Tagged: Johnny Damon

Hindsight is 20/20. Foresight is priceless.

I wrote a blog post back in November saying that the Yankees were going into the offseason targeting Damon over Matsui. That has been proven to be true by the winter moves. Now, with pitchers and catchers officially reporting to spring training tomorrow, and with baseball just around the corner, some of you can’t help but wonder “What if”. That is understandable. Hopefully, I can put your minds at ease.
Talking to fellow Yankees fans, and reading several Yankees blogs, many questions are being raised about whether or not letting Matsui go was the right move, especially with Damon’s departure from New York. This is natural, as spring training is not only a time to look toward the upcoming season, but it is also a time to reflect on the winter moves.

The main questions I’ve seen being asked are: What if we knew Johnny Damon would reject our offer? Had we known back then what we know now, would we have let Hideki Matsui walk away so easily?

I’ll be asking quite a few questions in this post, but worry not my fellow fans, I’ll give you my answers to the questions at the end of my post. 
First, before I give my answers, it’s time for a little objectivity. Let me raise the concerns that come to my mind.

It was made clear right from the beginning that the Yankees were working with a fixed budget, and they would not go over it. It’s also obvious that there is no way the Yankees could have known that a player would reject a fair offer. However, a little bit of foresight could have gone a long way. Here’s what we did know back then:
  • Johnny Damon puts money first (as evident from his departure from Boston)
  • Johnny Damon is a Scott Boras client, and Boras clients tend to get greedy
  • Due to the strict budget, it would be a choice between Damon and Matsui
  • Both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui were essential members of our lineup in 2009
A little foresight could have changed things. We could have foreseen the possibility of Johnny Damon rejecting our offer since it was a paycut for him. Having that possibility present in the back of their minds, should the Yankees have left some wiggle-room with Matsui?
I obviously have no inside information on any negotiations, I’m just a fan trying to make sense of the information given to me. I don’t know what went on between the Yankees and Hideki Matsui, but I find it highly unlikely that Cashman didn’t even put a Torre-like offer on the table. I’m not saying that Matsui should have accepted it, he obviously found a better offer with the Angels. What I’m saying is: knowing that there is a possibility that our Plan A (Damon) would fall through, shouldn’t the Yankees have been a little more lenient with the Matsui offer? 
I’m involved in many business negotiations in my career, I know that there are ways to put an offer on the table and make it known that there’s some wiggle room for an agreement to be reached. There are also ways to show that the offer is final and non-negotiable, which is what I believe the Yankees did with Matsui.
Was that the right way to go? I agreed with Cashman when he chose Damon over Matsui, simply because of Matsui’s aging knees. Now that Damon is out of the picture, I can’t help but wonder what it would have looked like if we added the $2 million we paid for Randy Winn, and maybe some of what we paid for the others, to our original offer to Matsui. Surely that offer would have been in the same ballpark as what the Angels paid.
As I said, I don’t know what went on in the negotiations, so I have to show the other side of the coin. The Yankees could have wanted Matsui back (but not over Damon), so that means that they might have left some room for an agreement with Hideki. Could it be that Godzilla no longer wanted to play in New York? I can’t imagine why the World Series MVP would want to leave the team with which he just won the World Series. So that leads me to believe that he wanted to come back.
So, should Matsui have waited before signing with the Angels? He sure seemed to have accepted their offer quickly. In the blink of an eye, Hideki was off to Los Angeles. That seemed a little strange to me. Which is what makes me think that the Yankees rejected Matsui, Matsui did not reject the Yankees.
I’ve asked the questions, now it’s time to give you my own personal answers. Let me remind you that these are my answers, and obviously not answers given by any Yankee official.
Johnny Damon could make up for no Hideki Matsui in our lineup, but Matsui cannot make up for no Damon. The Yankees knew this, Johnny Damon knew this, even Hideki Matsui probably knew this. If we put our emotions aside and thought about it logically, we (as fans) could have known this, too. I knew it, I even blogged it, and I’m not some baseball genius. I’m just capable of putting my feelings aside, ignoring how much I love a player, and looking at things from a “strictly business” point of view. Remember, with Major League Baseball, and all professional sports: it’s nothing personal, dear, it’s strictly business.
As I already mentioned, the Yankees were working with a budget. They would not in any way go over this budget. That was very clear. I am positive that Brian Cashman was aware of the possibility of Johnny Damon rejecting his offer, it would take an absolute idiot to ignore that risk. So, when it comes to the question “Had we known then what we know now, would we have let Matsui walk away?” my answer is yes. The Yankees would have let Hideki Matsui leave regardless of whether or not Johnny Damon would be coming back. Let me explain why.
If Johnny Damon came back, then the reason behind Matsui’s departure would have been pretty obvious: we didn’t want to go over the budget. So that’s the first part of the explanation.
Second part of the explanation is not as simple, but still quite logical. In the beginning of the offseason, this is what was probably going through Brian Cashman’s mind regarding Johnny Damon: If Damon leaves, we’ll need to find a defensive replacement, a replacement in offensive production (hitting), and a replacement for Damon’s OBP. Looking at the Free Agency market at the time, and knowing that the Yankees couldn’t overpay for a big name for budgetary reasons, there was not one player that could have replaced Johnny Damon. No, not even Hideki Matsui. 
While one player couldn’t replace Johnny Damon, 2-3 players could replace him with correct in-game management. In that case (which is what happened) the Yankees needed to keep some cash free to acquire several players in the event that Damon left. They couldn’t tie their money up in a contract with Matsui. It’s not personal, dear, it’s strictly business.
Therefore, going into the offseason, the Yankees knew that, because of the strict budget, Hideki Matsui wasn’t coming back to the Bronx. I pretty much knew it then and hinted at it (in my blog posts, but especially on Twitter), and quite a few of you did, but it was too depressing to say it bluntly. It was known soon after the World Series Championship that our World Series MVP wasn’t coming back. Talk about a downer.
So, in my opinion, the right thing to do (for both the Yankees and for Hideki Matsui) was to basically let Matsui know that he was no longer needed in the Bronx. It wouldn’t have been fair to Godzilla to string him along knowing that we would not bring him back. It would have possibly pushed him to reject other offers. So, by making it clear that he would not be back in pinstripes early on in the offs
eason, we cut the cord. That’s why he quickly accepted the offer from Annaheim.
That is, indeed, what happened. Johnny Damon rejected our offer (and stupidly so, but you already know what I think from reading my post on Damon), and we replaced him with three new players: Granderson (for home runs and defense), Nick Johnson (for OBP) and Randy Winn (for defense). Damon’s base-running can be replaced in-house by Brett Gardner. Is it more complicated to have four players replacing one? Yes it is, but with intelligent management (we’re trusting you, Girardi) it can prove to be successful. By tying up our money in a Matsui contract, however, it wouldn’t have been possible to fully replace the loss of Johnny Damon.
Luckily for us, Brian Cashman had the correct foresight, and made the right moves.
It’s not personal, dear, it’s strictly business.
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Johnny Go Bye-Bye.


