Johnny Damon on Loyalty

Taking what players say and analyzing the content literally is a dangerous game. Most of the time player quotes are nothing but an assemblage of clichés, prep talk, and prepackaged acknowledgments, leaving some style and little substance. Of course, I can’t really blame the players for taking this route, it’s not like they stand to gain much by being outspoken. With that being said, Johnny Damon may want to revise history following his recent quotes regarding Jason Varitek:

“I couldn’t believe that they were letting him walk and try to find a team. That’s the difference between New York and Boston…If you’re a part of New York, they’re going to keep you there: Posada, Jeter, Mariano, it’s the first time in history guys have been on the same team for 15 years. It goes to show you something about how the Yankees think, and how many Yankees players have been exclusive with one team. They keep them forever. (The Red Sox) were ready to let (Varitek) go. He’s their starting catcher. That’s how the two teams work. You know his days are going to be numbered here. But hopefully not — he deserves to be here until his career is over.”

I’m sure the two are friends, and obviously Damon isn’t going to bash his current team, one he might get a contract extension from. The Yankees do have some long, long time players on their roster, but they’re hardly the most loyal team around. Remember when the Yankees had an oral agreement with Albert Belle? You know, to replace Bernie Williams who had been in the Yankees organization for about 13 seasons at the time. In July of 1999 they tried trading Andy Pettitte (in the organization since 1991) for Adam Eaton, Reggie Taylor, and Anthony Shumaker. Countless threats were made towards Joe Torre’s job despite constant success. The Yankees had no qualms placing aside Tino Martinez after seven productive seasons in favor of Jason Giambi – not that it was a poor move, the Yankees certainly upgraded, but by Damon’s logic, in a rather heartless fashion.

Loyalty to players is a great idea in theory. Especially in cases like Varitek (and even Damon) where the fanbase loves them and scoops up their gear without much of a second thought, but when you’re Theo Epstein and have to win one of the toughest divisions in baseball history, you need to look wherever you can for an upgrade. That’s why it wasn’t disrespectful to Mike Lowell or Kevin Youkilis when the Red Sox sniffed around Mark Teixeira or to Tim Wakefield when the Red Sox signed John Smoltz and Brad Penny.

What the Red Sox did with Varitek wasn’t cruel or disrespectful. They were looking to upgrade their roster by getting rid of a weak link. Plus, if anyone should appreciate such an approach, it should be Damon. Unless he’s forgotten how Boston’s bucking of tradition and decaying loyalty to Nomar Garciaparra played a role in the team’s 2004 World Series title and placed Damon on another plateau of popularity.



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