Saturday, July 31, 2010

Still Judas?

The Detroit Tigers are at Fenway Park for the first time in 2010, and that also means it is the first time that Johnny Damon will be at Fenway since he abandoned the pinstripes last winter.

He didn't play in last night's game with lefty Jon Lester going. With Daisuke Matsuzaka going this afternoon, you figure he will be in the lineup today. (UPDATE: No Damon today, as apparently he's been suffering from back spasms. Hmm.)

The reaction he will get should be interesting.

Much has been written about it, and I guess every Red Sox fan has opinion about it. So here's mine.

Even after he left in a rather deplorable way in late 2005 as a free agent, Damon's gotten it from the Fenway Faithful. "Judas" became his new nickname. Fans were really pissed off at him and his mouthpiece, Scott "Dr. Evil" Boras. I was especially miffed after Damon said in May 2005 that he's never go to New York. But he's a business man as well as a ballplayer (remember, the Sox got him as a free agent in 2002), and he went for the big money in New York. So be it.

But I've always felt that when the pinstripes were eventually shed, the raging hatred at Damon would start to wear thin. After all, he had one of the biggest hits in Red Sox history (the grand slam off Javier Vazquez in the 2004 ALCS Game 7), and was part of a history-making group that got the Sox and their fans to the Promised Land for the first time in our memories.

Despite the acrimony over his departure, he was always a good sort who was well-liked by the fans here. The difference between him and Roger Clemens, for example, is stark. Clemens was just a me-first guy who burned all his bridges on his departure in 1996. He had little use for the fans when he went to Toronto, and even bad-mouthed them after the Sox won it all in 2004. (I'll never forget the standing ovation he got at Fenway in 2003 when everyone thought he was retiring. It sickened me.) Red Sox management tried their best to get him back in the good graces of the fans in 2007, but he rejected it and went back to NY for their desperation big bucks instead (and thankfully, he did).

Anyway, the point is is that Clemens will never be back in the good graces of Red Sox fans. Ever. He is a pariah, a man without a team. I don't what will happen with Damon today, but I don't think you'll see either a lot of hate or love directed his way. I think Sox fans have gone past his Yankee years, and as time goes by, he will be appreciated more for his role in the 2004 World Series Champions.

And after he leaves the game, I still think that Damon will give an interview to someone and he will say: "Leaving Boston was the biggest mistake I ever made."

We'll see.

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