Johnny Damon on M&M: Jacoby Ellsbury ‘will do great in New York’
|12.04.13 at 12:28 pm ET|
Ellsbury, who won two World Series with the Red Sox, reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $153 million contract with New York on Tuesday night. Damon, after spending four seasons as Boston’s center fielder and claiming a World Series with the Sox, also signed with the Yankees once his Boston contract expired in 2005.
‘I respect the way [Ellsbury] plays. I know there were tons of comparisons with me when he came out of college, and there’s plenty of comparisons now, too,’ Damon said. ‘I know he’s a good kid, he needs to stay healthy, I think he will do great in New York.
“I’m sure if Boston wanted to do six, seven years, he probably would have stayed. But Boston’s looking out for themselves. Sometimes when you get burned by certain contracts, like the [Carl] Crawford thing, it scares you some, and rightfully so. Boston is going to continue to make the right decisions.”
Asked about what Ellsbury will go through as he switches sides in the rivalry, Damon said: ‘I think the toughest thing for Jacoby is going to be going back to Boston, and everything leading up to it. What do you think the fans are going to do — are they going to cheer you or are they going to boo you? He’s going to answer that question so many times, and probably every time he goes back for the next seven years. I think that was the hardest thing.
“Everywhere you go people are Red Sox fans. I’ve been on deserted islands and a Red Sox fan popped up and started telling me how big of a fan they are. Red Sox fans are avid and passionate and it’s incredible. Jacoby’s going to find out how many Red Sox fans are out there now, just telling him how they respected his game, but also, ‘How could you go to the Yankees.’ But seven years, [$]153 [million], that’s a lot of loot.’
After signing with New York before the 2006 season, Damon said he had something to prove when he played against his former team.
“For me, it was about trying to show them that first year,” he said. “I was so upset that I didn’t re-sign with Boston. I bought a house, they told me to buy a house, I did, and then they don’t sign me, and I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, boy, this is not good.’ … This was after the World Series. I talked to Theo [Epstein] and he said I would be there for a long time. Then again, Theo the next year said, ‘You’re having too good of a year. You’re overpricing yourself to keep playing in Boston.’ ‘¦ And I wasn’t going to take a few pitches looking to get the average down and get the numbers down.
“Unfortunately, I did have a great year. But if I had a worse year they would have just let me go and said he’s done. I had too good of a year, and I ended up going to New York.”
When he became a free agent after a successful season in 2005, one year removed from Boston’s first World Series title since 1918, Damon assumed that the Sox would come calling. He said he was surprised when the team showed no interest.
“It felt like the Red Sox weren’t even in the picture,” Damon said. “After we got swept by the White Sox that year, they had six weeks to try to talk to me, try to do anything. I got something in the mail a couple of days after I agreed with the Yankees that stated the four-year, $40 million contract [the Sox offered].
“I felt like that deal didn’t come until I signed elsewhere. Heading into free agency that year, I wasn’t even thinking about talking to any team. So, I let teams go by the wayside, saying, ‘I think Boston’s going to come sign me. I think this is going to happen. So. let’s not even discuss talking to anybody. So, I was pretty much taking myself off the market. Then when it started getting close to Christmastime, I was like, ‘Man, this is amazing.’ I hadn’t heard from Boston.
“I wanted to sign with the Dodgers, but then they signed [Rafael] Furcal as a shortstop and a leadoff hitter. I said to myself, Detroit’s my last chance to sign with somebody before New York. But they said they had a young kid named Curtis Granderson that they were going to take a look at. So, that shut the door on Detroit.
“Then it was New York. When I started talking to New York, I kept trying to relay information back to Boston, [to] no avail. I was talking to a number of people that they were getting in touch with, so I think the right people [in the Red Sox organization].
“I just think it was a well-thought-out business plan. I know they wanted me back in some aspect. But it kind of worked out. Jacoby was coming up a year after me. If I would have signed, he may not have had that chance in Boston. They always had Coco Crisp on their radar as a backup plan if I were to go somewhere.
“It’s a business these teams are running, and they have to have multiple plans. That’s how this plan worked out. There’s no harsh feelings about it. Maybe I could have only given them two, maybe three good years in center and then that fourth year they may have been worried about. So many different things can happen. I could have ran into the wall that first year and been out the rest of the years. I feel like things worked out for a reason.”
Added Damon: “I always look at the big picture. I have a big heart. I never wanted to leave Boston.”
In 2010, during his lone season with the Tigers, Damon was placed on waivers in late August and claimed by the Red Sox. However, he invoked his no-trade clause to stay in Detroit for the remainder of the season.
“I’ve never been on two teams in one season; I’ve never moved,” Damon said. “I joined Detroit, and I felt like if I took that claim, I’m deserting a team that I went to battle with night in and night out. I just have never [done] it. I never wanted to jump teams during the course of a season.
“Boston was six games out at the time. I just left New York, playing a series there was awesome, standing [ovation], everything was beautiful. And then the next couple of days or the next week, Boston claimed me. I was like, ‘Man, this would be a tough, tough last month.’ Because I think [the Red Sox] went back to New York a couple of times. I still had so much feelings for the four years I had in New York.
“Yeah, it was a business. Yeah, maybe I should have done it. But I felt like young players like Austin Jackson and [Justin] Verlander and [Max] Scherzer, I wanted to teach them when things don’t go well sometimes, stick with it. Things will get better if you stand by your teammates, if you play the game the right way.
“I just have too big of a heart sometimes, I guess. I was like, ‘I don’t want to leave these guys.’ ”
Added Damon: “It probably hurt my career a little bit. But that’s the only way I can answer it. I probably should have done it. But I had my reasons.”
On Tuesday, Boston signed free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year, $8.25 million contract to replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who signed with the Marlins on Tuesday as well.
‘A.J.’s the best,’ said Damon, who played with Pierzynski as a teenager and remains a close friend. ‘The thing is he’s honest. I guess that’s how they taught us in Orlando, we’ve always been very honest and upfront, there’s no reason to sugarcoat anything. This is how we are. A.J. and I see each other quite a bit.”
Added Damon: ‘Yeah, he bugs people. But when you know him and know what he’s about — I’ve known him since he was 14 years old, so I’ve had to deal with other players coming to me and saying, ‘How can you stand him? How can you do this?’ And I’m like, ‘He’s is one of the best people I know.’ ‘
Ellsbury is represented by Scott Boras, the same agent Damon used.
“He’s so educated. He has this system,” Damon said of Boras. “You always hear, ‘The GMs don’t like him,’ and all that. I don’t think that. I think they respect him. I think he has a great working relationship with teams. When he represents a player, teams know how talented those players are. And the type of of people — he doesn’t represent just anybody. He tries to get top-notch clients.
“And that fact that he’s played before — there were many times I would call him during my career and say, ‘I don’t understand why I’m not hitting. I don’t understand why I’m getting booed by the Boston fans still.’ He knows. He gets it. And that’s why I’ve been with him. He was my adviser before my agent. It’s been going on 24 years now. We’ve come a long ways. He knows what to bring to me and he knows what not to. I can happily say that he was my only agent throughout my career.”
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