The Red Sox aren't out of luck yet, but if they were hoping to get Johnny Damon away from the Tigers, the train has all but left the station.
It's fair to ask the question: Do the Red Sox even care? Or is this just a not-so-elaborate plot to keep Damon from going to any of their chief competitors in the AL East (or elsewhere)? I lean that direction. Damon might realize that, too, as he expressed his surprise that Boston would even want to place a waiver claim on him.
Within the next 36 hours or so, he'll have to decide whether to waive his no-trade clause and join the Red Sox -- taking for granted Detroit and Boston have an acceptable deal in place -- or to stick it out in Detroit the rest of the year.
They might want him in Boston. They might not. But he knows without a doubt the feelings in Motown.
Looking a bit choked up, he told the media (as recorded off Fox Sports Detroit) after the game tonight:
"My heart tells me that I'm a Tiger, and the fans really showed me their love tonight. ... The fans want me here. The players want me here. That's kind of where I'm leaning toward right now."
Damon has been commendable for how he handled the entire process. We know baseball is a business. He does too. We know teams put a lot of players on waivers in August, to gauge interest if for nothing else. He understands that, he told the press.
He wants to return to Detroit in 2011 and to grow old with a team that is getting younger and younger by the day. However, if accepting a move for the final six weeks of the season helps the franchise in the long run, he's OK with that, too.
There's a lot of times where you have to take what players say with a grain of salt. It is a business, as we've said. There's a lot of posturing to be done. You're going to be a free agent? Before you drum up business elsewhere, see if you can't say the right things about the team you're with now and get a nice deal done.
There's just something about Damon, talking about the future for the Tigers -- this season is beyond -- and how he wants to be a part of it. He's not quite choked up but obviously wearing his emotions on his sleeve. Time and time again, his quotes go past the typical athlete-speak. He comes across as real. He has ever since the first time he put on the Olde English D, too.
A tough 36 hours for him to decide, indeed.
As it turns out, a tough 36 hours for the fans, too. We've really come to like him, for his positive attitude and goofy smile and the way he sticks up for his teammates. We've liked the way he's helped Austin Jackson and the other young players navigate their first season in the big leagues, and the way he's gotten on base to help Miguel Cabrera knock in a few more RBI.
And really, let's admit, we like the way he praises Detroit and wants to be here. If you don't want to be here, we really don't want you to be here. And if you do want to be here, we'll love you for life. That's the way it works in Detroit.
Damon is exactly the kind of athlete you want in your team's uniform. A bright spot even in the dark spots of a season. If Red Sox fans are so bitter they don't realize that, well, I guess that's their problem. He seems to have been pretty popular in his other stops.
If there was a team out there he really wanted to join and the trade would benefit the Tigers, I'd be all for it. That isn't the case here. I'd hate to see him go. Whether the Red Sox organization truly wants him or not, I'd hate to see him rejoin it.
Damon seems a bit torn up about what to do right now. So I'll just offer this simple advice:
Stay in Detroit, Johnny. Where you're wanted.