Damon to Yankees

Johnny Damon’s days in Boston are over.

The free-agent center fielder agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract with the rival Yankees late Tuesday night. The agreement is contingent on Damon passing a physical.

Damon confirmed the deal in a telephone interview on Boston television station CBS-4 on Tuesday night. Some quotes from Damon:

  • “It was a very tough decision but New York came after me aggressively and that’s what sealed the deal. They showed that they really wanted me, and I tried with Boston for them to try and step up but unfortunately they didn’t and now I’m headed to New York, something that I wasn’t quite sure would happen but I’m very excited. The players were calling me and trying to recruit me. They did a heck of a job doing it. It’s with mixed emotions. I’m very happy to be starting a new career and sad to say bye to some of the greatest fans in the world. Unfortunately they had to see this day but it’s time for me to move forward.”
  • “We know George Steinbrenner’s reputation. We know George Steinbrenner’s reputation. He always wants to have the best players, and I think he showed that tonight. He and Brian Cashman came after me hard and now I’m part of the Yankees and that great lineup and we’re going to be tough to beat. They’ve been bolstering their team, making their bullpen better. It’s a little different but I’m very excited.”
  • “No, (the Red Sox did not match the offer), I made contact with them. I talked to Tito (Francona) and I told him they need to really get going because if not, I’m going to be on another team… I actually thought it would be tomorrow or Thursday when we agreed in principle and we were actually able to hammer things out tonight. Unfortunately Boston had other plans. I’m not sure if they knew that I meant it but now I’m a Yankee and hopefully now they can go off and get one of the center fielders they’ve been courting for the past month or so.”
  • “Without a doubt (he’ll cut his hair and shave his moustache). Mr. Steinbrenner has a policy and I’m going to stick to it. Our policy with the Yankees is to go out there and win and we’re going to try to bring another championship to them. They haven’t had a championship since Chuck Knoblauch was there, when they had a great leadoff hitter. I think the leadoff role has been underappreciated over the years but I think with the teams that have won lately, Scott Podsednik this year, myself last year, Juan Pierre the year before, a good leadoff man is tough to find, and I think that New York just found the best leadoff hitter in the game.”
  • “My message to Red Sox fans is I tried, I tried everything in my power to try to come back. Unfortunately I know they are going to be upset but I’m always going to have a strong feeling about them. I’m always going to remember the great times. The World Series. The three out of four years we made the playoffs. I just want them to know that I appreciate them and I tried and that’s the least I can do. I know they’re going to continue to root for the Red Sox which they should and I’m going to win another World Series. That’s what I have to do now. I’m going to be a member of the New York Yankees and our job is to try to win another American League East title and hopefully we can go back to the World Series and bring another championship to them.”

    Damon fills a double void for the Yankees, giving them a speedy center fielder who can cover ground and a leadoff hitter to top a lineup that includes Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi.

    Bernie Williams’ defense declined significantly over the past four seasons. And while Damon’s arm is not much better, he does cover a lot of ground, which is important in Yankee Stadium.

    Agent Scott Boras had been seeking a seven-year contract for Damon. The offer Damon accepted was essentially the same as the deal Matsui agreed to with the Yankees last month.

    “We were notified at 11:55 tonight that Damon had accepted an offer from the Yankees,” Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

    Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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