Joel Sherman of the NY Post recaps posted an article last night that recaps what went down and what went wrong between the Yankees and the Damon/Boras camp in trying to get a deal done. He writes:
Both camps played the semantic game. Scott Boras, Damon’s agent, said yesterday the Yankees “have not made an offer to date.” Yankees GM Brian Cashman countered by saying that on Dec. 17 Boras told him Damon would “not take a penny less than $13 million [a year].”
The Yankees responded by signing Nick Johnson and a subsequent trade for Javier Vazquez left just $2 million in Hal Steinbrenner’s budget for another outfielder, too little for Damon’s liking.
“We wanted Johnny back and we are sorry he is not back,” Cashman said. “But you can’t say publicly with a straight face that we didn’t make an offer because we were told not to make an offer because we were not in the same ballpark.”
Before this round of bad feelings teemed, however, there had been recent attempts to rekindle negotiations.
In the middle of last week, Damon called Yankees officials in New York, The Post has learned. Steinbrenner was on his honeymoon. However, a top Yankees executive told Damon that if he accepted a $6 million deal with $3 million deferred that Steinbrenner could, perhaps, be convinced to approve that; though many Yankees officials remain sure that the young Boss would never budge off of $2 million.
Sherman’s take is to try to make this personal, that there were bruised egos on both sides that led to inflexibility. But to me, this is simply an example of how the Hal Steinbrenner-Brian Cashman regime is running the team, which is the larger point to be made here. Unlike his father, Hal is a hands-off owner. He sets a number and Cashman works within it. Brian would have to really go to the mat to get the number changed, and Johnny simply wasn’t important enough for Brian to take a bullet for. The Yanks had already improved upon their 09 World Series winning team this off season with the additions of Granderson, Johnson and Vasquez. They didn’t need to bust their budget for Johnny.
Fans who refused to accept this new ownership reality were engaging in wishful thinking and setting themselves up to be disappointed. This wasn’t the Mark Teixeira situation. Tex represented a clear need on the team and a sea change in the AL East, since you’d effectively be taking him away from the Red Sox at the same time. That one move was a pivotal event in last year’s off season, one that put the Yanks ahead of Boston and one that the Sox are still scrambling to recover from. Johnny Damon simply wasn’t anywhere near as important to Brian Cashman. He plays a position (poorly) that’s easy to fill, one which may already be filled as the Yanks are kicking around the Granderson in Left scenario that EJ discussed here a few weeks ago.
We could get into concepts like the marginal value of a win and where a team is on the win curve to prove why his departure is no big deal. We could discuss how smart GMs always tinker with World Series championship teams to keep them from getting complacent. But I understand that Johnny’s appeal went beyond good management principles and the stats he produced on an annual basis. Some fans really liked the Johnny on a personal level. To them, it doesn’t have anything to do with the business of running a team, which I’ll admit is mostly how I view these things. I can understand where they’re coming from, I just never had such strong feelings for him good or bad. It’s not like he was Graig Nettles, Bernie Williams or David Cone, who were all players that I had a similar reaction to upon their departure. To me, Johnny was just another one of the really good players who pass through here all the time. I wish him well wherever he lands.
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