Royals Nightly
Thursday, October 21, 2004
About Last Night
Data Point #1 : Red Sox 10, Yankees 3
Data Point #2: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3
Date Point #3: Johnny Damon 3-6, 2 HRs, 6 RBI

Last night's Yankees-Sox game, dually hyped and genuinely anticipated, may have been the most important American League game played in the last twenty-five years. Or only the most important game since last season's Yankees-Sox Game 7. Either way, since (pick your moment really) somewhere between David Ortiz's 14th inning single and Curt Schilling's 2nd dominant trip through the Yankee lineup, the ALCS took on a mythic/historic quality thats hard to overlook. Right smack in the middle of what would become a strangely anti-climactic Game 7 was none other than former Royal Johnny Damon. Considering the magisterial performance of Carlos Beltran this post-season, the briefly relevant appearances of Curtis Leskanic and the forthcoming Game 7 start for Jeff Suppan tonight in St. Louis, its shaping up to be a post-season with a uniquely former-Royal flavor.

That Johnny Damon would raise his postseason OPS from .527 to .702 in the biggest game of his life, indeed the biggest game of at least the 2004 season, is probably only a felicitous stroke of circumstance. I don't know if he spent the day "relaxing with a lady" as Reggie Jackson did before his seminal Mr. October game, or if he took a new mental approach to the plate. Its likely his approach was the same, his intensity was the same, and the instruction he recieved from his coaches was the same; dude just had a good game at the right time.

In a way however, the game was classic Damon, highlighting the teasing, streaky, inconsistent player that he's always been. During his final seasons in Kansas City, Damon had the annoying habit of alternating between months of .270/.320/.360 and .350/.400/.550 type performances. During his career year, 2000 in Kansas City, he finished his season with an outstanding .327/.382/.495 line, his career highs in each category. Damon was still an excellent CF back then, and complimented his game with 46 steals. Essentially, he was Ichiro with power and at a more critical position.

Interestingly, Damon's career year was fueled by an absolutely insane 2nd half, in which Damon raised his batting average from .267 to .327, which is damn near impossible. (Sorry but I'm having a hard time finding a 2000 game-log, still I think you get the idea) In short, that 2000 season crystallized both Damon's hot-cold nature, and capped his career with the Royals. He hasn't been near as effective since, and for this Red Sox team he's in the lineup as much for his still above-average CF range than anything else.

Congrats Johnny... its nice to see a player developed by the Royals have his historical moment. Just between you and me, we'll always have 2000. Say hello to Carlos for me next week, should tonight's game in STL go like it should.


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