Well, my fellow Yankees fans, I think it’s
safe to put the tombstone on Johnny Damon’s Yankee Years.

 

At the beginning of the off-season, I wanted
Johnny Damon back. I wanted him back for his hitting, his base-running, and for
his generally nice attitude. Then, as the winter rolled by, Johnny started to
get a little greedy. Honestly, I didn’t expect anything less from a Scott Boras
client.

 

While all the Damon-lovers out there would
like to blame this on Boras, Johnny is pretty much the one at fault here. At
the end of the day, if he wanted to come back to the Yankees for the price at
which he is worth to the Yankees, he would have told Boras to put a sock in it.
We seem to forget that sports agents work for the players; the players do not
work for the sports agents.

 

I’m not exactly a huge fan of Scott Boras, but
I must admit that he’s good at his job. He’s an intelligent, business-minded
man, who usually gets his clients as much money as possible. He’s a successful
sports agent. This leads me to whole-heartedly believe that Johnny Damon only
has himself to blame here.

 

I highly doubt that Boras is behind this. I
can’t seem to imagine that anyone who went to business school (or even took a
business course) would screw up this much. 

 

At the beginning of this offseason, it was
clear to me that the Yankees were looking to bring back Andy Pettitte and
Johnny Damon, while letting go of Hideki Matsui (I blogged about it in
November). So, they brought Andy back and let Godzilla walk.

 

From then on, all eyes were on Johnny
Damon.

 

So what did Damon and Boras do? They began
with their demands. First, they demanded a multi-year contract. Second, they
demanded that there be no pay-cut. Third, they were basically told to f*** off.

 

The Yankees reportedly made an offer of 2
years and $14-million. Damon/Boras declined it. I knew that they would soon
regret saying no. Let’s think about it for a minute: the key to successful
business negotiations is knowing what your product is worth, be it physical
worth or otherwise. Damon, to the Yankees, was not worth more than $7-million a
year. At the time, the Yankees clearly had the upper hand in the negotiations,
as there were still plenty of outfielders on the market.

 

When Johnny declined this offer, the Yankees
went on to trade for Curtis Granderson. This was the first nail in Damon’s
coffin.

 

Negotiations with Johnny Damon were still
going on after the Granderson deal. Obviously, with the Grand Acquisition
(sorry for the cheesy pun) Damon’s value to the Yankees went down. They now could
survive without Damon in left field, because they had enough outfielders. I
don’t know if any new offers were made, but I’m assuming Johnny and, in turn,
Scott stood their ground.

 

Smart. Real smart.

 

So, what did the Yankees do? They acquired
Nick Johnson. That was the second nail in Johnny’s coffin.

 

After securing an outfielder, they acquired a
hitter with an amazing OBP. Why did they do that? To secure a top-of-the-order
hitter, eliminating the need for Johnny Damon. Although the ‘need’ was eliminated,
I suspected that the ‘want’ was still there. The ‘want’, however, was on Yankee
terms. 

 

Things were quiet on the Damon front for a
while. We had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and still, nothing.
Holliday went off the market, Bay went off the market, outfielders were getting
signed left and right. Still, nothing for Johnny. With every day that passed,
things weren’t looking too good for Damon.

