Johnny Damon Leaning Toward Staying in Detroit


As word trickled out of the various news outlets yesterday afternoon that Johnny Damon had been claimed by his former team in Boston, the general reaction was that he would be gone. Just as quickly as those ideas spread, some new information was unearthed that told us of Damon’s no-trade list and that the Red Sox were listed among the teams to which he can veto a deal.

You’ll hear a lot today from media types who will tell you that Damon should just waive his no-trade and go back to Boston. Why would he want to stay on a team with no shot when he could be playing in the biggest pennant race going. He could re-write the end of his career by going back to Boston, return to the very place where he became a star.

But there’s a reason that he included Boston on his no-trade list. And he has every right to exercise his veto power.

Even before he signed with Detroit, Damon was the one romancing the Tigers, at least as much as they were wooing him. Sure, some of that was fabricated by his agent in order to garner the best deal for his client, but what I’ve come to know about Damon since he signed is that he is open and honest, at least as much as any professional athlete I’ve seen.

Damon signed a one-year deal with Detroit, he’s a veteran, he knew this day was a possibility. That’s why he negotiated the right to veto a trade to 21 clubs.

Before yesterday’s game, word spread that Damon wasn’t inclined to waive his right and accept a deal to Boston. After the game, he sounded much more convicted.

Damon’s post game comments were revealing. He was honest and open (again) about his feelings on the way his old Red Sox team was treated, the way some of his former teammates were treated, and the way he was treated when he left. He was also a bit sentimental about that group, but he stressed that things were much different in Boston after they took home the 2004 World Series.

Damon cited that his teammates in Detroit, along with his coaches, have told him that they’d love to have him stay. He talked about how much that means to him, that his teammates would play a big role in his decision.

But he also said that he would sit down with Dave Dombrowski and discuss the ramifications of his choices. Damon said that if there was a deal that would help the Tigers organization, he would consider accepting the trade. He would still like to play in Detroit beyond this year, a stance he has not wavered from since he signed with the Tigers in March.

Now there are roughly 27 hours left before he must decide. Damon said he didn’t want to hold everyone hostage, that he wouldn’t drag this out. His conversation with Dombrowski will happen this morning, if it hasn’t already, and the world will know what his plans are shortly thereafter, at least that’s the way I see this playing out.

Judging solely from his comments last night, my guess is that if the Tigers are getting a good prospect in return, Damon may elect to go back to Boston. Damon talked about the possibility that the Tigers may want to give his at bats to a younger guy, but that’s never been the way Jim Leyland does business. Even in bad years, Leyland plays his veteran guys the vast majority of the time, I don’t see an issue there.

If Dombrowski tells Damon that the return is small on a trade, or that he would simply allow Boston to take the player on a straight waiver claim, Damon will stay put. It’s obvious he really wants to stay.

No matter what happens in the next 24 hours or so, I can fully understand why Damon has become such a big name in baseball. His honesty is refreshing and he sounds as if he truly wants to do what’s best for his team. No, his production hasn’t been what some had hoped for, but he hasn’t been a disaster either. The Tigers are better with Damon in the lineup, with Damon on the team. He knows that, the Tigers know that.

You could also argue that Damon could go to Boston, then come back to Detroit next year. But Damon profiles as a Type-A free agent, so if Boston decided to offer him arbitration, Detroit would have to surrender a first-round draft pick to sign him away from the Red Sox, something that almost certainly would not happen.

I understand the thought that the season is essentially over, that guys like Casper Wells should get regular at bats to get a jump on next year. But I hate losing, so I would rather see Damon stay.

And hopefully come back to Detroit next year as well.