Johnny Damon received a nice ovation in his return to the Stadium Monday night. It was pleasant and warm, but not what you’d call overwhelming. Sure, Yankee fans miss Damon, and he’ll be remembered forever as part of the 2009 World Champs.
There is little one can do wrong with New Yorkers after winning a trophy. But Damon has changed teams three times as a free agent. He evokes nice memories, but the emotional ties aren’t the same as they are for a player who spent more years here or won more championships.
Damon deserved the same warm applause in Boston four years ago, but didn’t get it because he was wearing Yankee colors. I get it. But it didn’t make sense that Boston fans couldn’t appreciate for even one at-bat that Damon was part of the miracle of 2004. Damon probably would have received a nicer ovation this time around in a Tiger uniform, but he never made it onto the field at Fenway a few weeks ago when the Tigers were there.
There was plenty of Johnny Drama last winter and when he finally landed in Detroit late in February, the reality that the Yankees weren’t bringing him back set in for everybody. Damon seemed to fit in well with the Tigers, and they were playoff contenders until the last month when they fell off a cliff, losing 16 of 21 and dropping double digits off the pace in the AL Central.
That leaves plenty of time to ponder if Damon made the right move. Even if he thought he made the wrong move, he’d never admit it now. Damon said all the right things Monday in his return to New York. It can’t be easy for him though. He’s playing for a team that’s sinking fast and staring across at his former team, which happens to have the best record in baseball. Here’s an exchange I had with Johnny during his pregame press conference Monday.
So Damon wants to be a Tiger. He’s no longer a Yankee, was a Red Sox long ago, a Royal even further back, and an Athletic for just a flash. He might be somebody else before it’s all over, but keep cheering him in New York. He’ll always be a part of that 27th championship.
*Austin Jackson is having a fine rookie year for the Tigers, playing a great centerfield and hitting over .300 every day since April 12th. He has only 1 home run, and while there are still people who think his power will develop, it would have been tough to project him into the Yankee lineup in 2010 without the promise of a little more pop.
*I still find it statistically odd that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are both putting up the lowest BA, OBP, and SLG of their careers, yet Jeter was second in the majors in runs scored and A-Rod was first in the majors in runs batted in going into Monday’s game.
*Francisco Cervelli hasn’t looked good lately, even on defense. Only a couple weeks ago I was told the organization liked his ability to catch 100 or so games, but his bat has been getting worse and worse. Cervelli was hitting .400 over his first 60 AB’s (through May 17th), but just .186 in 161 ABs since—and only 5 extra-base hits in that time.
Monday night, Curtis Granderson reached base four times in front of Cervelli, who went 0-for-3 with a walk.