Archive for Sunday, May 14, 2006

Damon ‘cool’ with Boss’ barbs

May 14, 2006


— We're all capable of reciting the lines by heart, every time George Steinbrenner gets ready to air out his team or the whipping boy of choice. The only new twist from The Boss this week was his chilly reference to "the third baseman" instead of calling out Alex Rodriguez by name.

Otherwise, it's life as usual inside the empire's wall: Slump long enough and you're guaranteed to fuel the turbines of Steinbrenner's temper. So, what exactly does a recent newcomer like Johnny Damon think of the bizarre new world he's chosen to live in?

Damon says, "I'm cool with it." If Steinbrenner wants to pick fights with his best players, it's nothing Damon hasn't seen or heard about in his 13 years in the American League.

But this is the first time Damon's witnessing the in-house angst firsthand, which mushrooms whenever the Yankees lose to Boston, especially at home.

The Stadium is an uptight place; Joe Torre looks stressed, the players don't feel like talking, even the ball boys look shakier gloving foul balls. Think there wasn't heat on the Yankees on Thursday night? Torre actually brought his infield in with a runner on third in the fourth inning, then used four pitchers to get three outs in the sixth inning.

Damon knows this is all part of the surcharge for being a Yankee and taking Steinbrenner's money - The Boss offered him $12 million more than the Red Sox did last winter. That's why Damon again says he's fine with an owner who reacts to every loss like this is October.

Still, Damon has lived on both sides of the wall, and admits there's a wide gulf between the two worlds.

"With the Red Sox, whenever we lost to the Yankees, we were like, 'We'll get 'em tomorrow,"' Damon said. "Here, it's different, I can see that. We all know George is around. We know how important it is to beat the Red Sox.

"But I'd rather have an owner that comes to the games and cares about winning than one who's just trying to make a profit. I know what George said about Alex, but it's a long season. After 162 games, we're going to be in good shape."

That's Damon's blessing, the ability to cut through the fear and loathing that's sabotaged other first-year Yankees. They've all struggled as freshmen in pinstripes - from A-Rod, to Jason Giambi, even Roger Clemens.

Damon, however, has made a relatively smooth transition to the win-or-else philosophy, even though he has only one hit in 16 at-bats against the Red Sox this season.

Overall, though, he's hit close to .300 all season and proved his worth in the field. But that's not going to save him from Steinbrenner if his poor hitting against the Red Sox stretches much longer. Those are the rules in the Bronx: Fail against Boston and you become The Boss' next target.

To this, Damon takes a deep breath and says he's prepared for the worst.

"I know it could be me next, and if I'm playing bad, that's the way it should be," he said. "But the one thing George is going to get from me is that I play hard every day and I'm going to be accountable."


xenophonschild 12 years ago

Only cheer for two teams: the magnificent, noble New York Yankees, and whoever is playing the vile, wretched Boston Red Sox.

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