Friday, January 7, 2011

Damon hoping to write a different ending to his Yankee career

It seems like yesterday that Johnny Damon was the special guest host for WWE's Monday Night Raw, dressed like a Creed roadie and saying things like, "Hey John Cena, that's a real home run of an idea."

It was actually last Dec. 21, and Damon was one of the more sought-after entities on the free-agent market. Fresh off a starring role in a Yankees World Series victory and coming off his 12th straight 140+ game, 90+ run season, the world was Damon's oyster.

What a difference a year makes.

After a (predictable) flop of a season in Detroit, Damon is back on the market looking for work. We've heard whispers all winter that Damon wants back in pinstripes. On Wednesday, Damon's agent, Scott Boras, reiterated the point.

"As Johnny has said he is more than willing to return to New York," Boras told

As incredibly difficult as it may be to believe, Damon, 37, has a legitimate shot to reach 3,000 hits. At 2,571 — and again, let's take a moment to let that soak in — Damon is perhaps three representative seasons away from punching his ticket to Cooperstown.

(That sound you heard was Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmiero and Pete Rose simultaneously slapping their palms against their foreheads.)

It's telling that Damon continues to have interest in the Yankees. If he were to return, it's unlikely he'd receive enough playing time to make a run at 3,000.

Perhaps playing in New York, a place he enjoys and feels comfortable in, is more important to him than reaching the milestone. More likely is the reality that the market for Damon isn't strong—or worse yet, doesn't exist at all — and the veteran is now just hoping to find a soft, familiar landing place as opposed to a non-guaranteed spring invite to some also-ran's camp.

Had Damon been in the same position six or seven years ago, he'd probably have a slew of three-year deals to choose from by now. Back in the PED days, team's didn't think twice about handing over fat checks to established players on the wrong side of 35. Back then, those boys were just getting warmed up!

It's a different story now, as Damon can attest.

The bummer of it all is that Damon should never have left in the first place. His skill-set was almost mathematically calibrated for the new Stadium and he was the perfect No. 2 hitter in that Yankee lineup. Watching him go to Detroit was like watching your buddy head over to the cute brunette at the bar with food stuck between his front teeth. You knew it wasn't going to end well, but you were powerless to stop it.

Now Damon is back, humbled, and perhaps hoping for a do-over on one very bad decision. Re-signing Damon may not make a whole lot of sense for the Yankees at this time, but don't under-estimate the soft spot for everybody's favorite reformed caveman.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

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