Some athletes take to retirement well. It’s just a new phase of their life when the old one is over. Others don’t. They were born to play baseball — and do what ballplayers do off-the-field as well — and don’t know how to function when the game has ended for them.
Pat Jordan’s fantastic story about Johnny Damon reveals Damon to be part of the latter group. It’s a sad read, actually. Drawn from both Jordan’s interview with Damon and stuff from Damon’s autobiography, it paints a portrait of a man who is still reeling from no longer being a major league baseball player and, perhaps, in denial about the need to find out how to live the next 40 or 50 years of his life. Here’s how Jordan describes that generically:
The game has always been an escape from real life for ballplayers, which is why so many dread leaving the game. The game offers a kind of constant certitude; wins and losses are fathomable in a way that real life’s problems aren’t. Real life’s problems aren’t clearly defined and don’t ever seem to get resolved. They linger, frustratingly. After baseball, nothing in real life will ever be as completely, simply and viscerally gratifying.
And his story about Damon reveals that he fits that mold pretty exactly.
Johnny Damon was a great, great ballplayer. Quite underrated, actually. He’s a borderline Hall of Famer, though he won’t get much consideration. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t appear to know how to it into civilian life.
The Yankees signed first-round draft pick Clarke Schmidt and second-round pick Matt Sauer on Saturday, per a team announcement. Schmidt, a right-hander from the University of South Carolina, is set to earn a signing bonus of $2,184,300. According to MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin, that’s much lower than the typical $3+ million allocated for a No. 16 overall pick. The opposite is true for Sauer, whose projected $2.5 million signing bonus tops the suggested $1.2 million reserved for a No. 54 pick.
Schmidt, 21, boasts an impressive four-pitch repertoire and profiles as a front-end or mid-rotation starter, according to reports from Yankees’ VP of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer and ESPN’s Keith Law, among others. He carried a 4-2 record through nine starts in 2017 and turned in a 1.34 ERA before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last month to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow. While the Yankees won’t see him pitch at any level until late 2018, they seem confident in his makeup and ability to rebound over the next couple of years.
Fellow right-hander and Righetti High School senior Matt Sauer is a different story altogether. The 18-year-old hurler appears destined for the bullpen with a polished fastball-slider combo and a promising curveball and changeup. He dazzled on the mound this year, going 9-1 with an 0.98 ERA and two shutouts over 78 1/3 innings. While the Yankees seem most interested in his pitching skills, Sauer showed some pop at the plate as well, touting a .427 average with 24 RBI through 135 plate appearances.
The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.
Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:
Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:
In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.
The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.