Thursday, December 22, 2005

Damon in Pinstripes

Although I'm a dedicated baseball fan, I've not been one of those caught up in a wave of affection for the Boston Red Sox these past few years. Sure, that 2003 ALCS was scintillating, and the year after, we all rooted for the Sox against the Yankees. Good for them, they finally won a Series. But given Boston's boffo $120+ million team salary last year, I never saw them as the anti-Steinbrennerites they're made out to be.

And now it turns out that even Boston's players didn't buy into the idea. The big news in baseball this week is the defection of Boston's chief "idiot" Johnny Damon to the arch-rival Yankees for $52 million. "I know fans are upset and I'm sorry," Damon said, adding that Boston fans will forever remember his tenure with the team but "I know I'm also going to be remembered for jumping sides." Uh, yeah. Let's see how that next visit to Fenway plays out.

In the era of free agency and big money, it's hardly a surprise when players abandon teams where they are icons. Sports is a business, man. ESPN's Jim Caple writes, "This isn't 1957 anymore, when Jackie Robinson decided to retire rather than accept a trade from the Dogers to the Giants." Sometimes the player doesn't even get a say--just ask Nomar, the BoSox' former franchise icon, who was unceromoniously dumped by the team.

That said, it makes the achievements of some one-team-for-life players, like local legends Cal Ripken and Darrell Green, all the more remarkable. My old Tony Gwynn poster from my San Diego days is hanging on the wall above me as I write this, leaving me wistfully wishing that our favorite athletes today cared about their team identity as much as us fans do. I actually feel sorry for all those New Englanders who'll be dumping their old #18 jerseys!

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