Monday, May 01, 2006

Damon-ite

TNT! Nitroglycerin. Kaboom. That's the effect Johnny Damon has on opposing teams. That's the effect he had on the Yankees when he wore his hair like Captain Caveman, and it's still the effect he has as a well groomed, but ever-grinning gremlin of a leadoff hitter. This should be a feature about the upcoming Yankees/Red Sox meeting at Fenway, but it's not. Like everyone else, I chose to write about JD. Why?

The reason everyone is writing about Damon - will he or won't he get booed - is because he's compelling. The guy who coined the phrase "Bunch of Idiots" to describe his idiotic crew of Red Sox teammates is colorful and likeable and good at what he does. I always thought Jeter's best leadership quality was his ability to keep everything in perspective and keep his fellow Yankees loose. Damon makes him look uptight.

I loved to watch the 2001 Athletics play with the grimy bunch of biker look-alikes and an emerging duo of Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada. Imagine if they had kept that team together? Damon, Chavez, Giambi, Tejada, Dye, Hudson, Mulder, Zito, Isringhausen.....It would have cost them a fortune but it would have been fun to watch. Those players are spread out across the Major Leagues these days, but the loose attitude has nestled firmly in the home dugout of the Bronx thanks to Damon and Giambi. Watch the team as they jog on and off the field, ever professional, but more like a bunch of kids than at any time in recent memory. Perhaps that's the formula to survive the grind that 162 games can put a team through.

As for the intriguing Damon, his skill on the field aside, how much does Boston miss him? The overhaul of the Red Sox lineup has turned up a few gems and more than a few question marks. The offense has stalled on a number of occasions, and currently the Beantown Boys sit 8th or 9th in the American League in most important offensive categories, including Total Bases, Slugging, Home Runs, Hits, Runs, Average, and OPS. About the only thing they're good at it hitting doubles. Coco Crisp has been injured, but the slumping Manny Ramirez has more to do with the poor production than anything else. Without Damon to garner attention, perhaps "Manny Being Manny" has become a tired act.

The Fenway faithful should cheer Damon for all he did for them. Maybe they'll get a chance to boo later this season when Damon is joined by fellow Red Sox alumn Roger Clemens in a Fenway return wearing pinstripes. That would be nice. In the meantime, we'll just have to enjoy watching Johnny Boy slap foul after foul into the seats along the first baseline, wearing out Red Sox pitchers the way he used to wear out our boys. I hope he keeps his loose approach in the Boston series. If he does, we just might have the last laugh...