It’s not precisely accurate to say the Yankees won’t “pursue” Johnny Damon. A better way to describe it is the Yankees won’t open the door to Damon’s scratching and give him a few scraps of food from Curtis Granderson‘s plate.
Damon has made it no secret that he’d like to return to the Yankees and the Yankees have made no secret that they’re not interested. By acting as if they’re considering it, the Yankees are being nice to a player who contributed significantly to their last World Series win in 2009, but short of telling him in no uncertain terms to go away, there’s not much else they can do to make their feelings any clearer.
Damon wants to play and seems to be under the impression that because there were implications that, while with the Rays, he was expanding his strike zone to try and get more hits to reach the magical number of 3,000, he’s been blackballed as a “selfish” player. There’s not much depth to this argument. Teams will sign a player who can help them. Period. Unless there’s something behind the scenes that we don’t know about, it’s not personal with Damon.
When teams judge him, they see someone who:
- Is 39-years-old
- Can’t play the outfield every day and can’t play it well defensively anymore
- Can’t run as fast and steal bases as frequently as he once did
- Had a .222/.281/.329 slash line in 224 plate appearances with the Indians in 2012
- Doesn’t hit for enough power to be a DH
Even without the unattributed accusations of playing for himself while with the Rays, he probably wouldn’t find a team because what he can provide can be found cheaper and younger on the market or in the minors.
Hitting is a selfish act and as careers wind down and the opportunity for the immortality (and money) that accompanies Hall of Fame induction lends itself to being even more selfish. Many players think this way, only Damon isn’t capable of putting forth the pretense of team-oriented play as others are. If I had to guess, I’d say that Damon—perhaps half-jokingly—said something to the tune of wanting to get 3,000 hits and expressed his willingness to swing at balls out of his zone to do it; or perhaps someone, somewhere implied it and it ballooned into “fact.” There are a million potential reasons that Damon appeared less patient with the Rays and very few are related to chicanery. Perhaps he’s just an older player who’s not as good as he once was and had to compensate for age and a slow bat by guessing and swinging at pitches he wouldn’t have five years ago.
It really doesn’t matter.
If those allegations are true, teams wouldn’t let that stop them from signing him if they felt he had anything left. The Yankees and other teams aren’t interested in Damon because they don’t think he can help them. It’s as simple as that.