August 2, 2010

Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald likes Johnny Damon’s game.
“The plan was to chat up Johnny Damon yesterday afternoon and ask the onetime Red Sox cult hero
about his chances of one day joining baseball’s 3,000 Hit Club. Which would make him a candidate
for the Hall of Fame.

Johnny Damon? In the Hall of Fame?

For it was something else that Damon, now playing for the Detroit Tigers, said yesterday that
raised eyebrows. Damon, you’ll recall, was a key contributor when the Red Sox won the World
Series in 2004. He left via free agency following the 2005 season and signed with the Yankees.
In 2007, without Damon, the Sox won another World Series.

But check this out: Damon believes more championship banners would be flying at Fenway Park had
he never left.

“Actually think they would have won one more here”, he said. “During that offseason (after 2005)
we just acquired Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, and I was coming off a solid year.

“Signing me I thought would have been a very easy thing to do. But with stuff going on in the
front office here – was Theo (Epstein) here, was he not – but things happen for a reason. I
loved playing here. I went to New York, which was against a lot of people’s wishes. But I fell
in love with New York, also. I’m one of those players, I guess you could say like a David Cone,
who can go anywhere and make the best of it. And that’s what I did.

“I knew I kept telling them I was ready to come back, but it fell on deaf ears, so I enjoyed
four years in New York and now, I’m in Detroit.”

Although it’s impossible to gauge whether the Red Sox might have won a championship in 2006,
’08 or ‘09 had Damon been in the lineup, the veteran outfielder’s comments were delivered at an
interesting time. Not long after he had finished talking with a couple of writers in the
visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park, there was some lineup changes in the home clubhouse. Right
fielder J.D. Drew reported his latest hamstring crisis to manager Terry Francona, which means
that, presto, the new right fielder for the Sox was Jeremy Hermida.

In a curious twist, Damon, too, was a late scratch because of back spasms.

That Drew was out wasn’t news. Happens a lot. But Red Sox fans aren’t used to not seeing Damon.
In his four seasons with the Red Sox, Damon played in 154, 145, 150 and 148 games.

Things didn’t change much for Damon during his Yankees years. The guy averaged 144 games a
season with them.

So, would the Sox have squeezed out another championship had they kept Damon? Impossible to say.
But he always played, or tried to play, and managers love it when their players want to play.
Which brings us to the Hall of Fame. Damon went into last night’s game with 2,520 career hits.
He is 36. Give him another three seasons and he’ll likely reach hit 3,000. And just so you know,
every player in history who has amassed 3,000 hits (with the exception of Gamblin’ Pete Rose) is
in the Hall of Fame.

Critics will argue that Damon never “dominated his era,” that he never won a Gold Glove, that he
never finished in the top 10 in MVP balloting. Oh, and there will be this inevitable, tired
whine: “If you have to think about whether a guy is a Hall of Famer, then he’s not.”

Whenever somebody belches out those words, what they really are saying is, “If I have to do my
homework and examine his case, which I am too lazy to do, then he’s not a Hall of Famer.”

Anybody can pick Henry Aaron, Tom Seaver and Mickey Mantle. Duh. It gets harder when examining
the cases of such players as Jim Rice (who finally got in) and Bert Blyleven (still waiting for
the call), players who, while not in the company of Aaron, Seaver and Mantle, are nonetheless

The case for Damon includes 1,545 (and climbing) runs scored, two World Series rings and, again,
a reputation for almost always playing. And the hits: In the entire history of Major League
Baseball, only 27 players have accumulated 3,000.

“Longevity,” people will say.

Fair enough.

But if being in the lineup practically every day for 16 seasons is so easy, then why don’t more
players do it?”

Scott Ostler voiced his opinion about the Tour de France in the SF Chronicle.

“This is a good time, and a bad time.

Good, because the Tour de France is finally over, and we can turn our attention to the lesser
cheaters of sport.

Bad, because in a mere 11 months, the Tour will again rear its dopey head.

Can’t we just eliminate the Tour de France forever?

Normally, all the talk during the Tour is about drugs and cheating. This year’s winner took it
to the next level, winning by dishonoring cycling’s code of honor. He passed his main rival when
the rival stopped with an equipment problem.

But that was a footnote. The main focus of this year’s race was bringing Lance Armstrong to his
knees. Using the platform of the Tour, former winners Floyd Landis and Greg LeMond crusaded to
convince the world that Armstrong was juiced when he won his seven Tour titles.

Seems like a productive way for Floyd and Greg to spend their lives, unless you consider that
Armstrong is one of the world’s great fundraisers for cancer research.

I don’t want to offend cancer-lovers, but I’m against it. If some guy is willing to devote his
life to raising millions of dollars to fight cancer, and as a sidelight he cheats in bike races,
that guy is still aces in my book.

Maybe Mother Teresa fudged on her income taxes. You’ve got proof? Talk to the hand.

Besides, the only way to catch Armstrong is to grab a test kit and hop into the hot tub time

If the stories told by Landis and LeMond about Armstrong are true, cycling must be a cesspool of
juicing. If the stories are not true, Landis and LeMond are dangerous and delusional. Either
way, not a good look for cycling.

LeMond claims Armstrong offered someone $300,000 to falsely finger LeMond for juicing. So either
Armstrong or LeMond, or both, committed a felony.

Cheaters, liars and crooks. Tour de Manure.”


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