As I'm sure everyone in the known universe knows by now, Johnny Damon, erstwhile leadoff hitter and center fielder for the Boston Red Sox, has officially sold out to the New York Yankees for a whopping $3 million more dollars a year.
Among the positives of this deal are:
- The Red Sox didn't overpay. (See also SF's excellent points, via Theo, about fiscal responsibility)
- The Yankees continued their trend of overpaying aging free agents to fill gaps in their system, which can only be good for the Red Sox long-term.
- There are other good outfield possibilities remaining on the market, like Jeremy Reed (FB of the AL has a good piece on Reed's possible value to the Sox).
- Imagine being Derek Jeter today. First the Yankees bring in another shortstop; then they bring in another leadoff hitter. Think he takes that as a great sign?
- Yankees fans don't like it.
That's right, Yankees fans don't like it. They don't like Johnny Damon defensively, they don't like him age-wise, I'm sure many of them don't like the factor listed as #2 above, and, as YF put it last night, "He's one of THEM."
"Oh, no," I countered. "He just screwed over an entire fan base for 10 million more dollars. He's definitely one of YOU."
It's like Schrodinger's cat; this move breaks open Johnny Damon as a character. Before, he was either Red Sox or Yankee. Now, with this move, he proves himself Yankee, at least to a Red Sox sensibility (which is in itself another false superposition, but go with me here).
In a weird way, for me, the crassness of Johnny Damon in this situation makes it easier to deal with, well, the crassness of Johnny Damon. It seems a pitiful thing, to me, when already a multimillionaire athlete, to do something so patently damaging to one's image as switching between rival teams, especially when one has helped one's former team overcome the other so recently. Seeing Johnny Damon in pinstripes will of course turn a Sox fan's stomach, but it will also probably set a Yankees' fan's teeth on edge as well. Johnny Damon will never be the marketing chip in New York he had been in Boston--precious few Yankees fans will be running around sporting pink #18 tees anytime soon. As such, Johnny Damon probably just cost himself $3 million in marketing royalties just by being a shallow, materialistic dickhead.
Then again, no one has ever accused Johnny Damon of being a terribly bright guy.
In general, though, aside from the fact that Damon has never been my favorite, I like to think I've grown a bit thicker skin of late, especially after Theo (this in no way even falls on the same pain scale), and as I wrote in one of my post-Theo entries,
though we are reminded too often of their foundation in a corruptible world of business, the Red Sox still are something that belongs to us. If our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers could hang on to that part of the Red Sox that belongs to us, and only to us--the cultural phenomenon, the social institution--through the Yawkey Era, then I can find an acceptable way to continue as a Red Sox fan despite the departure of Theo Epstein, with a World Series fresh in my memory (in anyone's memory!).
A SoSH poster quoted by Mer in the Never Ending Email Thread (tm) last night said, "every time I see him hit those homers [in Game 7], i'm going to think that this is the Judas who turned against the team and joined the MFYs two years later."
I could not disagree more. It's not as if the Red Sox winning in 2004 changed the fundamental nature of baseball--there are still going to be trades and free agent signings and there are going to be examples of both of those we don't like. Good luck to you if that puts a damper on your appreciation of 2004.
The fact is, 2004 remains beautiful--in fact, is probably made more beautiful--in the face of the return to the norm that has taken place since. Of course The Twenty-Five didn't all stay in town forever. I, for one, never assumed that was part of the deal.
Baseball players are greedy. Many of them are emotionally and intellectually stunted individuals, conditioned throughout their lives to develop physical skills over the mental and social variety, and richly rewarded for their innate physical talents over their worth as individuals. I have come to realize of late that where baseball is exalted and noble is within us. Not them.
It was our faith that was rewarded in 2004, not the players'. Not the owners. Not anyone with their grubby paws on the revenue baseball produces as an industry. Us--our hopes, our dreams, our projections and fantasies. Where our imagination fills in the gaps, that's where baseball's magic lies.
What's good and pure and whole about baseball is in us. Not them.
Roger Angell called it The Interior Stadium. I think Stan Isaacs put it best, writing in Newsday in April 1990:
I don't love baseball. I don't love most of today's players. I don't love the owners. I do love, however, the baseball that is in the heads of baseball fans. I love the dreams of glory of 10-year-olds, the reminiscences of 70-year-olds. The greatest baseball arena is in our heads, what we bring to the games, to the telecasts, to reading newspaper reports.
So, you're saying. What does all this have to do with Johnny Damon?
My point exactly.
Recommended further reading from the "Feh" camp: Kristen's post on the matter, of which I agree with 99.9%.