitor" in their outrage, and it quickly gained traction on Twitter and Deadspin.

Those were far from the only notable reactions though, as the following in particular stood out.

MLB Memes nailed it on their Twitter page with a fantastic Batman reference.

Comedian and big Red Sox fan Josh Wolf finds no other course of action than to boo Ellsbury upon his return to Fenway.

It wasn't just the longtime, die-hard fans that took the news hard though, as this 10-year-old was torn up as well, pun intended.

Finally, there was this Vine from Red Sox fan Randy Pruitt, who decided to burn his Jacoby Ellsbury shirt upon hearing news of the signing.

From a baseball standpoint, the move certainly bolsters a Yankees lineup that has also added Brian McCann to the mix this offseason, but New York still has a long way to go to catch up to the Red Sox in the AL East.

Should Jacoby Ellsbury be branded a traitor?

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Boston will no doubt miss Ellsbury atop the lineup, but they have Jackie Bradley Jr. capable of stepping into the everyday role in center field. Even if he struggles, they still have enough offensive fire power to boast one of the most potent attacks in the league.

Ellsbury is already 30, and for a player who has dealt with some injuries already in his career and relies on his speed as his biggest weapon, the back end of this contract could be another clunker for the Yankees.

Still, the hatred Red Sox Nation has for the Yankees runs deep, and they won't soon forget the traitorous decision Ellsbury made.

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