Johnny Damon'S 2004 ALCS Game 7 Grand Slam will forever be an all-time Red Sox moment.
When Johnny Damon left the Red Sox for the New York Yankees, Sox fans were, to put it mildly, crushed. I certainly was heavily bummed out, as is evident in a 2005 post of mine where I wrote:
"Johnny Damon. He was the anti-Yankee and now he’s gone corporate, where he’ll be shaved, clean cut, and boring."
Damon certainly became clean-cut & shaved, and he was a whole lot less exciting while playing with the Yankees. He still was an absolutely stupendous player, but that's all he was on that team, just another baseball player. Now there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, it just stings me to know that he could have further cemented himself as a cult hero and icon here in Boston. Those opportunities aren't available too often in this city. But people completely LOVED Johnny Damon here. When he showed up to Spring Training in '04 as Captain Caveman he was instantly adored on a whole new level with every type of fan you could imagine. From the college girls in the grandstands who dubbed themselves the "Damon Disciples" - to the stat geek keeping score in bleachers, everyone just adored Damon, his teammates included.
Yesterday afternoon Jason Veritek, the Red Sox captain and clubhouse leader for years, had the following to say about his former teammate:
“It would be a nice opportunity, but we’ll let him do what he needs to do. Johnny, aside from being a great player, he makes athletic adjustments offensively. He plays hurt, he doesn’t always play at 100 percent. So much of it is how he plays the game. He plays the game right. It pushes the energy. He’s definitely an exciting player."
Now I may be reading into this a little too much, but I'm seeing some stark things when looking between the lines there. First off, Damon's original replacement, Coco Crisp, never came close to filling in the void left by Damon. Coco's defense may have been better, but his offense was a definite downgrade. During Coco's three years with Boston, between 2005-2008, he hit for a .272 average with a .330 OBP. Meanwhile during those same years Damon hit .286 with a .362 OBP. Coco was then supplanted by a young upstart named Jacoby Ellsbury during the Sox march to their World Series victory in 2007. Jacoby was truly supposed to be the heir (hair?) apparent to Johnny Damon. He had the hustle, the knack for clutch hits, the speed, the tough AB's, I mean shoot, he even had the looks the chicks dug in Damon as well. It seemed set in stone that Jacoby would be our next Johnny, but that has seemed to change this year.
Now I've never had broken ribs, never had to play a professional sport with them, and am the farthest thing in the world from a "tough" guy that I can think of. But you'd have to be blind to not see how poorly and strange this entire season is playing out for Jacoby. From him being moved to Left, to his exile in Arizona, everything has seemed off-balance, and the grapes, right or wrong, appear to now be sour. Which brings me back to V-Tek's comments. Interesting choice of words there huh? A lot of people within and without the Red Sox organization think that Jacoby could have played a hell of a lot more games than he has. As it stands today Jacoby has played in a whopping 18 games in all of 2010, hitting below the Mendoza Line at .192.
Ask yourself this - would Damon, even at the advanced age of 37, have played in more than 18 games with the same exact injury this year? With the way his teammates were gushing about him yesterday, and his past track record, my guess would be yes, which leads me to describe the way Jacoby Ellsbury has handled himself this season in a single fitting word. Idiotic.