Johnny Damon calls for players-only meeting in Tampa after horrendous start

Tampa Bay Rays’ Johnny Damon (L-R), Manny Ramirez and Evan Longoria walk to the dugout after taking batting practice before a MLB spring training game with the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, March 1, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The 2011 MLB season isn’t even two weeks old and already we’ve had our first players-only meeting called.

According to Tampa, Rays’ outfielder Johnny Damon, being the veteran he is, decided to call a brief players-only meeting after the club extended its season-opening losing streak to 0-6.

“We just talked amongst ourselves to make sure we stay together,” Damon said. “This is not what we envisioned where we were going to be at this point. We can either sulk about it or embrace it and say, we have to get better. We have to forget about all this that happened. 0-6, it stinks, we hate to be in this position, but it’s not the end of the world. We know we have to go out and start winning games and we feel like once we do and once we get that and try not to put so much pressure on ourselves we can start to roll. And we keep saying hopefully sooner than later. …

“We’re in this together. There’s not going to be any separation of why aren’t the hitters hitting. No, we’re together in this. We’re 0-6 together. And now it’s time for us to win some games together.”

Damon is a good pro and he’s been around the game a long time. But there’s no magic recipe to keeping guys happy and united as a team: You have to freaking win. Damon is barely hitting the weight of a newborn baby (1-for-19, .053) and his defensive play has been comical at times. I respect what he’s trying to do but the bottom line is that the Rays just need to play better on a whole. They need to pick up that first win, and then get the second, and then the third, etc. Winning cures all.

That said, I think the bigger problem here is that the Rays just aren’t that good. They lost Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour and Dioner Navarro and replaced them with Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Kyle Farnsworth and Felipe Lopez. I’m sorry, but the way they’ve started off the year isn’t surprising. I didn’t expect them to go a combined 0-6 in their first two series, but there are many people who believe that this club will struggle all year and I’m among them.

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Rays in talks with free agent Johnny Damon has confirmed reports that the Rays are talking with free agent Johnny Damon about a contract, although no deal has been signed yet. The Rays are looking to fill their vacant DH spot and Damon could also play part time in left field as well.

Damon, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero are among several prominent veteran designated hitters still on the market. The Rays have been open-minded in their search, according to sources, but have only a limited amount of money to sign another bat.

The source said that while a Damon-Rays union “certainly could happen,” the two sides are not yet close to an agreement.

The 37-year-old Damon hit .271 with eight home runs and 51 RBIs with the Detroit Tigers last season. He has 2,571 career hits in 16 seasons with Kansas City, Oakland, Boston, New York and Detroit.

Speaking of Man-Ram, T.R. Sullivan of writes that the Rangers are pursuing the former Indian/Red Sox/Dodger/woman’s fertility drug user/White Sox to potentially DH for them. The plan is to use Michael Young as their primary DH, but he could also play first base and move Mitch Moreland into a part-time role. Of course, Moreland proved to be the only Ranger that could hit Giant pitching in the World Series, so maybe it would be best if Texas leave Moreland right where he’s at.

Getting back to Damon, I can’t see the Rays signing him unless he comes cheap. He can’t play the outfield on a regular basis because he has the arm strength of a tyrannosaur and he’s not worth more than a couple of million at this stage in his career. He’s a good clubhouse guy and he would certainly be nice to have in the playoffs but the Rays need to be frugal here.

Top 10 active base hits leaders

I read yesterday that one of Pete Rose’s bats was being auctioned off, the one he used for his last hit, number 4256. And it made me wonder if that will ever be topped. I can’t imagine it will be, but stranger things have happened. Of course, the Baseball Hall of Fame still fails to recognize what Rose did on the field because of what he did as a manager off the field. But that’s for another post. Here is a look at the Top 10 active leaders in base hits:

1. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (2824)—The classiest player by far in the big leagues today, and the epitome of someone who plays the game right and just gets it. I look forward to Jeter notching his 3000th hit, which will likely be next season.

