Johnny Damon, like Jacoby Ellsbury, starred with the Red Sox before leaving for the Yankees as a free agent. (AP)
Johnny Damon appeared on Mut & Merloni on Wednesday and discussed the Yankees’ reported signing of Jacoby Ellsbury while revealing details of his own departure from Boston.
Ellsbury, who won two World Series with the Red Sox, reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $153 million contract with New York on Tuesday night. Damon, after spending four seasons as Boston’s center fielder and claiming a World Series with the Sox, also signed with the Yankees once his Boston contract expired in 2005.
“I respect the way [Ellsbury] plays, I know there were tons of comparisons with me when he came out of college, and there are plenty of comparisons now, too,” Damon said. “I know he’s a good kid, he needs to stay healthy, I think he will do great in New York.
“I think the toughest thing for Jacoby is going to be going back to Boston, and everything leading up to it,” Damon added. “What do you think the fans are going to do, are they going to cheer you or are they going to boo you? He’s going to have to answer that question so many times, and probably every time he goes back for the next seven years.”
Two seasons after Damon played an integral role in Boston’s unforgettable ALCS comeback vs. the Yankees in 2004, he was donning the pinstripes. This came as a shock to him because he put together a spectacular year in for Boston 2005, and he said he was even told by Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to purchase a house in the Boston area.
“I was so upset that I didn’t re-sign with Boston,” Damon said, adding: “[The Red Sox] told me to buy a house, I did, and then they don’t sign me and I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, boy, this is not good.’ I talked to Theo and he told me I’d be there for a long time.”
Although leaving Boston hurt Damon, he eventually moved on.
“It kind of worked out. Jacoby was coming up a year after me, if I would have signed he may not have had that chance in Boston,” Damon said. “It’s a business these teams are running, and they have to have multiple plans, and that’s how this plan worked out. There’s no harsh feelings about it.”
On Tuesday, Boston signed free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year, $8.25 million contract to replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who signed with the Marlins on Tuesday as well.
“A.J.’s the best,” said Damon, who played with Pierzynski as a teenager. “The thing is he’s honest. I guess that’s how they taught us in Orlando, we’ve always been very honest and upfront, there’s no reason to sugarcoat anything. This is how we are.
“He bugs people,” Damon acknowlegded, adding: “I’ve known him since he was 14 years old, so I’ve had to deal with other players coming to me and saying, ‘How can you stand him? How can you do this?’ And I’m like, ‘A.J. is one of the best people I know.’ ”
Ellsbury is represented by Scott Boras, the same agent Damon used.
“He’s so educated. He has this system,” Damon said of Boras. “You always hear, ‘The GMs don’t like him,’ and all that. I don’t think that. I think they respect him. I think he has a great working relationship with teams. When he represents a player, teams know how talented those players are. And the type of of people — he doesn’t represent just anybody. He tries to get top-notch clients.
“And that fact that he’s played before — there were many times I would call him during my career and say, ‘I don’t understand why I’m not hitting. I don’t understand why I’m getting booed by the Boston fans still.’ He knows. He gets it. And that’s why I’ve been with him. He was my adviser before my agent. It’s been going on 24 years now. We’ve come a long ways. He knows what to bring to me and he knows what not to. I can happily say that he was my only agent throughout my career.”
To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.