Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Damon won't make a difference in Detroit

By Chris Ruddick

Philadelphia, PA - The final piece of Major League Baseball's offseason puzzle fell into place earlier this week, when Johnny Damon agreed to a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers.

First let's get this out of the way: the fact that Damon is playing in Detroit and not the Bronx should be reason enough for him to fire super agent Scott Boras.

I know Boras got Damon more money (one year, $8 million) than anyone thought he would earn at the age of 36, but despite what Damon says publicly, there is no place he would rather be working out this morning than at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Not to mention that Team Damon turned down a two-year, $14 million deal from the Yankees at the start of their negotiations shortly after the end of the season.

Boras played a high-priced game of chicken with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, and lost. Cashman may have cut his nose off to spite his face here as well, but he wasn't going to be bullied by Boras, who told the GM that he would never find a No. 2 hitter for less than $13 million a year.

Upon hearing that from Boras, Cashman went out and signed Nick Johnson for $5 million the following day. The fact of the matter is/was the Yankees needed Johnny Damon just as much as he needed the Yankees. Somehow, someway, cooler heads should have prevailed and the marriage continued.

Then again, the Yankees were probably fighting a losing battle, as all three times Damon has had a shot at free agency, he has moved on to another team. At some point, you have to stop blaming the agent and take a hard look at the player.

As far as the Tigers go, I am not quite sure how he makes them better. People are sadly mistaken if they think he will come anywhere near the 24 home runs he hit last season. The only real advantage I see is that he is an instant upgrade at the top of the lineup, where the Tigers were going into the season with rookies Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore at the top of the order.

But let's face it, he is not Torii Hunter in the outfield. He may be an upgrade defensively over Carlos Guillen, but that is really not a compliment.

Not to mention, he is 36 years old.

The one player hurt in all this will be Ryan Raburn, who a lot of people were counting on to be a breakout player offensively this year. With Damon in the mix Raburn is a man without a position, but figures to be a jack-of-all-trades for manager Jim Leyland.

Honestly, I am not sure how much more, if anything, Damon gives you over Raburn. If Raburn gets 500 at-bats, he is going to give you Johnny Damon numbers.

Bottom line, Detroit now has a chance to win the American League Central. But it had a pretty good shot to win the division even before it signed Damon.


We are about a week or so into spring training and I have already declared who the player to watch is going to be as teams begin to head north. Upon being named as Baseball America's Top Prospect, Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward took part in his first batting practice and did some damage - literally.

Heyward dented a Coca Cola truck beyond the fence and smashed the sunroof of assistant general manager Bruce Manno's car.


"How bout that USA hockey team!" - New York Mets outfielder Jeff Francoeur greeting his newly-signed teammate Jason Bay, who, of course is a native of Canada.

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