Johnny Damon is an idiot.
Hey, his words, not mine.
Still, how else do you classify a 40-year-old guy who hasn’t played professional baseball in two years saying he can “still outhit at least half the league” in his latest bout with Peter Pan syndrome? The former All-Star and two-time World Series champion tried to hang on with the Cleveland Indians in 2012, hitting .222 with a .610 OPS, was released in August of that year, and hasn’t received any invitations since to join any other major league organizations. He played in an Old-Timer’s Game at Yankee Stadium last month. Not exactly the bat you want for the stretch run, is it?
Yes, Damon is looking for a job, again, and agent Scott Boras finally found someone to pen his client’s plight this week when the Associated Press spoke to the highly dubious Hall of Fame candidate who is wondering why his phone isn’t ringing.
“When you feel you can still outhit at least half the league and you don’t get that call, it’s rough,” Damon said in a phone interview on Friday. “The biggest reason to play is to have a chance to win. Obviously, 3,000 hits would be great but winning is the reason I started playing this game. I’m going to continue to stay in shape and I’ll be ready.”
He can keep waiting.
Whether or not Damon can still play is not the issue. Whether or not he can still play well is a debate pretty much settled after his lackluster final three seasons in the majors with Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland, when he hit .259 averaged nine home runs per season, and had a .728 OPS. Not terrible numbers, for sure, better than what the Red Sox received in the failed Grady Sizemore Experiment this season, but not exactly the exclamation point on a career that Damon and his public relations sharks in the BBWAA would like to make you believe is worthy of the Hall of Fame – if only he had 3,000 hits.
He’s still 231 away from that landmark, which means, even if he played like he did in his prime, when he averaged 180 hits per year, he’d still need to play another year-and-a-half to make the mark. That’s simply not happening.
And yet, as we hurdle toward the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, AP sports writer Rob Maaddi writes, “It’ll be hard to find someone with Damon’s resume available for nothing.”
Nobody sparks a media campaign better than Boras, and for no client has it worked better over the years than Damon, thanks to the media fan-boys for both entities. But this one has to have fallen on deaf ears, even with the Red Sox, who this season have already proven that they’re fine with doling out ludicrous $10 million contracts to Boras clients like Stephen Drew, just to make the controlling mega-agent happy. But if the Red Sox, 38-47 and eight games out of first place, are indeed in sell mode, what better way to keep the attention of the alternative hats than to sign their former star for the second half of the season?
But is Boras really even invested in any of this? A 40-year-old who hasn’t played in two years isn’t exactly going to be top priority on his client list, but he was good enough to finally get Damon some attention – on a holiday. Damon bemuses that Boras hasn’t presented him with any offers as of yet, perhaps because they were “too embarrassing.” Is he for real?
“After Cleveland, it seems like everyone said I’m finished,” Damon said. “I wanted to go to spring training, see if I have it and if the swing and the body don’t come around, walk away with that peace of mind.”
The $111 million Damon made during his career might serve as some damned fine peace of mind for most, but if Damon’s itch still needs scratching, maybe there is some minor league team he can play for so that the pursuit of winning can….oh, wait. Despite what Damon proclaims about this being about “winning,” make no mistake this is an attempt to get himself to 3,000 hits at some roster’s expense. What exactly else does he add for any team besides a farewell tour to make Johnny Damon happy?
Damon already blocked a potential move that would have brought him back to Boston in 2010, when the Red Sox claimed him on waivers from the Tigers, so it’s doubtful that even if Dr. Charles Steinberg invaded the baseball operations office at Fenway he’s coming back this time either. Then again, Damon’s mind and heart both work like a spinning top, proclaiming phony admiration and commitment to whatever city he finds himself facing the next time. Damon’s contributions with the 2004 Red Sox will always go down in Boston baseball lore, but please, his returning to Boston this season would confirm the theory that the Red Sox should be playing under a big top tent.
Johnny Damon had a nice career. It wasn’t a Hall of Fame one. Some people need to accept that.
Mostly, Damon himself needs to realize that reality, whether he has 3,000 hits or not. Instead, Damon keeps on saying stupid things to boast his candidacy. He thinks he can outhit half the league? Hell, let him prove it for his “peace of mind.”
Just let him do it anywhere but Boston.