(2006) Damon Needs to Get on the Right Side of the Rivalry

Elvis Elvis

Look, Johnny Damon is a special guy. Those who have been around him say he is the greatest guy in the world. I think its swell that he is such a loyal guy, too. Just because he turned his back on the Boston baseball club doesn’t mean he should, or will, turn his back on his old buddies on the Red Sox.

But count me as less than deeply touched with the expression of brotherly affection displayed by Damon and his old Boston cronies this week when the Red Sox came to play the Yankees in a Tampa spring-training game.

One of the reasons Damon is such a special guy is that he seems to get along with everyone. He has the personality to galvanize a team, to bring guys together, to make a unit out of diverse segments of the clubhouse. He did it with the Red Sox.

Recently he even tried to pull off the seemingly impossible, bringing Yankees and Red Sox together. This occurred after the World Baseball Classic ended for Team USA, when Damon reportedly nearly booked a charter plane in Anaheim to bring Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Varitek, and Mike Timlin along with him back to their respective spring camps in Florida.

Here’s where Damon needs to be careful. Somehow it appears he wants a seamless transition from Boston to New York. This week he called his defection to the Yankees “old news,” and he has suggested that Red Sox fans need to move on.

He doesn’t seem to understand that most Red Sox fans won’t – maybe can’t is the better word – move on. Remember how they hissed and cursed Roger Clemens when he returned to Fenway Park wearing “NEW YORK” across his chest. And he didn’t even go directly from Boston to New York, having spent two years in Toronto in between.

Damon may justifiably relish his historical contribution to the great city of Boston and may even believe that his past heroics immunize him from Red Sox Nation turning against him, but I think he is in for a rude awakening. A large percentage of Boston fans are going to boo Damon big time. That’s what they do. That’s what they know how to do best.

Its time for Damon to see things from this side of the street. When, while a game is in progress, Manny Ramirez opens the gate and walks inside the Green Monster to take a leak and then emerges with a shit-eating grin, that isn’t “Manny being Manny.” That’s Manny being Bozo the Clown.

(2006) Damon Needs to Get on the Right Side of the Rivalry

When egomaniac Curt Schilling in 2004 calls up radio talk-show guys and blasts them because they said they thought Pedro Martinez may be jealous of Schilling’s emergence as the ace of the Red Sox staff, Schilling displays how completely unperceptive he is and how blatantly insensitive he is in not understanding how Martinez might legitimately resent Schilling pushing himself in and enjoying the glory after Martinez had done all the hard work carrying the team during the building years. And I hope that Damon has A-Rod’s back the next time “Brandon” Arroyo or any other two-bit Boston bum purposely drills A-Rod with a pitch.

Is This Feud More Relevant to the Fans Than the Ballplayers?

Maybe ballplayers are too professional to become emotionally involved in a rivalry like the Yankees and Red Sox. Maybe this blood feud is more relevant to the fans than the players.

When Willie Randolph was coaching the Yankees, he once said there was too much fraternizing for his liking between the Yankees and Red Sox players and way more fraternizing than was tolerated in his day as a Yankees player.

To me the Yankees and Red Sox are special because the rivalry is a throwback to a long-ago era when there was genuine passion in sports. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth didn’t like each other, and that was the way it was supposed to be.

I appreciate Damon’s good heart, but I don’t want a Yankees-Red Sox peace summit. I want the Yankees and Red Sox to play like they don’t like each other. That’s why everyone wants to watch them play each other. Because it matters.