Damon vetoes return engagement to Boston
Claimed by Red Sox, Tigers outfielder blocks potential deal
BOSTON -- Johnny Damon's possible return to the Red Sox was a hot-button topic for roughly 24 hours. But Damon ended any chance of that spicy plot line when he informed the Tigers on Tuesday afternoon that he would not waive his no-trade rights to come back to the team he helped win the World Series in 2004.
"I'm not going," Damon told reporters in Detroit before Tuesday night's Tigers-Royals game.
The Red Sox claimed Damon on waivers on Monday afternoon and would have had until 1:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday to strike a deal with Detroit.
His former teammates who still remain in Boston -- and there are only a handful of them -- respected his decision.
"I said it before, I'll say it again: playing with Johnny, the way he plays the game, the way he goes about his business, it would have been a welcome visit to have him back here," said catcher Jason Varitek. "I reached out to him as a friend, as a teammate, and ultimately he obviously had some decisions to make, which I can't even fathom what all had to go into it."
The fondness Damon has for Varitek, David Ortiz, Tim Wakefield and Red Sox manager Terry Francona was probably the top reason he would have approved the trade. But Damon has gained tremendous comfort during his one season in Detroit and acknowledged over the past couple of days that his acrimonious parting with the Red Sox -- when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent -- still left a sour taste in his mouth.
"I made it clear to [the Tigers] if they needed me to go, I would've gone for them," Damon said. "This is my fifth team. I'm OK playing everywhere. But I wanted the assurance from my teammates that they really wanted me here. The higher-ups really like the attitude I bring, so they were pretty much giving me a choice. It made my decision a lot easier. I would've loved to have gone back and played with Big Papi and Varitek, but that time has come and passed."
Even those who didn't play with Damon during his time in Boston were intrigued at the possibility of a return.
"For me, hearing about it yesterday and just kind of looking at the aspect, considering the buzz that Johnny created for many years here, one of the original 'Idiots' of the World Series champions here, I thought it would be a great idea," said center fielder Mike Cameron, who is out for the season with a lower abdomen injury. "But sometimes the ideas of others are not the same as the person who actually has to be in the situation."
Cameron is one of the players Damon would have helped to replace. Jacoby Ellsbury, who is also unlikely to play again in 2010, is another. Damon could have helped provide a spark to a Boston team that entered Tuesday's action trailing by 5 1/2 games in both the American League East and the AL Wild Card standings.
"Like I say, I was hoping he would come, but it was something that neither you nor I could decide," said Ortiz. "He's the one that had to decide what to do for his own and do whatever he wanted to do."
"I know Johnny's going to do whatever is best for him and his family," said closer Jonathan Papelbon. "I've always admired Johnny since I came here in '05. He was one of the players who kind of took me under his wing. He kind of showed me the ropes of the big leagues. I wish him nothing but the best."
While the Red Sox didn't reacquire Damon, they were successful in blocking him from winding up with the two teams they are trying to catch -- the Yankees and Rays. If Damon had cleared waivers, any team would have been free to make a trade with the Tigers for him.
Now, the current group of Red Sox will try to keep plugging forward in search of that one torrid streak that could get them right back in the thick of the races.
"When this team's back has been put up against the wall, I think that's kind of when we've been at our best," said Papelbon.
Is that where the Red Sox are right now?
"It's getting closer and closer," said Papelbon. "It's getting closer and closer to crunch time. The numbers will unfold, and in the end, we'll see where we're at."
Either way, Damon -- a cornerstone for the Sox from 2002-05 -- will not be a part of Boston's stretch run.
"I texted with Varitek and I talked to Big Papi," said Damon. "And their whole thing is they want a spark. They obviously feel like they need a spark. If I was going there, obviously, it's going to be the biggest story in baseball to detract them from what's going on the field, because the attention's on me and my wacky self. But that's not going to happen. That's done."