2. Ivan Rodriguez, Washington Nationals (2781)—In his twentieth season this year, I-Rod is batting .331. No loss of bat speed with this guy, that’s for sure.

3. Omar Vizquel, Chicago White Sox (2724)—Amazingly, Vizquel is in his 22nd season and still looks like he’s 28 years old. I got to see him play in his prime in Cleveland, and he was/is the best defensive shortstop I’ve ever seen. But he has clearly racked up hits too.

4. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (2596)—Well, duh. The question is, though, will he eventually be the all-time home run king?

5. Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (2530)—Yeah, he juiced, and so did A-Rod. But these two guys still have to be incredibly talented ball players to rack up this many hits.

6. Garret Anderson, Los Angeles Dodgers (2515)—Steady and classy as well, but it’s just hard to believe Garret Anderson is 38 years old. Didn’t he just break into the bigs?

7. Johnny Damon, Detroit Tigers (2482)—Scrappy, solid player, and he just keeps on grinding. But do any of you remember Damon’s days with the Royals? I sure don’t.

8. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves (2444)—Another guy who defines playing the game the way it was meant to be played, and he just keeps on hitting well into his thirties.

9. Vladimir Guerrero, Texas Rangers (2326)—He’s hitting .339 with 53 RBI on June 11. Vlad is another ageless wonder.

10. Edgar Renteria, San Francisco Giants (2213)—It’s kind of amazing that Renteria is on this list, even though he’s never had a 200-hit season. But he’s been reliable and consistent all these years.

Source: Baseball Reference

Tigers’ signing of Damon a tad perplexing

I get it – Johnny Damon can hit a little and that’s why the Tigers just finalized a one-year, $8 million deal with the free agent over the weekend. But just because he can hit, doesn’t mean the signing makes sense.

Damon won’t hit another 24 home runs and drive in another 80-plus RBI this season away from Yankee Stadium. Even though he holds a .363 batting average in 189 plate appearances at Comerica Park, it’s likely that he’ll he max out at 15 home runs, 70 RBIs and hit around .290 in a full season in Detroit.

Is that worth $8 million even if it’s only for one year? Is that worth pushing a deserving Ryan Rayburn (who hit 16 home runs and slugged .533 in 261 at bats last season) into a rotation with Damon, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez?

To me, it’s not. I think the Tigers overpaid for what they’ll eventually get in Damon and I’m confused as to why they traded a younger and more athletic Curtis Granderson just so they could turn around and pay a 36-year-old with a wet noodle for an arm. I realize Granderson struggled mightily against left-handed pitching, but he brings way more to the table defensively than Damon does and he’s eight years younger. I just don’t get how one year of Johnny Damon was worth $8 million to a club that will probably wind up in the middle of the AL Central again this year, especially when they already had a DH in Guillen.

If Damon comes in and flourishes at the top of the Tigers’ lineup, I’ll gladly eat my words. But I just don’t see a lot of value in a club paying $8 million for a player that will certainly have declining numbers.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Report: White Sox pull offer for Damon

According to ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine, the White Sox have pulled their offer for Johnny Damon, leading many to believe that the Tigers are now the clear favorites to land the free agent outfielder.

“It became clear to us in our recent negotiations that the money that we were offering was not going to be good enough for Johnny at this time,” White Sox general manager Kenny Williams told “At this particular point, we feel it’s necessary to withdraw our offer.”

The White Sox made a $6 million offer for Damon, according to major league sources.

Asked if the White Sox would get back into the running for Damon at some point, Williams said: “As you can see by the way that we kept going after this situation, we are very much interested in the player. All I can say is that I reiterate at this time that this offer for now is off the table.”

Only in Scott Boras’ world is Johnny Damon worth $6 million. The White Sox made the right decision here by pulling the offer on the table and not getting into a potential bidding war with the Tigers over a 36-year-old player that can’t play the field and isn’t likely to hit 20-plus home runs (or even 15-plus home runs) outside of Yankee Stadium.

Boras and Damon should come to the realization that it’s either Detroit or come down on their demands.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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