It’s dragged on for weeks – or months? I lose track — but soon Johnny Damon is going to end our long national nightmare and sign with a baseball team.
No, but seriously, it’ll be over soon everybody. And yes, as we’ve said here all along, there’s a real chance Damon could end up leading off and playing left field for the Bravos. Not saying it’s likely, but there’s a reasonable chance.
It’s seemed odd to me that the Braves’ interest in Damon was practically dismissed by a couple of other media outlets in the last week, Atlanta described as having only lackluster interest and not making a serious push for him.
The team that made him an offer nearly two weeks ago, before Detroit or the Chicago White Sox made offers. The team that had Chipper Jones call Damon the same day it made its offer, to emphasize to him how much the Braves wanted him and how well he’d fit in their lineup and on their team.
Then again, I shouldn’t have been surprised their interest was still being downplayed. After all, right up until the day we first reported here that the Braves made an offer to Damon and had Chipper call him, another media outlet was still insisting that the Braves weren’t actively pursuing him.
To clarify: They made him an offer nearly two weeks ago and had Chipper personally call Damon and make a sales pitch. That’s serious interest, folks. The Braves might downplay it later, because what else would they say? “We really needed Damon at the top of our order. It might be a long season now.”
And if they don’t end up getting him because they legitimately didn’t have the money to raise their offer, it doesn’t mean the Braves weren’t seriously interested in Damon, does it? (I don’t know how much they have to spend, but I believe now that they’re close to their limit. I say this because the Braves, this season, wouldn’tpossibly set themselves up for the PR hit of missing out on Damon over a measly mill or two if they had plenty left in their budget. Would they?)
And so, if they do end up signing Damon as their left fielder and leadoff hitter, will some in the media still downplay it? Perhaps make it sound as if they got him only because Damon was left in a blanket outside general manager Frank Wren’s condo in Orlando, with instructions to please treat this poor thing well and give him an opportunity?
Clearly, the Braves want Damon in their lineup. It’s why they decided a couple of weeks before spring training that it was important enough to make an offer and have their star player make a sales pitch, even if his signing might disrupt things and possibly necessitate a subsequent trade to relieve the outfielder glut if Jason Heyward is too ready to ignore for opening day.
If the Tigers only offered Damon a one-year, $7 mill offer that includes some deferred money, well, then the Braves’ initial offer — believed to be worth about $4.5 million with some money deferred — might be just about enough to ultimately bring Damon to Atlanta.
Or he could go to the White Sox, who initially offered the same or slightly more than the Braves, also with some money deferred.
It’s pretty clear to me that Damon and his wife would prefer living in Atlanta to Detroit – nothing personal, Motor City — and Damon’s Orlando home is only minutes from the Braves’ spring training site (I could get to his place in 10-15 minutes from the condo I’m in, which is between Dark Star and Damon’s crib).
The Tigers train in Lakeland, which is also close to here. But not as close. Not minutes away. More like an hour – and that’s if there’s no traffic snarl on I-4. As for the Sox, they train in Arizona, so that’s a minus in their ledger. (I know, all that’s been covered before; just restating it, one final time.)
But ultimately, the decision is not going to be made based on proximity of spring training. It’s probably going to be tied to the overall appeal of the team and city, the team’s chances to make the postseason, and the city being somewhere the Damons would like to live for the next nine months or more.
And, yes, to some degree it’ll be about money. But not to nearly the degree as typical Scott Boras-negotiated contracts. Because as Boras told me long before the Damon bidding began, in shorter contracts for the amounts we’re talking in this deal, the offers just aren’t likely to be more than a few mill apart.
Damon’s made nearly $100 million playing baseball. Is an extra $2 mill or $3 mill from the Tigers enough to sway him to go there over a place he’d rather spend this season, if he’d rather be in Atlanta or Chicago?
(BLOGMEISTER ADDENDUM: $2-3 mill might not have been, but doubling the Braves’ offer apparently was. That’s about what the $8 mill deal Damon reportedly agreed to today is worth, if there’s little or no deferred money involved. Now we return to the rest of the apparently now-a-moot-point blog, since it appears Damon is a Tiger after he passes a physical Sunday.)
If Chicago’s offer is still on the table until Sunday — there were some reports Friday that it had been pulled, but later it was reported that it was still available if Damon took it by Sunday — then keep this little-known stat in mind: According to the 2010 Bill James Handbook, the White Sox’ home ballpark (U.S. Cellular Field) was the only AL park where it’s been as easy for lefties to hit home runs than at new Yankee Stadium in 2009. Might be an important factor for a veteran on a one-year contract looking at free agency again a year from now, a guy who hit 17 of his 24 homers in 2009 in home games, raising eyebrows about his remaining power at age 37.
Atlanta and Chicago fit the latter part of the “desirable” equation, the city part. Detroit? Like I said, Atlanta and Chicago fit the latter part of the desirable equation.
The flight from Atlanta to Orlando is so quick, Damon’s wife and kids could split time between the cities (I don’t know if that’s something they’d even consider; I’m just saying it’d be possible.)
The Tigers and White Sox are AL teams, perhaps a plus for Damon. However, he still believes he can play virtually every day in the outfield and wouldn’t need to spend time in the DH position for rest. So maybe it’s not a big deal at all.
Playoffs? The Braves have at least as good a shot as either of those other two at earning a wild-card berth or possibly even making a run at the division title, if they add Damon to the top of their lineup and keep Troy Glaus and the pitching staff reasonably healthy. And, oh yeah, if Damon is seriously attracted to the chance to play for Bobby Cox, this is presumably the last chance.
So we’ll see. If the Tigers don’t guarantee a second year in their offer or raise the one-year offer and eliminate all the deferred money, then I get a feeling Damon will sign with the White Sox or Braves.
And if being close to home for spring training and also during the season is a big factor at all, then how could he pass on the chance to play for Cox and the Braves, who appear to have at least as good a playoff shot as the White Sox?
Decisions, decisions. Make one, Damon. Dammit.
♣ Our one-time reminder: Braves single-game tickets will go on sale Wednesday, including the April 5 opening day game against the Chicago Cubs and the just-announced Bobby Cox tribute night on Saturday, Oct. 1, Oct. 2 against Philadelphia.
The ducats will be sold through Braves.com/tickets; at the Braves Ticket Office at Turner Field, the Braves Clubhouse Store at the CNN Center, and all PUBLIX Ticketmaster outlets, or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
“LORETTA” by Townes Van Zandt
Oh Loretta she’s a barroom girl
Wears them sevens on her sleeve
Dances like a diamond shines
Tell me lies I love to believe
Her age is always 22
Her laughing eyes a hazel hue
Spends my money like water falls
Loves me like I want her to
Oh, Loretta, won’t you say to me
Darling, put your guitar on
Have a little shot of booze
Play a blue and wailing song
My guitar rings a melody
My guitar sings, Loretta’s fine
Long and lazy, blonde and free
And I can have her any time
Sweetest at the break of day
Preattiest in the setting sun
She don’t cry when I can’t stay
’least not till she’s all alone
Loretta, I won’t be gone long
Keep your dancing slippers on
Keep me on your mind a while
I’ll be back, babe, to make you smile