Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Signing of Johnny Damon, Parts I & II

Can I possibly say something that hasn’t been said? I mean, we’ve been talking about this topic since the commencement of the off-season, and by now everyone has taken a definitive stance. And anyone who reads this here site knows what I think about this move. Yet, what else can I really write about today? Who is going to come here to read a faux scouting report on the Tampa Yankees?

I’m writing this at 1 a.m., about a half-hour after reading the news on ESPN.com, and I am not particularly happy. I know I’ll be more clear headed in the morning, while I ponder the move further over a few hundred cups of coffee. But I want to get this out now, so I’ll just rant for a while and finish it in the morning in a more reasonable manner.

The best way to start may be by conceding that, even in my enraged state, I understand that it makes the Yanks better for 2006. And, quite frankly, it’s not my money. If Steinbrenner thinks $52 million is an appropriate price tag for an increased chance of taking the 2006 World Series, well, then that’s his prerogative. What else can I really say? That I don’t agree with the philosophy of the principle owner of the New York Yankees?

Well, I don’t. Signing a lot of big name free agents was fun for a while, but it has since gotten out of hand. And please ponder this scenario: say something should happen to Mr. Steinbrenner in the not so distant future (God forbid). His partner and son-in-law Steve Swindal would take over. The big question there is: will he continue George’s budget trends? Or will he try to slash payroll to increase profits, much like the majority of Major League Baseball?

If he starts to slash payroll, the Yanks are in for some rough times, considering they now have big money tied up years down the road in Jeter, A-Rod, Matsui, Giambi, and now Damon. And then I’ll no longer be able to say, “hey, it’s not my money,” because while it still won’t be my money, it will no longer grow on trees, which is what the phrase subtly implies.

And now I’m going to friggin’ bed. I know I didn’t rail against Damon as much as I had thought, but 1) I’m sure I’ll think of more reasons I dislike this move by morning and 2) my entire case against Damon rests on the same principle: I believe that this is a bad long-term investment.

See ya in the morning.

It’s morning, and I really don’t feel that much different than I did last night. The same wrestling match remains: Damon’s current value vs. his future value. Here’s a bit more of beef in this regard.

His previous contract was four years, $31 million for the Red Sox, which paid him an average of $7.75 million per season. His raise with the Yankees, therefore, is $5.25 million per. Problem is, this raise is based off his performance with the Red Sox. Based on market value, Damon outplayed his contract with the Red Sox, hence a big pay raise in free agency. So now the Yankees are picking up the tab for the numbers Damon put up in Boston. And that just irks me a little bit.

It seems these “blank” or “blank” games are becoming bigger and bigger – Contender or Pretender and Fact or Fiction on ESPN, Stephen Colbert’s Tip of the Hat or Wag of the Finger, or even Bill Simmons’s Fraud or Foe. So today we’re going to play “Notch in his belt” or “A hair off his head” with Damon.

He’s a leadoff hitting center fielder. Obvious notch in his belt. Personally, I didn’t see a pressing need to find a leadoff hitter this off-season, since Jeter proved that he can more than adequately man the lineup slot. But with a top three of Damon, Jeter, and hopefully Giambi, opposing pitchers will be worked over in the first inning, which is conducive to the Yanks strategy of working starting pitchers deep into counts in order to see bullpen arms earlier.

His massive ego. A few hairs off his head here. As I’ve been saying, the Yankees are a team that gelled over the last few months of 2005, and the last thing they need is someone with a big head coming in and shaking up the locker room. I understand Johnny may be excited to be in his new home, but he’d serve everyone well by keeping his mouth shut and following suit upon arrival. Unfortunately, I see him trying to jump right into the party.

His rinky-dink arm. Another hair off his head. The problem with center field last year wasn’t just Bernie’s diminished range, but the fact that his sub-par arm allowed speedy runners to take the extra base. And considering the Yanks most formidable foe this year may be the White Sox, this could still be problematic.

Strikeout to walk ratio. Gotta give Johnny another notch in his belt for this one. 2005 was actually Johnny’s worst year in this category since 1998, but he’ll surely see more pitches to hit with Derek Jeter behind him rather than Edgar Renteria.

Pull power. Yes, Johnny Damon gets another notch in his belt because he has some power to right field, which is ideal in Yankee Stadium. True, he hits well to all fields, but with some added pop to right, he should see a spike in his power numbers, even in the leadoff slot.

100 runs, 30 doubles. Yeah, yeah, his belt is filling up pretty quick. Of course, there is no guarantee that he puts up these numbers, but the last time he didn’t was 1997.

He has a ring. Notch in his belt, but hair off his head because it was with the Sawks.

His hair/beard Certainly a hair off his head.

His contract Hair off his head, mainly because the Yanks will be regretting at least $13 mil of that deal, possibly $26, which equates to half the damn contract.

The Yankees mentality (or at least the mentality of the front office) is to win now, and locking up Damon facilitates that M.O. The signing isn’t all bad, and as I said before, the worst part is the relatively long term investment (he is 32, after all). Still, there is no denying that he’ll help the club (I wanted to say tremendously, but decided better not to) in 2006 and 2007, putting the Yanks in prime position to return to the elusive World Series.

Oh, and ESPN’s ticker is reporting that the Yanks just re-signed Bernie, which means the outfield is solidified. Problem there is that there is really no one to spell Sheff in right, unless the team wants to take a chance with Bubba’s average arm out there.