Johnny Damon has considered retirement, and probably also the idea of socking Scott Boras right in the jaw. Damon has been disappointed with the contract offers he’s received this offseason, and it’s clear major league teams don’t value him nearly as high as his agent does. It’s hard to say how many tens of millions of dollars Damon has missed out on in the last few years by holding out on good contract offers in the hopes that something better would come along. He’s now an aging former-all star in the twilight of his career who can really only play well in one stadium: the new Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees have traded Melky Cabrera and some scrubs to the Braves for pitcher Javier Vazquez, who last pitched for the Yankees in 2004. It was during that year that he collapsed in the second half of the season and didn’t even make the post season roster. This move frees up an outfield spot, which may make Johnny Damon happy for a brief moment before he sees the Yankees going after another one of his agent’s clients, Matt Holliday. The Yankees now have arguably the best starting rotation in baseball (very close with the Red Sox) and without a doubt the best lineup (and only getting better if we get Holliday). The Yankees shouldn’t just repeat next season, they should dominate and challenge the record for most wins in a season.
I can’t wait to hear the haters reaction to the Yankees grabbing Holliday and launching the team payroll even higher into the stratosphere.
How did I miss this yesterday? Apparently Alex Rodriguez and Kate Hudson have called it quits, which might be bad news for the high-strung slugger next season. Many people seemed convinced that it was Hudson who kept ARod cool and under control this season as he came back from hip surgery and faced public scrutiny following the revelation that he had used performance enhancing drugs.
ARod has reportedly already been spotted with multiple different women at hot spots in Miami. If it were Tiger Woods, that would be news. For a baseball player, that’s just an average weekend.
Here it is, the final roster for the Yankees All Time team. No, it’s not a complete 25 man roster, just the top player from each position and the top 3 pitchers.
1st base – Lou Gehrig
2nd base – Tony Lazzeri
Shortstop – Derek Jeter
3rd base – Alex Rodriguez
Outfield – Mickey Mantle
Outfield – Joe DiMaggio
Outfield – Babe Ruth
Catcher – Yogi Berra
Pitcher – Whitey Ford
Pitcher – Red Ruffing
Pitcher – Lefty Gomez
Manager – Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel managed the Yankees from the late 1940’s through the early 1960’s. It was during this time that the Yankees were winning the pennant every season and winning the World Series in most seasons. You could say that it was Stengel’s teams that catapulted the Yankees from a good baseball franchise to the premier sports franchise that all other teams aspire to be.
1952 Bowman Casey Stengel
We’re not going to go through a whole pitching rotation and bullpen, because I think you can really water down an all time team when you start picking out middle relievers. Instead, we’ll do the top 3 Yankees pitchers of all time, period. Mariano Rivera, despite being the best closer in history, doesn’t make the cut. Let me explain why: the closer role has only existed for 20 years. I know some of you young kids might not remember this, but there was a time when teams didn’t have a dedicated man to come in and finish off close games in the 9th inning. The Oakland A’s invented the role in the late 1980’s with Dennis Eckersley, so there isn’t a huge amount of history behind the role. I think there is reason to believe many top starters could be legendary closers if given the chance. We already saw this in small doses with guys like Eckersley (who was a very good starter before switching to the pen) and John Smoltz, who threatened several single season relief records during his brief few seasons in the bullpen. With all that said, here are the Yankees top 3 pitchers of all time:
1951 Bowman Whitey Ford
1941 Play Ball Red Ruffing
1933 Goudey Lefty Gomez
Here’s an uncontroversial decision. The Yankees have had plenty of great catchers through the years, including Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada, but none can compare to Yogi Berra. Yogi won the MVP award 3 times in his career, which happened to coincide with the careers of such greats as Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and many others providing him plenty of competition. Clearly, MVP voters back then realized the value of a catcher who can hit. Voters in modern times require a catcher to have a historic year before they’ll give him his just due (Congrats to Joe Mauer, by the way, he deserved that MVP this year). Yogi was a 16-time all star – virtually his entire career.
1955 Topps Yogi Berra
Here’s a man who needs no introduction. Babe Ruth roamed right field in Yankee Stadium for over a decade, but his real talent was in the batter’s box. With a bat heavier than Joey Cora, Ruth would launch mammoth shots into the right and center field seats (and sometimes over them) around the league. The dead ball era ended when Babe Ruth started getting 4 or 5 at bats a game. In some years he out-homered entire teams in the American League.
1933 Goudey Babe Ruth
The Yankees have begun to talk dollars with outfielder Johnny Damon. This writer hopes they don’t pursue him too hard. Damon is a fun player to watch, but his skills are diminishing and his stats are inflated by the team he plays on and the stadium he plays in. 17 of his 24 home runs last season came at the new Yankee Stadium, and many of them were just little bat flick shots that somehow make it over the right field wall in a ballpark that has already developed a reputation of being the Coors Field of the American League. So let me make this clear: Johnny Damon will be a worse player (statistically) if he’s not a Yankee. I hope Scott Boras is reading this.
I don’t see the reason for retaining Damon. There are a dozen free agents who can fill in his role and do it better for cheaper. Damon was overrated when he was on the Red Sox and then signed with the Yankees, and he’s overrated now. He’s never been a superstar — at best he was an all star, and he was only that twice. He’s lost a step in the outfield, and to make things worse his arm has always been terrible and it’s only getting worse. Taking an extra base off Damon’s arm has become routine practice for American League runners.
Despite all the negative things I’ve had to say about Damon, the fact remains that he actually has a good shot at the Hall of Fame. He’ll need about 4 more full seasons to get to 3,000 hits, and he should be able to get to 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs as well. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but combined they have been good enough to get people into the Hall of Fame in the past. Some similar batters at the age of 35 include Pete Rose, Paul Molitor, Roberto Clemente, and Lou Brock.
In a hypothetical Yankees all time outfield, Joe DiMaggio would be out starting center fielder. Joltin’ Joe may be best remembered by some baseball fans as the man with the hitting streak, but he was so much more to the Yankees. He might be one of the only players in history to make the All Star team in every season he played major league ball. His “counting” stats for his career are good but not great, almost entirely due to the fact that he missed 3 complete seasons in his prime to serve in WWII.
1938 Goudey Joe DiMaggio