Why Damon Hurt More than Ellsbury

Ellsbury is younger and better than Damon was when he left, but the sting just isn't the same.

A long-haired, bearded Johnny Damon. He was our guy, until he wasn’t any more.
(Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net)

December 20, 2005, to me, a date that will live in infamy. I still remember all of the details. I can see the desk, the new flat screen monitor, and my internet browser opening to my familiar homepage, ESPN.com. Most of all I remember the image that was looking back at me: a smiling Johnny Damon with the super-imposed Yankees hat on his head. I reeled back like I had been punched in the stomach. This couldn’t be. It shouldn’t be. There’s no way. Damon is one of us. He was one of The Idiots! Now, he’s just an idiot. Doesn’t he know what this rivalry means? Doesn’t he care?

Damon’s deal with the Yankees was for four years, and 52 million dollars. Most accounts had the Red Sox offering somewhere in the neighborhood of four years, 40 million. Johnny Damon had sold us out for 12 million dollars. He was one of the main reasons we were finally able to overcome the Yankees, and now he is going to join those guys? (We had conveniently forgotten that he had been a Royal and an Athletic prior to becoming our guy, and naively could have never anticipated that he would be a Yankee, Ray, Tiger, and Indian before it was all over.)

My fan innocence died that day. In a moment I lost the idea that rivalries were something players cared about, and not just the respective fan bases. I learned for the first time, in such a crushing way, that this is a business to the players. Baseball is something that they are exceptionally good at and plan to use to financially set themselves and their families up for generations to come. The minute I saw Johnny’s familiar face staring back at me with an unfamiliar NY on his hat, everything changed for me as a fan.


Last night I was sitting in a theatre with my wife and some friends and I felt my phone buzz in my pockets several times in the last few minutes of the movie. As the credits started, I pulled my phone out to see three text messages in the last three minutes.

1) Ellsbury!!! (from a Yankees fan)
2) Ells signed with the Yanks. Screw him.
3) We lost Jacoby!!! To the freakin Skankees.

I saw all I need to. My heart sank, I put my head down, and for a minute or two I was pretty ticked off. But really, who should I be mad at?

I guess that I could be mad at the Red Sox for not ponying up the cash to keep such a talented player, but there is not a scenario in the world where I wanted to keep Jacoby for seven or eight years and somewhere between $153 and $169 million. That’s an insane amount of money to give someone who is 30 years-old and has speed at his top asset. Keep in mind, that is from someone who does not believe that Ellsbury is “injury prone” at all. He had two brutal freak collisions, and if you call him soft you’re a clown, and I’ll assume that you missed what he just played through in the 2013 postseason.

My old friend Pete Abraham nailed why the Red Sox wouldn’t come close to matching that kind of deal.

So, I can’t be mad at the Red Sox. I’m actually relieved that they actually learned a lesson from the atrocious Carl Crawford contract. You don’t overpay for speed at an age where it is very likely to decline quickly and sharply.

Let’s count the players in our lifetime to start and end their Red Sox career’s with a World Series Title: 1) Curt Schilling 2) Jacoby Ellsbury
(Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.net)

I suppose that I could be mad at Jacoby Ellsbury, a player who just book-ended his Red Sox career with World Series titles. That requires me to assume that he cared about this rivalry in the same way that you and I do. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he doesn’t. He has some elite talents that make him very valuable on the open market. If there was a world-class surgeon who had another hospital offer him twice as much money, would you fault him for leaving the hospital he had been working for just because that hospital had always been his employer? I certainly wouldn’t. I love the company I work for, but if a competitor wants to offer me twice as much money I’ll start packing up my office this afternoon. That’s how life works. But somehow we think that Jacoby should take a 4-year $75-$80 million dollar deal from the Red Sox and leave $100 million dollars on the table in the name of “loyalty” or because I have a strong rooting interest in his career. Yeah right. He didn’t, I wouldn’t, and neither would you. Put on your big boy (or girl) pants and admit that.

I could easily be mad at the Yankees, a team that prints money and can afford to buy the most talented players when they hit the open market. Am I supposed to begrudge a baseball team for trying to acquire the players that put them in the best possible position to win as soon as possible? I believe that’s what they’re all supposed to be trying to do. Some teams just have more assets available to them to make that happen immediately (and don’t throw your rocks too quickly, kids, because we live in that same glass house). My bigger question is, if the Yankees were just going to start throwing around crazy money to aging veterans like Ellsbury and Brian McCann again, then why did they make their fans suffer through a season like last year where they regularly played guys who had no business being on a major league team, let alone a team that has no real salary limit?

I could be mad at the Yankees for overpaying another 30+ year-old player, since we all know this contract will be another millstone on their payroll before it’s over, but really that’s just hilarious. I’m happy to root for a team with a front office that apparently has the ability to learn from past mistakes. The Yankees seem more than happy to continue to fall in the same predictable hole, and when a 37-year-old Ellsbury is clogging up the Yankees payroll, outfield, and lineup, we’ll all get to write some really fun snarky tweets about it.

