The Curious Case of Johnny Damon

Nathaniel BallanceContributor IJanuary 28, 2010

No, he doesn't age backward, but Scott Boras might have you believe that he does.

Johnny Damon is coming off a spectacular season for the Yankees in which he posted a triple slash line of .282/.365/.489. He’s also coming off a four-year, $52 million deal that he signed after the 2005 season.

Following the World Series, the Yankees expressed interest in retaining him, while Damon's comments indicated that he’d love to return. However, that is where the similarities ended. Damon did not believe he needed to take a pay cut, while the Yankees preferred to pay market rate to retain him.

Damon’s overall numbers from 2009 indicate that he deserves another large contract, but it’s well documented that the new Yankee Stadium quickly became Damon’s personal playground.

Home stats: .279/.382/.533—17 home runs
Away stats: .284/.349/.446—7 home runs

As evidenced by his splits, he’s a much more dangerous hitter at Yankee Stadium than he is on the road.

At Yankee Stadium, he’s the No. 2 hitter with decent pop and great on-base skills he markets himself to be. Away from there, he’s the slap hitter he was in his early years. To the Yankees, he may be worth upward of $10 million a year, but is he worth that to a team without a cozy right field and a lineup of All-Stars?

That was a question that Damon was willing to gamble on, and with the Yankees' signing of Randy Winn, he appears to have lost. Certainly his bluff was called.

If no other team was willing to gamble that Damon could duplicate his 2009 numbers away from Yankee Stadium, why should the Yankees have been in any rush to throw additional dollars and years at him? 

This isn’t disrespect to what Damon’s done for the Yankees and for New York, but business acumen. You wouldn’t bid $200 for an iPod on eBay when the highest bid is currently your own. And the Yankees wouldn’t bid against themselves either. They would have Damon back, but only on their terms.

Damon and the Yankees seemed to be a perfect fit for each other, and I expected the two sides to come to some sort of compromise before we hit 2010. I expected Damon to realize he’s better off with the Yankees and the Yankees are better off with him, but that does not appear to be the case.

By all accounts, Johnny Damon is a great man and one helluva ballplayer, and I'm sure he'll find a team in the coming weeks. A team for which he'll play his heart out and have a blast dong so. But it's unfortunate that it couldn't have been with the Yankees.