Even though he has not played baseball since 2012, former Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees star Johnny Damon, who recently turned 40 years old, has not formally retired yet. There were reports earlier in the year that Damon might try to make a comeback. There is still talk and still no definitive reports, but more has been learned about the aging outfielder’s future plans.
According to Tampa Bay Times reporter, Marc Topkin, Damon told him that he is open to still playing baseball or even managing a club. There was one stipulation however; Damon refuses to manage or play on the minor league level. Those are high aspirations for the former star and two time World Series Champion, but are they too high?
It is somewhat understandable that playing in the minor leagues would be a big step down and not forward for Damon. Yet, he is not even open to managing on the minor league level? Most former players who have become managers and most managers in general have had to start at the minor league level in order to advance to being the skipper of a Major League Baseball team. It is a job that takes time to move into. Normally, it is unlikely for anyone to just jump in at the highest level.
Damon’s apparent ego aside, let’s look at this realistically. Damon turned 40 in November and the last time he even played the game of baseball was for the country of Thailand in last year’s World Baseball Classic (WBC). While Damon put up good numbers in the WBC Qualifying Round, going 3-7 with a walk and no strikeouts in two games, Thailand lost both games and did not advance to the WBC Tournament Round.
Prior to playing those two games in the WBC, Damon appeared in just 64 games for the Cleveland Indians in 2012. He hit just .222 in 224 plate appearances. The Indians released him in early August of that year.
During the years preceding his short stint with the Indians, there had been a noticeable decline in Damon’s numbers and skills. His number of strikeouts remained the same but his number of walks diminished. Known for his speed and base stealing abilities, Damon’s age was appearing to catch up with him. There were even questions of his ability to play in the outfield and he spent most of 2010 and 2011 in the designated hitter’s role. It should also be noted that while playing for Thailand, Damon, played in the infield. Despite spending a single season playing for the Oakland Athletics in 2001, Damon spent the majority of his 18-year career split between the Kansas City Royals, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Between 2010 and 2012, however, he bounced around among the Detroit Tigers, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Indians.
In his prime, Damon was definitely a force to be reckoned with. He was considered one of the elite outfielders in the game and posted a career .284 batting average. He was an above average doubles hitter, often hitting 30 or more in a season. He regularly stole over 20 bases a year with ease. He was a member of the 2004 World Series Champion Red Sox in 2004, helping lead them to break the Curse of the Bambino and win their first championship in 86 years. Damon became a World Champion for the second time in 2009 while playing in New York with the Yankees.
Is Damon reaching too high and being too elitist in saying he will only play or manage in the majors? Most would say yes. With the number of younger options out there for teams that need outfield or even infield depth, a minor league contract in Damon’s future appears bleak, let alone a major league contract. It is also highly unlikely that a MLB team would hand over the reins of their ball club to someone with no coaching or managerial experience. Unless Damon can lower his standards a bit, it is doubtful that he will ever be seen again in a major league uniform.