Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tigers' willingness to dump Damon confirms this season's dream is dead

    The Tigers signed Johnny Damon, further inflating their already-bloated payroll by $8 million, because they honestly believed they had a chance to win the American League Central and advance to the playoffs this season. Their willingness now to trade him to the Boston Red Sox confirms what all but the most die-hard Tiger enthusiasts acknowledged weeks ago: That dream is dead.
    Damon must now weigh the chance, however remote, to play some meaningful games in September and possibly October, with Boston against the bitterness that still lingers toward Red Sox fans who, after the then-bearded Damon signed with the Yankees, donned T-shirts that read: "Looks like Jesus, acts like Judas, throws like Mary."
    The thought of again being in the thick of a pennant chase tugs at his heart. Because Damon is, above all else, a winner.
    This is not about money. Damon is due about $1.8 million the rest of this year.
    Having said that, the prospect the Tigers would probably get from the Red Sox in return for Damon might help.
    As Damon discovered last winter with the Yankees, baseball is a business. And the 36-year-old Damon very much wants to play at least one more year.
    Damon's first choice would be to remain a Tiger. But I don't think the Tigers will come close to matching his current $8 million salary in 2011 -- if, indeed, they offer to bring him back at all.
    By performing well for the Red Sox in the national spotlight down the stretch, he could enhance his chances of getting a comparable contract offer for next year from someone else.
    It would mean a chance to, once again, prove his worth as a clutch player. Damon knows, if he helps the Red Sox reach the postseason, his image in Boston will change dramatically.
    There is no doubt in mind that the Red Sox claimed Damon, not because they want him back but because they wanted to block their rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays or the Yankees, from claiming him. I'm sure Damon suspects that, too.
    In that respect, the Red Sox have already succeeded
    If Damon, whose eight-team "no-trade" list includes the Red Sox, scuttles this trade -- as is his right -- he remain a Tiger for the rest of this year.
    But then what?


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