Damon Has Settled Nicely With The Bronx Bombers
By Joe McDonald
Instead, the player, whose long hair and beard reminded the Boston faithful of Jesus, was treated like Judas.
"The fans don't understand, it's not just me, but it was management's way of saying we are getting too old," Damon said. "It's never on management. The fans don't realize that.
"I was one of those guys who had enough [guts] to say, 'I'm a free agent and I would have signed at the All-Star Break if you took my offer.' Well you waited and I am fair game to 29 other teams. They thought I was still theirs. If it wasn't going to be New York, it wasn't going to be Boston either."
Yet, by signing with the Yankees, Damon put himself on Red Sox Nation's most hated list. And, he will have gotten the same greeting as the Bombers returned to Boston this past week for a three game series.
Although the fans think Damon is a turncoat, according to the centerfielder, it was the Red Sox who promised him a long-term contract after the Sox won the World Series in 2004, which made him purchase a house up in the Boston area. "Teams only do deals if it benefits them," he said. "And when they didn't sign me, it told me that I wasn't in their long term plans."
So, even though, he hated the Yankees when playing for Boston, a four-year commitment of $52 million by George Steinbrenner convinced him to move down Interstate 95 to play for the Pinstripes. Immediately, Damon became a fan favorite.
"It doesn't surprise me because of the way I go out there to play," Damon said. "The Yankees fans want to be the best and have the best. After what happened a few years ago, they saw I was a guy who could step in and perform under pressure. I like that I go out there and play hard for them and they respect that."
And in his first game, Damon received the famous role call.
"You got to be into it," he said. "Those fans are very gracious and they welcomed me. I will do anything to win them over. Big plays will do it, but just the way you carry yourself is enough as well."
The 32 year-old has performed well in his first year as a Yankee. So far, he is hitting .280 with four home runs, 23 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Damon has been in the lineup everyday, despite a broken bone in his foot. And with injuries to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, the Yankees need his presence. It remains to be seen if the injury will hinder his play, but Damon does seem to have the right attitude to be a Yankee.
"My whole thing is to be more consistent," he said. "I have been up and down, but the bottom line is winning."