12/23/05 8:24 PM ET
'These guys tried harder'
Damon, miffed by Sox's offers, embraces aggressive suitor
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
Then, last weekend, Cashman called Damon himself to get a sense of how real his interest in the Yankees was."I felt that, all things being equal, he'd go back to Boston," Cashman said. "As the process went about, reading the newspapers, seeing that their offer was at three or four years, I thought, 'I have to personally talk to Johnny myself.' I thought we had to bring this to a halt, not let this drag out." When it became obvious that Damon had been turned off by Boston's approach, Cashman realized that the center fielder could be had for the right price. "He was very honest about the fact that he had a very strong bond with that fan base," Cashman said. "Separating himself from Red Sox Nation was going to be more difficult than getting away from the Red Sox team. "That was the biggest hurdle," he added. "I knew we were going to pay a premium, that we had to have a separation. If they were at 11.5 [million dollars] for four and we were at 12 for four, we were going to lose." Cashman believed that Boston was looking to pay about $46 million for Damon, so it would take more than that to land him. Once Rafael Furcal signed for $13 million a year for three years with the Dodgers, he knew that Damon, also a leadoff hitter, would now demand a higher price. "At the beginning of the process, before the Furcal signing, I wasn't even thinking about 13," admitted Cashman. "We had the 11.5 offer on the table for a while, then Furcal signed at 13 and I knew that was going to cause interference." Cashman called Boras on Tuesday afternoon and increased the offer to $52 million over four years, a $13 million average. There was one catch -- he wanted the answer that night. Fortunately for the Yankees, he got the one he wanted, as Damon agreed to trade in his red socks for pinstripes. "I'm sure it's going to be crushing," Damon said when asked about Red Sox Nation's reaction to his move. "Those are loyal fans, great fans, and they really didn't deserve it." "He developed a bond up there for a reason," Cashman said. "Their fan base is the same as ours; they appreciate maximum effort, accountability, he's a genuine guy and he lights up a room. I look forward to our fan base developing the same bond he had with that fan base." There has been a lot of speculation that things may have been different had Theo Epstein remained as Boston's general manager, rather than the current front office structure, which includes two GMs as well as CEO Larry Lucchino. "I don't think it's an issue of them not being prepared or organized," Boras said. "I think it's an issue of their judgment as to what value they placed on Johnny Damon." In the end, the Red Sox made enough of an attempt to retain Damon to tell their fans that they tried, but the Yankees simply made Damon feel more appreciated. "They did try, but these guys tried harder," Damon said. "That's why I'm standing here. I feel like I'm wanted here."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.