December 2005

Here’s Johnny

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Johnny Damon will be officially introduced as the Yankees’ new center fielder at a 1 p.m. press conference in the Bronx on Friday.

On Thursday, Damon and his wife Michelle spent the afternoon at Manhattan’s posh Ishi Salon. The hair and beard are officially gone. He looks five years younger — and he is now $50 million richer.

Non-tenderized

Fifty new players flooded the free agent market on Tuesday as teams declined to offer these players contracts for 2006. Teams can re-sign these players — but they will try to do so at a lower rate.

This process has netted teams quality players in the past. In 2002, the Twins non-tendered David Ortiz. Boston signed him a month later, and Big Papi was reborn. Last year, the Angels non-tendered David Eckstein and signed Orlando Cabrera. The OC was a bust, while Eck was an All-Star.

Unfortunately, the list is weak this year. If you want bad starting pitching, Ryan Franklin, Dewon Brazelton and Josh Fogg are available. Or you can get yourself an injured arm that like Wade Miller. A 16-game winner in 2001 with the Astros, he was non-tendered by Boston. Wes Obermueller and Dan Kolb — who were traded for each other just weeks ago — were non-tendered by the Braves and Brewers, respectively. Eric Byrnes, who played for three clubs in ’05 — the A’s, Rockies and Orioles — was non-tendered by Baltimore. Alex Escobar, the Mets prospect that fans drooled over earlier this century, was non-tendered by the Nationals. And the Rays, who had bullpen implosions on a nightly basis in ’05, non-tendered relievers Joe Borowski and Lance Carter.

Johnny don’t shave



In The Boss’ world, highlights are cool, but long hair and beards are not. (AP)

As a former hippie who spent some time following Phish around the country, I have no problem with long hair and a beard — or as we called it on tour, “The Wookie Look.” Unfortunately for Johnny Damon, George Steinbrenner hates this look. I am not a fan of this rule. Players should have long hair if they want. They should be able to grow a beard.

Plus in Damon’s case, he’s a better player with The Wookie Look. The numbers don’t lie.

Prior to 2004, Damon was a lifetime .284 batter. That spring, he shows up looking like Chewbacca’s younger brother. And for the next two seasons, Damon The Wookie bats .310.

So, I ask The Boss that he change the rule. Let Damon’s hair flow. Let Jason Giambi look like a Heavy Metal star again. Let Randy Johnson grow some facial hair. If you want to ban something Boss, ban highlights. A-Rod and Giambi look ridiculous with them.

This isn’t The OC. It’s NYC.

Johnny D moving to NYC

It’s been a while since I posted — there is never an offseason at MLB.com. But it’s time to get back in the blogging game thanks to Johnny Damon’s four-year, $52 million deal with the Yankees.



Now that he is a Yankee, Johnny Damon will have to shave off his beard and cut his hair. (AP)

I like this deal for a bevy of reasons:

? Damon gives the Yankees the leadoff hitter they have lacked since Chuck Knoblauch’s glory days in pinstripes (1998-2000). Damon and Derek Jeter will create a sensational 1-2 punch at the top of the Yankee lineup.

? It’s not Murderers’ Row, but the 2006 Yankees will pack a wallop. Joe Torre can mix and match his lefties/righties and go with a top six of Damon, Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield. Or he can put Sheffield behind A-Rod, giving the Yankees two sick right-handed bats back-to-back. The possibilities are endless.

 

? It weakens the Red Sox. Manny and Boomer Wells want out, Schilling is getting older, there’s no shortstop and center field is vacated. Plus, who leads off? Third-place Red Sox, anyone?

? More speed. If Torre does go with Damon, Jeter and A-Rod up top, the Yankees will have one of the quickest top of the orders in baseball.

? Damon has a weak throwing arm, but he will be able to get to a lot more balls than say Bernie, Bubba and Melky.

? Damon gives the too-corporate Yankees a little attitude. He speaks his mind, and he is a fiery competitor. Too bad he’s going to have to shave his beard and cut off the long hair.

The Yanks have been ripped by the New York tabloids for being too inactive this offseason. I think they have done a fabulous job this winter. Sure, the Yanks overpaid to get Kyle Farnsworth, but he’s got great stuff and again, he is an emotional guy on a team that could have used some personality the last few years. The Yanks also got Octavio Dotel at a nice price, and they added a decent situational lefty in Mike Myers. So while the Mets have been stealing the backpages, the Yankees have made the right moves this winter.

The Empire has truly struck back.