Memories of Johnny Damon‘s days with the Boston Red Sox flooded viewers minds, when he did a recent interview with Travis Lee of WMTW.com. Damon was attending the Portland Sea Dogs’ Hot Stove Dinner on Friday night in South Portland, benefiting the Maine Children’s Cancer Program.
In the interview, Damon announced that his “seventh child is on the way” and committing time to fishing in Florida, as well as other hobbies a retired athlete can enjoy. When asked about his four years in Boston, Damon replied, “winning the championship in 2004, … that’s something that everybody who’s a baseball fan is going to know about for life” and expressed how great his teammates were. Damon stated:
"Our team cared about each other and cared about the fans. I mean, we brought so much joy to Red Sox Nation and it doesn’t just touch this area; it’s globally now."
The term ‘Red Sox Nation’ was already big before 2004, but grew exponentially during that season, with the remarkable comeback, being down 0-3 in the American League Championship Series against their archenemies, the New York Yankees. Damon was a big reason for that victory, even after hitting a putrid .171 in those seven games. He smashed two home runs and seven RBIs to help send the Red Sox to their ultimate prize of winning the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Lee could not help but ask an interesting question about how Red Sox fans approach Damon and asked what they say to him, which Damon replied, with a bit of a chuckle, “They always say ‘thank you’ and ‘how could you go to the Yankees?'” Then, when asked about his legacy, Damon also stated:
"I want to go down as being a great teammate … I want kids of this generation to remember, when they watch baseball, how Johnny Damon played the game."
It is interesting to see Damon discussing the issue that has had many of Red Sox Nation still scratching their heads, and yet also showing his desire to be known as a great teammate. Damon states that he understands the fans’ anger over his decision to join the Yankees in 2006, but do they truly understand Damon’s feelings on the matter?
In the short time he spent with the Red Sox, Damon hit 299 RBIs, which is an average of just under 75 runs per season. Not bad for being the leadoff hitter the majority of his time in Boston. He was cashing in the bottom of the batting order regularly, especially in 2004, where he hit 20 home runs and 94 RBIs. He made the All-Star Game twice with the Red Sox, hitting .295 and established himself as one of the best centerfielders and leadoff men in the game.
This effort and hustle was what attracted the Yankees to pay Damon $52 million between 2006-2009. He finished his career with the Cleveland Indians in 2012, after short stints in Detroit and Tampa, once the Yankees got the veteran to help them win another World Series ring in 2009.
What then can Red Sox fans say about his legacy? There is no proof to say that he was a ‘loser’, as he clearly was a clutch player in big ballgames. Damon’s talents warranted compensation from the Red Sox, as he was producing more than a leadoff man normally does. The most that Boston offered him was four years at $40 million. That, apparently was not enough for Damon, as he has a number of children to look after. Where does the line fall between family and being a loyal teammate? For Damon, the Yankees were the highest bidder, not the enemy. Should players feel the same as fans about rivalries? Or should fans think like the players do? Your conscience is all you really have when you look in the mirror the next day. What would you see if you were Damon?
*** The interview in its entirety can be found at: