Johnny Damon never wanted to leave the Yankees after winning the World Series in 2009. But he, along with World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, were goners after not getting the money they wanted. And in Damon’s eyes, that’s why the Yankees couldn’t win another championship in the years following title No. 27.
“I knew why they couldn’t get it done. I wasn’t there,” Damon said recently on the “Break a Bat” podcast. “Matsui wasn’t there. At least one of us should’ve been there. You just had a different feel for them.”
After the 2009 season, the talk was that Damon wanted the same $13 million a season he had just made with the Yankees the previous four years. The Yankees didn’t want to pay Damon that, and as the offseason went on, the signings of Nick Johnson and Randy Winn ultimately left no room for Damon, who said not being brought back was “crushing.” Here’s what Damon says now about what transpired.
“I really wanted to come back. They ended up offering a contract, and I just wanted to talk a little bit,” Damon said on the podcast. “My agent (said,) ‘You only have five minutes to take it.’ I was like, ‘Why do I have five minutes? Let me see what they’re thinking.’ They wanted to cut my salary in half, and I was like, ‘why don’t we cut it by 30 percent?’ I’ll be happy with that. I know I’m getting older, my outfield isn’t as great as it was. So I was saying ‘OK, 30 percent cut.’ Then Nick Johnson signed and I’m like, ‘Man, yeah, he might have a great on-base percentage, but I can score from anywhere and I was a team leader.’
“I don’t know. Winning the World Series and all of a sudden, you’re out. But I get it. It’s a business. It really stinks, but I get it. They haven’t won since and that’s the shame of it, because Matsui and I, you never had to change the lineup. With a right-hander or left-hander, the lineup was the same the entire time. They ended up replacing us with [Brett] Gardner and [Curtis] Granderson, and yes, very good players, but they’d hit one and two against a right-hander, and with a left-hander they’ll hit six and nine, or one would play and one wouldn’t. So your lineup changes every single day. I’ll tell you, that’s super hard as a player. Even though the baseball nerds, sabermetric guys, they think it shouldn’t matter, but it matters a lot.”
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Damon, 46, was a part of the Red Sox’s curse-breaking 2004 World Series team. When asked whether he was more of a Yankee or Red Sock, he spoke more favorably of New York.
“I tell people Boston is like an ex-girlfriend where you wish them well and you loved being a part of it, but you know what, you move on, your life gets great, you marry your trophy wife and you have six more kids. That’s what New York was for me,” Damon said. “I appreciated everything with Boston, and I feel for them. I feel for the fans because even now, they just got rid of their best player, Mookie Betts. It always happens for Boston. Yankee players aren’t necessarily leaving if they don’t have to. Yankee players are going to stay, but Boston – when I came over to New York in 2006, there were only six guys left from the 2004 Red Sox team. … They always look at me and say ‘How could you? How could you?’ Well, all my guys are gone.”