Random thoughts on the Johnny Damon signing

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As you no doubt heard, Johnny Damon signed with the Tigers over the weekend. One year, $8 million.  Some random observations:

  • I don’t buy for a second that Detroit really had a two-year, $14 million offer out there, but their one-year, $7 million offer was widely reported. That was dangling when the White Sox dropped out of the bidding on Friday.  Query:  If you are offering someone $7 million and your only real competition gives up, why do you raise your offer by $1 million? I’m thinking of selling my 2004 Honda Accord.  I think I’ll call Mike Ilitch, tell him that no one else wants it, and then demand $50,000.
  • Seriously, though, Ilitch really, really saved Boras’ bacon here.  In the space of a couple of days we went from a situation in which Damon was facing the contractual abyss to one in which he can take a $2 million pay cut next year and still say that he made out better for 2010-2011 than he would have had he taken the last offer the Yankees made him and which everyone said he was a moron not to take. Sure, he’d probably rather be in New York than Detroit, but if you don’t think Boras will spin this as a Bobby Abreu kind of thing at the press conference later today you’re crazy;
  • Not that an even $6 million contract next year is a given. Comerica Park is much bigger than Yankee Stadium, which will expose Damon’s poor arm and will likely depress his power numbers.
  • The no-trade clause which was reportedly included in the deal is rich indeed.  The team most likely to trade for Damon in the middle of the season is the Yankees, who are taking a chance on Brett Gardner as an everyday player. The odds of Damon not waiving his NTC for them — or for any other contender on a coast — are so infinitesimally small that they’re not even worth calculating. I bet Boras asked that the NTC be included so that he could claim that, yes, Detroit was where Damon always wanted to be. Even if we know that’s not really true.
  • Curtis Granderson’s 2010 salary: $5.5 million. Damon’s: $8 million. Just sayin’!

Johnny Damon will help the Tigers. Of course he would have helped them even more at $7 million or less too, but since Mike Ilitch doesn’t seem to care a whole hell of a lot for that supply and demand thing, we’ll never really know.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”