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Cranky thoughts on Johnny Damon and Omar Minaya

Johnny Damon with pie on his face.

Johnny Damon with pie on his face. Photo Credit: Getty Images

It's my job to stay in tune with the reading public of baseball fans. To know what gets people going, stirs them up.

When we're acting all dignified, we call it "news judgment."

But certain frenzies come down the pike, and I just can't quite figure out the uproar. Today, we have two such issues:

1. Johnny Damon. I could've sworn we put this bed a month ago. Actually, more like six weeks ago. Ever since Nick Johnson signed, there was never a legitimate chance that Damon and the Yankees would find common ground.

Look, Johnny Damon is a really good player, and he lived up to the contract he signed four years ago with the Yankees. But why the uproar about him leaving? This isn't Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera skipping town. It's a 36-year-old leftfielder, coming off a career year, who misread his market.

To say that the Yankees chose Randy Winn over Damon is silly; if Damon wanted to play for $2 million, he'd be a Yankee right now. They chose Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, Javier Vazquez and Winn over Melky Cabrera, Damon and Hideki Matsui. I think the Yankees made the right calls; time, as it always does, will tell.

Sure, the Yankees could've stretched their budget, as they did last year for Andy Pettitte. They chose not to. Because 36-year-old leftfielders with fading defensive skills, even if they hit like crazy and blend in beautifully with your clubhouse, are not as valuable as starting pitchers, shortstops or catchers.

As for Damon's proclamation that he'd love to return to the Yankees, which he said first to Jon Heyman and then Mike Francesa? Sure, why not? But it's simply not happening right now.

Damon has now received two farewells in one winter, for the same departure. He could very well receive a third, once he finally finds a new team, if he keeps up this "I'm not ruling out starting the season with them" stuff.

2. Omar Minaya.He told SNY's Kevin Burkhardt that he still has full automony, and of course he doesn't. He never had FULL autonomy - no general manager does - so this is more a matter of degrees of power, I'd say.

Does he have less power than he did a year ago? No question. But let's make it clear: It's not like Jeff Wilpon is saying, "You know what, let's trade Stokes for Matthews!"

Wilpon, fed up with Minaya's poor valuations of _ and negotiations with _ players like Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, is taking a more hands-on role in those two processes. The Mets clearly have drawn a harder line with specific free agents, and that's ownership's doing.

Think of it this way: Minaya and his baseball people ranked Bengie Molina as an impact bat and catcher they should target, and then Wilpon made sure the Mets never went past a year and $5.5 million.

There's a clear trade-off: The Mets didn't get stuck with Molina, but they didn't land (yet) any experienced starting pitchers. As we've discussed here, they should've been more aggressive on one starting pitcher, any starting pitcher.

But I guess the issue that prompted this post is, there's plenty of gray area between full automony and no autonomy. Has Minaya moved away from "full" and towards "no" on that spectrum? Yes. Ignore him when he says he has full autonomy, yet when Alex Cora's getting $2 million, you know that Minaya still has some juice.

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