Over the weekend, reports emerged that the Yankees had kept the Johnny Damon door open, though there was some question as to whether there was a deadline attached to their offer. Today, Buster Olney tweets that the A’s have interest in the ex-caveman. If Damon signs with the A’s due to more generous financial terms than the Yankees are willing to offer, then he is being pennywise and pound foolish, because if he does, his career will almost certainly end this year.
The simple reason for this is park effects. The Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, or whatever they’re calling it these days — I have stopped paying the slightest attention to these constantly changing corporate-sponsored appellations — is a far more difficult place to hit than New-Age Yankee Stadium. It eats home runs and laughs at batting average. It has huge swaths of foul territory, so none of those check-swing pop-ups ever go out of play. This should be of great concern to a fellow who just hit 17 of his 24 home runs in his home park, as should the fact that in his previous stop at Oakland, a much-younger Damon hit just .247/333/.323 in the park.
Damon’s 2009 road production was actually pretty good. He hit .284/.349/.446. However, he hit just seven home runs in 278 at-bats, and his batting average would seem to have been fueled by a .330 batting average on balls in play, a figure that is unlikely to repeat. Take away ten home runs and 20 or so points of batting average from Damon and you have a 36-year-old, .265 hitter with 14 or 15 home runs. In short, you have the version of Damon that played for the Yankees in 2007 and hit .270/.351/.396.
If Damon returns to New York and can maintain the swing that he has seemingly adjusted to fit the generous right field line, he should at the very least maintain his power production. That player gets to come back for another season, gets to spend another year chasing 3,000 hits and a spot in the Hall of Fame. That guy probably also finishes his career somewhere in the top 25 in career runs scored — he’s 208 trips around the bases away. The Green ‘n’ Gold-style Damon ends his career at 36, somewhere short of 2,600 career safeties. Maybe it’s just me, but when you’ve already got millions, a piece of history should be worth more than leaving a few dollars on the table. Damon is entitled to place a different value on things, of course, but the rest of your life is a long time to think about what might have been.