 

Suddenly, we started hearing rumors about the
A’s being interested in Johnny. That, of course, started a panic wave among a
lot of Yankees fans. I’m not sure why, I’ve been saying for a while (since we
signed Nick Johnson) that Johnny Damon wasn’t coming back, anyone I work with
or anyone who follows me on Twitter will attest to that. I believe I even sang
it in my Christmas song to Brian Cashman: “One think I really do need, in
left field, a player who can throw a ball”. I obviously wasn’t talking
about Johnny Damon. 

 

People didn’t believe me. They kept saying
that the Yankees will back down and bring Damon back. It’s strictly business,
people. Strictly, business. Like I said in my post about Wang, you can’t run an
organization on nostalgia.

 

So, Brian Cashman put his foot down and didn’t
give in to Damon’s demands. Damon put his foot down, and looks pretty damn
foolish right now. 

 

The third and final nail in Johnny Damon’s
coffin? The Yankees signed Randy Winn to a 1-year $2-million contract
yesterday. Set. Match. Game. Johnny go bye-bye.

 

I will
blog about Randy Winn some other time, but what I have to say about it right
now is: A low-risk high-reward investment.

 

Back to Johnny.

 

I work in sales and marketing. I’m a Business
School college graduate with a Marketing degree, so I know a thing or two about
business negotiations and making deals. I sell oil for a living, I don’t sell
athletes, but the basic principles are the same across the business world. You
always let the market set the price for your product. You target a specific
segment of the market (in Damon’s case, the Yankees) and you set your price
according to what this segment sees your product being worth. Basically, you
set your price along the lines of the maximum of what they’re willing pay.
You add a little to it since it will come down in negotiations.

 

Anyone who’s picked up an Economics textbook
knows that the price is set by the market’s demand curve. The Yankees set their
price based on their own demand for Johnny Damon, and Johnny Damon decided to
set his price based on his own demand for himself. I honestly don’t know what
Damon based his price on. My guess is that it was a mixture of greed and
egomania: two emotions that are found in abundance in the world of professional
sports. Either way, once you mix emotions with business, you’re doomed to fail.

 

It’s not personal, dear. It’s strictly
business. So now, Johnny go bye-bye.

Show Me The Money

Folks, Scott Boras is at it again. The sports agent everyone loves to hate is once again in the spotlight as baseball’s winter meetings commence.

What has he done this time? Well, several things. But in what interests us as Yankees fans, he’s asking for a relatively long-term deal for outfielder Johnny Damon.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Yankees are going into the meetings planning to bring back Johnny Damon, as well as Hideki Matsui and Andy Pettitte. Their priorities probably lie with Damon and Pettitte since they are more crucial to the team as a whole. Matsui has proven that he deserves to wear the pinstripes, especially in his World Series performance, but I just don’t see them picking him over Damon. This is my own personal opinion of what will happen, not what should happen. I would personally make all three equal priorities of mine, and if Pettitte decides to retire, scratch him off and pursue John Lackey.

So, anyway, back to Mr. Boras.

The Yankees are probably looking to re-sign Damon to a one-year deal. I think that’s fair, after all he is 36 years old. While he’s proven that age is just a number, who knows how long he can remain healthy? If a team is desperate, they might offer him a two-year contract, but I think that a one-year deal is what he should be realistically looking for.

The Yankees could offer him arbitration, but I read somewhere that it would be $15 million. If they offer him arbitration, he’d definitely be in pinstripes next year, simply because other teams might not take much of a risk on a 36-year-old outfielder. However, I don’t see the Yankees paying $15 million for Damon. It’ll probably be in the $10 million range. But I’ve been wrong about these things before, so don’t hold me to this.

Scott Boras, of course, doesn’t think that this is the case. In true Bora$ $tyle, he is aiming for a multi-year deal for his client. Multi-year means 3-4 years. Do I need to point out the insanity here? Yes, he’s a Type-A free agent. Yes, he’s always a valuable member of the team. Yes, he’s still got it. But who in their right mind would offer a 36 year-old outfielder whose legs aren’t getting any younger and whose arm isn’t getting any stronger (not that it was particularly strong to begin with) a 4-year contract?

Personally, I think this whole “multi-year” thing is a load of bull. Scott Boras knows he won’t be able to get 3-4 years for Johnny, but Scott Boras wants to get him as much money as possible, as any agent would. By asking for a multi-year contract, Boras is driving up the asking price. Teams will respond with “we won’t give him more than one year, but here’s what we’ll pay for that one year”.

Scott Boras clients usually go to the highest bidder. Whether or not these players are happy with their current teams is insignificant. So, knowing that he can only get one year, Johnny Damon will probably go to whatever team pays him the most.

Will Johnny Damon be in pinstripes next year? In my opinion, it’ll all depend on how firmly Brian Cashman puts his foot down. As much as I’ve loved seeing Damon’s performance this past season, I don’t think the Yankees should pay more than $10 million for him. If Johnny Damon doesn’t come back to us, then I guess we’ll have to pursue Matt Holliday.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Matt Holliday in pinstripes.