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Boras turns to Tigers to seek deal for Damon
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— Kid Rock, excerpted from a 2000 Windsor Star interview
Scott Boras has earned many comparisons in his life, some more flattering than others. But this might be the first parallel drawn between him and the noted musician from Romeo, Mich.
Boras, the most influential agent in baseball, is right much more often than he is wrong. But when he is wrong, everyone knows it. That is the price of fame. And right now, most people in the industry will tell you that Boras misread the marketplace for Johnny Damon.
I’m not going to offer a histrionic replay of the failed talks between Damon and the Yankees. Here’s what matters: It is Feb. 3, Damon doesn’t have a job, and the Yankees don’t want him anymore.
So, Boras has made like the aforementioned Mr. Ritchie: He’s going back to Detroit, where he has a better chance of finding a good deal for Damon than you might think.
If you would have told Damon in November that he would be unsigned come February, I doubt he would have been pleased.
By that measure, Boras messed up somewhere. It happens.
But if you think he has been humbled by all of this, well, you haven’t been paying attention.
Instead, Boras retreated to a bunker in his Newport Beach lair and broke the emergency glass over a seldom-used manual: How to create a market for stars using duct tape and chicken wire … two weeks before spring training.
It’s been some time since Boras has delved this deep into his playbook. He didn’t need to go to extraordinary lengths at this time last year, when it was widely assumed that Manny Ramirez was going to be a Dodger.
This is different. Boras is trying to find a new lead suitor at a time when many teams are finalizing their rosters for the year ahead.
So, he’s doing for Damon what he did for Ivan Rodriguez in 2004 and Magglio Ordonez one year later. In each case, the handbook prescribed the same first step.
Get Tigers owner Mike Ilitch on the phone.
Now, I’m not predicting that Damon will sign with the Tigers — although I believe that is a distinct possibility. The important thing here is that the Tigers are involved. Several weeks ago, people in the Tigers' organization were downplaying their chances of signing Damon.
No money left, they said.
On Tuesday, I heard a different tone from team officials. Dave Dombrowski, the team president and general manager, could have denied that the team had interest. He didn’t. “We are always open to improving our club,” was his statement instead.
For one thing, the Yankees are out. Presumably, the price has dropped. And most recently, Boras has demonstrated anew that he possesses the message-communication savvy of a skilled politician.
Boras had to make the Tigers a factor in the Damon sweepstakes. In many ways, they are an ideal fit. They need another left-handed bat. They don’t know who their leadoff or No. 2 hitter will be. Their left fielder, Carlos Guillen, is coming off two mediocre seasons.
In December, the Tigers said they traded Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson for baseball reasons rather than payroll considerations. By adding Damon’s millions to the payroll, they could prove it.
Detroit has a certain appeal for Damon, too. He has good career numbers at Comerica Park, which is favorable to left-handed hitters. The Tigers train within a short drive of his Florida home. No need to move in a couple weeks.
So, Boras spoke with reporters from The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press on Monday. The Tuesday papers carried headlines and quotes about Damon wanting to play in Detroit. I’m sure most readers were excited by that. But Boras isn’t concerned about what most readers think. He was trying to reach one reader: Mike Ilitch.
Ilitch does, in fact, read the newspaper. More importantly, he is the owner of the Tigers and Red Wings. And he has demonstrated over the years that he likes nothing more than to sign star players and watch them win championships.
When Boras didn’t have a team for Rodriguez in 2004, Ilitch signed him. When Boras didn’t have a team for Ordonez in 2005, Ilitch signed him, too. In both cases, Ilitch, more than Dombrowski, was the driving force.
Now, Boras hopes that Ilitch will get excited about Damon’s affability and durability, his .288 career batting average and two World Series rings.
Will it work?
I guess we’ll find out soon enough, if the Tigers make Damon the two-year offer that Boras wants. It remains to be seen if any team — including the Tigers — is willing to offer more than one year right now.
At the moment, Ilitch is in control.
If he authorizes the additional expense, I doubt that his baseball operations department will object. And you can bet that manager Jim Leyland, whose lineup card is currently blank above the No. 3 spot, would welcome the addition of a popular veteran such as Damon.
Regardless of what happens this month, Boras won’t be able to say that Damon’s off-season went as it should have. He belongs in New York, in the same clubhouse where he sprayed champagne a few months ago.
But Boras can’t worry about that now. He simply needs to find a good deal for his client.
And so he’s taking his case to the man who made it happen twice before.
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