Results tagged ‘ Johnny Damon ’
Don’t expect Phil Coke to go for a round of golf with Johnny Damon, but as a teammate with the Yankees last year, he’s a believer in the buzz about what he brings to the club.
“You have to understand something: When you have an opportunity to play on a championship team, there are a bunch of players around the league that have come together on one team whose careers speak for themselves,” Coke said. “I don’t know what your personal opinion is of Johnny, and your opinion might not match mine because you don’t know him like I do. I mean, I love Johnny. He’s an amazing person, on and off the field. It doesn’t matter where he’s at. He’s the same guy. He’s a great clubhouse guy. He’s a great dude to go hang out with, on and off the field. He’s an all-around good guy.”
Coke understands the limitations on Damon, but he also understands what’s at the heart of him.
“He still moves really good,” Coke said. “He has his struggles in the outfield, but that’s because he sacrificed himself year after year for the game. I can’t tell you I’d want anybody else in the clubhouse except for a guy like that. I’ve been told that growing up in the game of baseball — Little League, high school, junior college, guys that are willing to sacrifice themselves for the game, for the team, those are the guys you want to play with. They don’t necessarily have to be the best, but they’re going to give you everything they’ve got, every single day.”
So would he be a recruiter for the Tigers?
“I wish I had his number,” Coke said, “because I’d be like, ‘Hey, man, quit messing around.”
What if the Tigers signed Johnny Damon to help out the top of their batting order, and ended up batting rookie Austin Jackson up there anyway?
It’s not as far-fetched as you might think.
Though manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday he still hasn’t written out a set lineup and still doesn’t know what he’ll do with his top two spots, he sounded a little more committed than before to the idea of batting Jackson up top.
Jackson will get the first crack at leading off in Spring Training, as Leyland hinted at before. But he also sounded a little more confident that Jackson fits there.
“I’d like Jackson to lead off, if I could,” Leyland said. “I’m really kind of looking for a two hitter. But I think Jackson — if he’s here, and you’re going to play him some — he’s probably got to lead off. Probably, as we stand right now. But I don’t know that for a fact. We’ll find out.”
Admittedly, when he said that, he wasn’t including Damon in the thought process. As Leyland put it, “I don’t ever anticipate we’re going to get somebody.”
But he sure sounded like he was coming around on Jackson as a fit up there. And he definitely sounded like finding a No. 2 hitter, as the roster stands now, is a tougher decision for him.
“I have to figure out some kind of a two-hole hitter,” Leyland said. “I don’t know how that’s going to work out, unless you change our style of play. You hate to do it, although I think the game’s getting back to it, where the smaller things are meaning more again.
“Maybe you move some runners early on or something with the second hitter. Maybe you don’t just slug it like you do sometimes. Polanco was so good because he could drag a bunt or hit in the hole or hit-and-run or hit a home run. He was a really professional hitter.”
Maybe that’s something rookie Scott Sizemore can do. Maybe it’s something Adam Everett could do. Or maybe, if Johnny Damon does come to Detroit, it’s something he does.
Don’t read Leyland’s comments on the game changing, though, and figure that he’s angling towards it.
“I’m not saying I’m going to do that,” Leyland said. “I don’t want to do that.”
One thing for certain is that both Jackson and Sizemore, as long as they’re healthy, are going to get a lot of playing time this spring. It isn’t just about getting them acclimated to the big leagues as much as you can in Spring Training. It’s about Leyland and the coaching staff seeing them enough to judge them.
“I’ve never been a big Spring Training judge,” Leyland said, “but you have to do what you have to do.”
While the Tigers still aren’t saying anything official about a Jose Valverde deal, they’re throwing some cold water on the Johnny Damon market at the moment. Through a team spokesperson, Dombrowski said they have not expressed interest in Damon.
Now, lest anyone forget, Dombrowski said early last week that they were “content with what we have now” in the bullpen without ruling out a move. Earlier this week, he apparently told Jim Bowden that they were focused on the back end of the bullpen. Now, they’re on the verge of adding Valverde.
So, while Dombrowski hasn’t talked with agent Scott Boras about Damon, and they apparently haven’t expressed interest, that’s the situation at the moment.
Now that the Tigers have agreed to terms with closer Jose Valverde, they’re expected to take one more look at upgrading their offense. If they’re going to make an upgrade, it’s most likely going to be in the outfield.If they’re going to go for an outfielder, it’ll be interesting to see if they give a long look at Johnny Damon to fill the one or two spot.
The pending arrival of Valverde had barely settled in when SI.com’s Jon Heyman suggested via Twitter that the Tigers could be “in play” for Damon, then said on MLB Network that the two sides are talking.
While there’s been contact between Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, and the Tigers, a source indicated talk has been preliminary because a closer has been the Tigers’ priority.
Offense now moves up on the list. And we’ll see if Damon’s brand of offense fits the Tigers’ needs well enough for them a take a shot at another veteran in an outfielder that has a couple of them already.
Take age and money out of consideration and go on hitting credentials, and there’s statistically a complement. As Heyman pointed out, Damon has hit up a storm at Comerica Park, batting .363 for his career with a .550 slugging percentage and a .961 OPS.
Keep it in perspective. A lot of those hits came in the first half of his career, including his start with the Royals. But the last three years, when he had only one series a season here, he still hit, going 13-for-40 (.325) with seven runs scored, two homers and five RBIs.
Of greater relevance to the Tigers now might be his fit at or near the top of the order. He batted second almost exclusively last year after spending most of his career in the leadoff spot, and the shift translated well to him.
The home run numbers are relative because of the lefty power-friendly new Yankee Stadium — 17 of his 24 homers came at home — but his 36 doubles were evenly split between home and road. He hit better away from home (.284) than he did in the Bronx (.279), and his average on balls put in play was 50 points higher road than home (.330-.280). He isn’t the same burner he once was on the bases, but he’s smart — 12-for-12 on steal attempts, +18 in Bill James’ baserunning analysis. He has drawn at least 60 walks in 11 of the last 12 years, 71 last season while batting in a stacked lineup.
Whether first or second, an experienced top of the order guy could allow the Tigers to fit in one of their younger players better in the other spot.
His throwing arm, well, evokes memories of Rondell White, which could be a problem in that big of an outfield. His legs still cover ground. He didn’t play center at all last year, so it’s hard to consider him anything more than a spell or a complement for Austin Jackson in center. But he could also be a veteran presence, not that the Tigers don’t have that already with a few guys such as Adam Everett.
Offensively, you can make a very good case that the Tigers can use Damon. But there would have to be a middle ground between them on a contract. The one bright side is that it wouldn’t take a long-term commitment, supposedly one or two years, and it’s tough to see a lot of competition right now, though reports suggest the Braves are interested.
I can’t say where Damon fits into the plan for payroll, because it’s hard to see where the plan is right now. But you can see where he could fit on the field and why this could be an opportunity for both sides.