Johnny Damon is a Tiger and all was made right in the world. Seriously, that is what so many things would have you believe. And while I'm squarely in the more pessimistic camp I think that the reality skews to the sunny side. The Tigers are better with Johnny Damon then they were without him.
And that, really, is all that matters.
Up to and including this signing, the Tigers offseason had been a hodgepodge, nonsensical series of isolated baseball moves that may or may not have made sense individually but together looked like a scatterplot regression with an r-squared below .1, if you know what I mean. Am I right? Sorry, I had a long day.
Anyway, this offseason was a mess. Johnny Damon was the last messy move in a messy offseason. Part of me thinks that whatever cynicism among the fan base is less directed towards the addition of Johnny Damon and more towards the confusion of the offseason as a whole. I mean, the questions just roll off the tounge, don't they?
- If they have the money to pay Damon, why not keep Granderson and Polanco?
- If they have some money, why not offer Polanco arbitration and hope to get some draft picks?
- Why not sign Johnny Damon for one year and keep Granderson?
This is all compounded by the deal that Damon got. $8 million is a lot. It is not a bargain. It is not the deal you sign right before camp starts. That said, it is entirely likely that Damon will be worth $8 million (or more!) to the team, at which point it looks like a good deal. Damon the bargain is a welcome addition. Damon the holdout is viewed with skepticism. Add to that the fact that he was significantly aided in his offensive output by Yankee Stadium and that he leaves something to be desired defensively (although it's not like the Tigers' other options were budding gold-glovers). It is unlikely that Johnny Damon 2010 will be a repeat of Johnny Damon 2009.
To help swallow all this, allow me to give a little bit of perspective. It is a one year deal. No, this isn't me saying "at least he's only here for one year," or "thank god the Tigers aren't tied to him long term" or anything like that. I emphasize that it was a one-year deal, because it means one thing and one thing only: not my problem.
Huh? Ok, here's the deal. It's 3 days before Spring Training and you know that your team has some glaring holes. You had a budget and you've stuck to it. You had a plan (to some degree) and stuck to it (for the most part). But now it's crunch time and you're looking and just don't see a competitive team. At least, not competitive enough. Then you look around and see that there is a player out there that could make you better, and he's yours if you want him. Do you act like a scrooge and say "no, I have a plan" or do you say, F*** it. We need this, and I'm willing to pay now. I know what I would do. And so does Mike Ilitch. In fact, I'm glad the Tigers have an owner who has this mentality.
The bottom line is this: Johnny Damon's deal is coming out of Mike Ilitch's Ostrich Egg omelette and ivory backscratcher budget . This doesn't hurt the team short term or long term. It doesn't hurt their flexibility (in fact, Damon could theoretically be dealt to a contender for prospects if the Tigers fall out of it) and most importantly, it makes the team better.
And that's the bottom line. The Tigers had a chance to get better and they took it. No retrospect, no "what ifs," nothing like that. This was an isolated event. To the card collectors, this is putting a little bit extra on your eBay bid in the closing seconds. Ultimately, regardless of how good you think Damon will actually be with the Tigers, it is hard to argue that they aren't better with him than they were without.
It also happens that the Tigers added another one of baseball's "good guys," who is great with fans and a veteran leader. Blah blah blah intangibles etc., but say "Gerald Laird fight" or "Miguel Cabrera Drunk" to Tigers fans and we all know how important that is.
So relax, Tigers fans. The drama is over and baseball can now start, with the Tigers in a better place than they were just a week ago. It's springtime right? How about some optimism? As for me, let's get those Johnny Damon-as-Tiger baseball cards churning, so that I can have a better reason to bring him up again.