Johnny Damon may love New York and the Yankees, but the free-agent outfielder stressed Tuesday that he has heard from other interested clubs; that he would like to hear from the Yankees; and that he felt he was worthy of a long-term deal.
"Obviously, New York is incredible. We fell in love with the city," Damon, with his wife Michelle at his side, told Newsday. "The team is a championship team. But we understand what free agency is. We understand that, the type of player I am, I can help a team win."
The 36-year-old attended an event at the Empire State Building to introduce his friend, NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, and while in town, he's going to clean out his New Jersey house. The Damon family will move to another house in the area should Damon return, he said, stressing that nothing be read into such an action.
But Damon left the Red Sox for the Yankees four years ago, after earning the love of Red Sox Nation. And he's not afraid to leave another adoring fan base.
Indeed, Damon enthusiastically supported his agent, Scott Boras, who told reporters at the general managers' meetings that Damon deserved the same sort of support from the Yankees as other older players. Two years ago, for instance, the Yankees gave Jorge Posada, then 36, a four-year contract.
"Hopefully, something can work out with New York," Damon said. "But obviously, when you're a free agent, you want to have as many years as you can. I would like to have as many years as I can, too, so I can get to closer to some magic numbers: Three thousand hits (Damon has 2,425), close to 2,000 runs (Damon has 1,483). Five-hundred fifty doubles, 600 doubles (Damon has 451). That's the kind of stuff we have to look at.
"I believe in my ability. As Scott said, I believe in my genetics to keep me being a very good player."
Michelle Damon said "at least three other teams" had expressed serious interest in signing her husband, although the couple declined to disclose those teams' identities.
Said Johnny Damon: "I know how things are slow this time of year. But the crazy thing is, when you start seeing all these other teams have interest in you, you think, 'OK, hopefully, New York will start talking soon.'"
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last week that he will speak first with his own free agents - Damon, Hideki Matsui and Andy Pettitte - before engaging other teams' free agents. Cashman and other high-ranking Yankees officials will meet with the Steinbrenners on Thursday, Dec. 3 in Tampa, to discuss the team's operating budget for the 2010 season.
"I know Cashman's been very happy with what I've done here. I know the Steinbrenners have been very happy," Damon later told a group of reporters. "The fact that I can keep a clubhouse together - I can help bring in new faces, the CC [Sabathias] and the A.J. [Burnetts] - hopefully I'm still a part of that. I worked so hard to bring some players along here that I don't want to have to face them."