Finally, the last person I could be mad it is Scott Boras. He does everything he can to let his clients hit the open market and land the biggest possible deal. He seemingly wrings every single dollar out competing teams for his clients. While I hate the guy, I’m pretty sure that makes him a really good agent. Is he an unsavory human being who I regularly wish amoebic dysentery on? You bet. But he’s also really darn good at his job.

So gear up for the winter of 2020, Red Sox fans. Both Jackie Bradley and Xander Bogaerts are Boras clients, and both are projected to be free agents that year. Imagine the outrage when we first learn that the Yankees have nabbed both of them with long-term, over-priced contracts.

If and when it happens, I won’t be mad about it. It’s a business to them, and the players, agents, and team executives are all just doing their jobs. My job as a fan, is to support the team on the field through good times and bad, even if that means cheering for A.J. Pierzynski.

Categories: A.J. Pierzynski Boston Red Sox Brian McCann Carl Crawford Jackie Bradley Jr. Jacoby Ellsbury Johnny Damon New York Yankees Scott Boras Xander Bogaerts

I'm a native Mainer and life-long Red Sox fan living among way too many Yankees fans in New York. I spent most of my childhood convinced that Spike Owen was going to be awesome, sooner or later. The last time I punched a wall was October 16, 2003. My bucket list included personally thanking a Red Sox player for 2004, something I was finally able to check off when I met Trot Nixon. Follow @JK7_

9 Responses to “Why Damon Hurt More than Ellsbury” Subscribe

  1. cheese_o December 4, 2013 at 5:52 PM #

    I’m in agreement, for the most part. One possible correction, though…espn is reporting that the sox offered 6 years at $120K, not 4 at 80, not sure if that’s true. Damon hurt a lot more because he was going directly to the nemesis that we had finally overcome after 86 years.

  2. JK7_ December 4, 2013 at 8:57 PM #

    @cheese_o Yeah, at the time I wrote this 4 for 75/80 was the best info available. If it was 6/120 that certainly closes the gap a lot, but the points all still stand about the Yankees deal being a bigger, longer, and better offer. 
    And for the record, I would not have wanted him at 6/120.

  3. JK7_ December 5, 2013 at 3:52 PM #

    @cheese_o Or maybe not. https://twitter.com/bradfo/status/408571977561960449

  4. dridiot December 6, 2013 at 2:56 PM #

    I think Damon sort of tried to give off the impression that his priorities were loyalty and not money.  Ellsbury never gave off that impression; not that he didn’t play hard, but he was taciturn when it came to the city of Boston.  That’s why it felt worse, I think, with Damon.  We kind of expected that he’d go somewhere — sucks that it’s the Yankees, but hey.

    I don’t think it’s a loss of innocence thing.  I mean, imagine if Pedroia left for the Yankees.

  5. JK7_ December 6, 2013 at 3:38 PM #

    @dridiot When it happened my wife asked me why Jacoby would do that, and I said “It’s just a business to these guys. They don’t give a crap about that stuff like we do.” She said “Well, not for Pedey.” I smiled, and immediately felt better.

  6. rainbaby December 6, 2013 at 10:43 PM #

    This is all great, as long as if Ellsbury misses significant time over the next few seasons you admit that YOU are the clown. Also, you’re friend Pete Abe is an idiot. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a beat reporter more ignorant about the sport he covers. Also, he’s a jackass.

  7. JK7_ December 6, 2013 at 10:55 PM #

    rainbaby It depends on why Ellsbury misses games. If he breaks ribs or a collarbone, he isn’t exactly soft. If he starts pulling hamstrings and stuff like that, then maybe I had him pegged wrong. 

    And my “Old Friend” Pete Ab is a joke. I hate that guy, but no where near as much as he hates me. http://firebrandal.com/2013/04/18/the-embarrassing-history-of-pete-abraham-jbj/

  8. jsc1973 December 7, 2013 at 10:45 PM #

    God bless him and the Yankees. He got paid, and the Sox probably got nearly all of his best years at a fraction of what the Yankees will pay for his decline. I’m glad the Yankees are going to pay him for the two World Championships he helped us win, and I’m glad he’s going to get old and mess up their payroll before he’s done.

  9. fpt84 December 9, 2013 at 12:26 AM #

    I think it’s funny that people debate the business of baseball.  It’s like rooting for a corporation and assessing whether or not the CEO made a good decision.  Me, I prefer the chocolate industry.  Anyone have any thoughts on the new flavor of milk chocolate bar Hersey’s just signed?  Can’t fault old milk for chasing the money, but still heartbreaking to see it leave to rival Mars.