As a couple of folks have observed to me privately in the past few days, I’ve been a little quieter here of late, even failing to post on a few days here and there. To stave off any potential concerns about my well being mentally or physically, let me reassure you all that everything is five by five here at the RedMonk home office – I’ve just been incredibly busy the past few weeks. The work side has, as usual, been fairly crazy in the runup towards year end – with last minute billing, contract negotiations, and other operational duties commandeering a regrettably large portion of my work day. The personal side, as well, has been somewhat more involved than I’m used to. It turns out that your social obligations living in a city around the holidays are somewhat more demanding of your time than they might be if you were living in rural Maine. And I won’t even get into the Christmas shopping debacle. So net net, all is good, just really, really busy.
Or was, anyway, until last night. My first indication that something was amiss was an abnormally high number of voicemails and text messages on my cell (the phone doesn’t usually ring in my apartment, thanks to all the concrete) post 9 PM. While retrieving some of the voicemails, I hopped on the good ol’ interweb and discovered that the Red Sox center fielder, Johnny Damon – who most pundits and folks in the know had agreed would end up back with the Good Guys – had instead betrayed his former masters and defected to the dark side. 4 years and 52 million later, Johnny Damon is now a New York Yankee.
While I’d never become emotionally attached to Damon in the way that I had, say, with Pedro Martinez, I’m certainly not blind to the negative implications of this deal. Forget the center field defense component for a moment, because while good CF’s don’t exactly grow on trees, neither are they irreplacable. The immediate concern is rather the leadoff position – because good leadoff hitters are nearly impossible to find these days. Adding insult to injury, of course, is the fact that the bad guys benefit directly from our loss. A couple of the voicemails I got last night were moderately despondent, calling the upcoming season a lost cause. Unsurprisingly, the Boston media – never shy to cry doom – is jumping on the disaster/revamped-front-office-is-incompetent angle.
But is that really a good read of the situation? If the Sox exercised fiscal prudence in not resigning Pedro Martinez – the best pitcher of our generation, IMO (yes, that includes Clemens) – how could they not do so with Damon, who’s a great player, but not in Martinez’ league? I instead tend to agree with ESPN’s Neyer, who said (paid sub req’d, sorry):
The Red Sox are going to miss Johnny Damon in 2006, just as they missed Pedro Martinez in 2005. But they lost Martinez because they believed — correctly, in my view — that as great as he was, he wouldn’t be worth $53 million over the course of four seasons. Similarly, they lost Damon because they believed — correctly, in my view — that as good as he is, he won’t be worth $52 million over the next four seasons. If the Red Sox behave as they generally have over the last three years, they’ll take the $52 million they could have spent on Johnny Damon and spend it elsewhere, more wisely.
Is this ideal? Hell no – particularly when we’re a little shy of two months away from pitchers and catchers. So I share my fellow Sox fans’ misery, but I’ll temper it with the realization that investing $52M in a 32 year old Johnny Damon who, while very durable over the course of his career, might be paying the price for how hard he plays in the years ahead (as he did this season with his shoulder) is not a great way to spend our money. If you’re the Yankees, it may make more sense, but we do have some restrictions on how much we can spend. I’d much rather see the Sox follow the model that won them the World Series in ’04 and the one that won the Bad Sox the title this year: pitching, pitching and more pitching. Let the Yankees field a lineup featuring an All Star at every position but second base: it’ll still come down to pitching.
So all of this is a long way of saying, yeah it’s bad news, but it could be worse. Meantime I’ve got to get back to the grind in preparation for my extended holiday absence; hope to have a couple of quick blogs out before I head out at the end of the week.