Why the Boston Red Sox Were Right with Johnny Damon in ’05

August 21, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

Right now on Boston.com, the Globe’s 10.0, there is a video segment where they debate “should the Sox have re-signed Damon?”

I have been a Boston sports fan, and therefore a follower of the local sports media, long enough to understand this is almost a tradition—second-guess the local team whenever a player has left. A facetious “Why can’t we get players like that?” is ingrained in every single Boston sports fan’s head from hearing or reading it so often. 

The ante gets upped even more when we are talking about one of our beloved going to a rival, especially the Yankees.

Now, I should point out that, because I am at work (obviously working hard), I am unable to actually listen to what they are saying.

However, this is what I hope they are saying: Absolutely not.

Damon has been a good player for the Yankees these last four seasons, joining with Derek Jeter to solidify the table-setting portion of New York’s lineup. He is having a very good year this year, better than most expected. He has adapted his swing to the new stadium perfectly. So much so that what seemed unlikely a year ago very well could happen—the Yankees bring Damon back in 2010.

But just because it has worked out for one side does not necessarily mean it was a mistake for the other. 

The primary reason Boston did not match the Yankees’ offer for Damon in December of 2005 was out of a fear that he would break down before the end of the contract. Let’s remember that, in 2007, just two years into that deal, the Red Sox’ fears appeared right on the money. Now in ’08 and this year, Damon has bounced back offensively, but to keep him productive, the Yankees had to move him out of center field.

New York had the luxury of being able to move Damon to a corner outfield position.  Boston, over these last few years, likely could not have done the same. That alone means Boston did not make a mistake.

Damon’s number slipped from 2006 to 2007—.285 average to .270, 24 HR to 12, 80 RBI to 63. The wear and tear of playing center field took its toll on him at the plate.  Not surprisingly, in 2008, when Damon moved out of center for the most part, his numbers picked back up. 

But, again, had he been in Boston, he likely would have remained planted in center. 

This year, offensively, Damon’s numbers look great: .285, 22 HR, 85 runs, 68 RBI. 

Other than the power being heavily in favor of Damon (22 HR to six) and steals heavily in favor of Ellsbury (53 to nine), their numbers match up quite well. And when looking at the power, one has to consider that Damon has done the bulk of his damage at home this season—15 of his 22 homers have come in Yankee stadium. 

His home run numbers, still likely to be more than Ellsbury’s, would not be so impressive if he were playing his home games in Fenway this year.

Also weighing in the Sox’ favor that they did the right thing—Ellsbury is a superior defensive player, playing center for Boston; Ellsbury is 10 years younger; and Damon makes over 26 times as much money as Ellsbury.

Two other issues.

One, Ellsbury has the potential to not only play a great center field for years to come for the Sox but also hold down the leadoff spot for the next five or more seasons. The defense is there now, and the offensive portion could happen as well. But if the Sox had resigned Damon in 2005, it is possible if not likely, that Ellsbury’s growth as a major leaguer would have been severely stunted. Or he would be playing for someone else right now.

Two, Ellsbury helped the Sox win a World Series in 2007. In that postseason, Ellsbury hit over .350, had an OBP over .425 and slugged over .500. In only four games in the ’07 playoffs, Damon hit just .278 with a .361 OBP. In 11 career postseason games with New York—albeit a small sample size—Damon has hit only .250, with three home runs, seven runs scored, and zero steals.

Plus, the Red Sox used the pick they received from the Yankees as compensation for the Damon signing to draft Daniel Bard in the first round of the 2006 draft.

With all of that to consider, regardless of how good a fit Damon has been for the Yankees, it can’t possibly be considered a mistake for Boston to have let him go.

Sometimes decisions work out for both sides. I hope those reporters debating this issue on Boston.com said just that.

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