Damon's defection talk of town
Fans, media debate free agent's move to New York
BOSTON -- With Red Sox Nation reeling from the loss of another popular player to the Yankees, sports talk radio around Boston was, as you might have expected, dominated by Johnny Damon on Wednesday.
"I think they were calling [George] Steinbrenner's bluff," said Glenn Ordway, host of the "Big Show" on WEEI. "They did not believe that the Yankees were going to come in and pay more money for him.
"Third place is ours. I think we've got Baltimore -- I think we've got 'em."
Summing up, Ordway said, "I don't think the Red Sox thought the Yankees were serious about this."
Later, he added: "It was a card game. It was a poker match and they thought the Yankees were bluffing them."
Ordway criticized the Red Sox for holding a press conference after losing a player -- that this is the kind of thing you do when you sign a player and not when you lose one.
The host also nailed the Sox for contradicting themselves at the end of the press conference by admitting they had heard from agent Scott Boras -- after maintaining that they had not.
Ordway was joined by Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald.
"Now, to replace him, you have to start creating holes in other places," said Massarotti. "Now, they're going to have to overpay. Teams know they have the Red Sox over a barrel."
With the news of Damon's deal not coming out until 11 p.m. on Tuesday night -- Ch. 4, the local CBS affiliate, breaking the story with an interview with Damon -- the local newspapers scrambled to make editions.
In the Boston Globe, columnist Dan Shaughnessy took shots at both the team and Damon over the way this went down.
"While New England slept last night, Damon got into bed with the enemy," wrote Shaughnessy. "Sox officials smugly believed there was no market for their marquee center fielder and the Yankees took advantage of Boston's big sleep."
"So now your Boston Red Sox have no center fielder, no shortstop, and no first baseman, to go along with no Theo Epstein and no clue," he wrote.
He also wrote: "The Red Sox won't recover from this one easily. In an already dismal offseason, they've now lost their center fielder and their leadoff hitter. They've also lost a local icon, a rare favorite of teenage girls and fanboy bloggers."
He closed out his column by saying, "Bottom line: The Yankees just got better and more interesting and the Red Sox just got worse and more boring. And a Nation is certain to wonder if this would have happened if Theo were still on the job."
The written attack was strong and Damon wasn't spared after quickly calling the Yankees "we" and calling himself "the best leadoff hitter in the game."
Said Shaughnessy: "Thanks, Johnny. Very humble of you."
He also said, "For all his athletic gifts, we always knew Johnny had the depth of your average kiddie pool, and it's therefore entirely believable that he could invoke the royal Yankee 'we' so quickly."
The Globe news story, co-authored by Gordon Edes and Chris Snow, led with: "A Red Sox offseason of discontent and upheaval took a shocking turn last night when free agent center fielder Johnny Damon, who had achieved rock star status in Boston, defected to the New York Yankees ..."
In the Herald, Michael Silverman's overnight lead was simple, reading, "The idiot wears pinstripes." Silverman also wrote, "Damon's departure leaves the Red Sox with a glaring hole in the leadoff spot."
Providence Journal sports editor Art Martone wrote, "Clearly irritated by the Sox' failure to offer him the contract he felt he deserved, Damon late last night reached preliminary agreement with the Yankees on a four-year, $52-million contract that is contingent on his passing a physical."
Martone also pointed to a bulletin board posting on Sons of Sam Horn that read: "Good-bye, Johnny, I guess you really are an idiot after all."
In the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, Rob Bradford led with, "The Evil Empire isn't dead yet."
In the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Bill Ballou led with, "The Red Sox found themselves looking at the 2006 season with huge holes at the top of their batting order and in the middle of their outfield."
On television, Ch. 7, the local NBC affiliate, had one fan calling Damon a "traitor" and another one saying "He sold out." The station also had a report from New York, where Yankees fans were thrilled. An interview with right-hander Bronson Arroyo had the pitcher saying he thought the Yankees took the Sox by surprise. A follow-up report centered on Damon's "rock-star" status, with reporter Jonathan Hall saying, "One silver lining ... at least we don't have to watch him throw the ball anymore."
On WEEI, some fans -- and one of the earlier hosts -- tried to put a positive spin on losing Damon. Some said he wasn't worth the money, some said his body will give out before the four years on his new contract do. Said one: "I think the Yankees are making a mistake."
But the general feeling in Boston was that it was the Red Sox -- and not their rivals -- who had made the mistake.
Mike Shalin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.