You read that right. Johnny Damon is in the house and joining the Indians tonight! Who’s excited!?!?
Anyone… Anyone at all? Yea, I didn’t really think so.
It’s not that the Indians couldn’t use some help at the plate right now. In their past 7 games, they’re a mediocre 3-4, have scored a miniscule 17 runs, and haven’t hit a home run in 11 straight games. Unfortunately, as I’ve stated numerous times before, Damon doesn’t really address these issues. Anyone who thinks He’s going to be inserted into the lineup and have some type of immediate impact is crazy. Or is it?
I see one, and only one, scenario in which having Johnny Damon in the lineup turns into a season changing event. Hear me out on this one. If Manny Acta were to insert Damon at the top of the lineup he could finally give the Indians a legitimate leadoff hitter. In other words, a guy at the top of the order who can get on base and help set the table for the meat of the order. After all, Damon has spent the greater majority of his career as a leadoff hitter so he knows what he’s doing in that spot.
For his career, Damon has a batting average of .286 and an on base percentage of .353. Compare that to Michael Brantley’s career numbers of .264/.316 and already Damon looks like a better option in the leadoff spot. If you take into account the monumental disappointment Brantley has been thus far as the Tribe’s leadoff hitter, Damon becomes even more attractive in that role (Brantley was expected to take the proverbial bull by the horns as a leadoff hitter but instead got off to a terrible start and is just now up to his career norms).
Even still, despite his career resume, the fact remains that Johnny Damon is 38 years old and entering a season that is already a month old. He hasn’t seen live in-game pitching since the end of last season. It also doesn’t help that the Indians decided to accelerate the curve and skip the triple A test runs. Do I expect him to be the answer at the top of the order from day one considering everything that is going against him? No, I don’t. I’m simply saying, it’s not completely impossible.
There’s also the problem of who do you take out of the lineup? It was easy to replace Jose Lopez with Johnny Damon on the roster itself, but who loses legitimate playing time? Brantley is the team’s lone center fielder so he has to play. Travis Hafner looks like Travis Hafner again (at least as much like Travis Hafner as he can at this point) and they can ill-afford to remove his bat from the line up. Shelley Duncan, for all of his faults, hasn’t been terrible. He’s played a relatively clean left field and he’s shown more patience than normal at the plate.
My money is on Damon replacing Duncan in left most days but not because of a lack of performance. It’s a shame for Duncan as he legitimately earned his starting spot in left field, but such is the life of a career back-up.
Either way, it’s going to be interesting to see how Manny Acta juggles this. The last thing he wants to do is cause some type of civil unrest in the clubhouse. Then again, the Indians are paying Damon a decent amount of money so they owe it to themselves to see what he can bring to the table. My best guess, he won’t be great, but he won’t be terrible either. More than likely the Indians offense will continue to sputter along the way it has all year showing sings of life one minute and then needing life support the next.