Johnny Damon leads “players only meeting” as Rays fall to 0-6

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Yesterday the Rays lost their sixth straight game to begin the season and afterward Johnny Damon led “a brief players-only meeting,” according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.

Topkin reports that “Damon didn’t talk for long, and he wasn’t the only one, as Felipe Lopez also spoke up, in stressing to the others to stay positive.”

If a team goes on a big winning streak following a players-only meeting it tends to become a big story, as people assume it turned things around, but short of that they’re mostly forgotten within a few days. That’ll probably happen here as well, but I do find it interesting that the two guys leading the meeting, Damon and Lopez, are new to the team this season. In fact, Lopez wasn’t even on the Opening Day roster.

They’re both veterans, but I’m guessing the whole concept loses a little something when the rah-rah speeches are coming from two guys everyone else on the team met six weeks ago. Neither player has actually won a game as a member of the Rays yet and Damon is hitting .053 through six games.

Source: Aaron Judge, Yankees reach $360M, 9-year deal

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Aaron Judge has agreed to return to the New York Yankees on a $360 million, nine-year contract, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday because the deal had not been announced.

Judge will earn $40 million per season, the highest average annual payout for a position player. The contract trails only Mike Trout’s $426.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels and Mookie Betts’ $365 million pact with the Los Angeles Dodgers for biggest in baseball history.

Judge was offered a long-term deal by New York before last season that was worth $213.5 million over seven years from 2023-29. But he turned it down in the hours before opening day in April.

The 6-foot-7 Judge bet on himself — and won.

Judge set an American League record with 62 homers in 2022, powering the Yankees to the AL East title. He also tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs and just missed a Triple Crown with a .311 batting average.

New York was swept by Houston in the AL Championship Series, but Judge became the first AL MVP for the Yankees since Alex Rodriguez in 2007.

Judge, 30, was selected by New York in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft and made his big league debut in 2016, homering in his first at-bat.

A year later, he was one of baseball’s breakout stars. He hit .284 with 52 homers and 114 RBIs in 2017, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. The four-time All-Star has 220 homers and 497 RBIs in seven big league seasons.