Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Johnny Damon has been the face of 'Red Sox Nation' for the past two seasons. Say what you want about Ramirez, Schilling and Varitek, Damon had been the heart and soul of the Boston juggernaut since 2003. His home runs and clutch hits in the 2004 postseason are now staples of baseball lore. Beloved in Boston, Damon had been loated in the Big Apple.

In classic Yankee fashion, they now welcome him with open arms and $52 million.

Damon will be introduced as a New York Yankee today after he agreed to a 4-year deal yesterday. He fills a gaping void in centerfield for the Yankees and, likely, vaults himself into the leadoff position. In short, he does the unthinkable: improves a lineup that already has Jeter, Sheffield, Rodgriguez, Giambi, Matsui etc. What it really means is when the Yankees make their first trip to Fenway Park, a Bronx cheer (ironic title, don't you think?) will reverberate all the way down the eastern seaboard.

Why did this happen? No one really thought Damon would leave Boston, right? Well, from a business standpoint, Damon negotiated first with the Red Sox. He wanted to stay but also wanted at least four years. Boston wasn't willing to commit to that. The Red Sox and Damon were like an engaged couple who had been dating for five years when one of the parties wanted to push back the wedding date even more. Damon had enough. Like the baseball homewreckers that they are, New York swooped in, and now the adultery is on.

My post about this is inspired by two things:

A.) A rumor is circling around ESPN and RotoWorld that the Indians might be looking to deal Coco Crisp to the Sox (filling their centerfield void) along with other prospects for Manny Ramirez, a deal I would vehemently oppose. Manny is extremely overpaid, and for as much as Crisp produces, he is an extreme bargain.

B.) Perhaps most importantly, this scenario of beloved players coming back to face their former teams has become one of the sources of great drama in baseball. In fact, it's so prevalent that whenever a star returns to the old city, it becomes the headline in sports news for the day. When Jim Thome, with the White Sox, makes his first appearance in Cleveland May 1, you can bet the outcome of the game will be secondary to the greeting Cleveland fans give him. In an era where players are about as loyal to team as Enron executives were to shareholders, this betrayal notion has turned Major League Baseball into a perpetual Act II of Julius Caesar. As a fan, I hate it. As an unbiased writer, I must say I am intrigued by it. In a morbid, twisted way, it adds something to the game, and it gives me something to write about.

In other news, the Cavaliers disposed of the Utah Jazz without much problem last night, 110-85. Carlos Boozer missed his second opportunity to become re-united with the Cavalier faithful (another Caesar-esque storyline) but that didn't keep the fans from coming out to watch the carnage. Most people were extremely down on the Cavs a little over a week ago when they sat at 11-9 and had lost five out of six games. I tried to stay level-headed, though, and the Cavs has turned things around with a three-game winning streak. They will also be spending most of the holidays in the friendly confines of the Gund...errr..."Q," so I expect the winning will be a trend. Zydrunas Ilgauskas chipped in with 18 points last night, and I have always said Z, not LeBron, is the key to the Cavalier offense. When they are getting Z involved, James and the outside shooters don't have to do too much; they can let the game come to them. I think an increased Z presence will hurt LeBron's numbers but it will significantly improve the Cavaliers' number of wins.

At 14-9, the Cavs are fourth in their division. Don't worry, though. The Eastern Conference's Central Division is, by far, the toughest division in basketball. The Pistons, of course, are dominating everyone, and if the playoffs started today, every team in the division would be in it.

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