First Pitch: Damon would be good ... in '09

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
10:05
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Was Johnny Damon in his prime a better player than Matt Diaz or Juan Rivera?

Absolutely.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Damon
Eric P. Mull/USA Today SportsJohnny Damon is no longer an everyday outfielder.
Is Damon, who turned 39 in November, anywhere near his prime now?

Absolutely not.

I understand there is sentiment for bringing Damon back on a temporary basis to fill the gap created when Curtis Granderson went down with a broken arm on Sunday. But is is based in nostalgia and preserved in amber.

In other words, it ain't real. In baseball terms, the Caveman is a fossil.

Diaz and Rivera may not be the answer to what the Yankees need to get them from Opening Day to Cinco de Mayo, the projected date of Granderson's return.

But Damon is definitely not.

That's because what the Yankees need is not another left-handed hitter, nor another DH. They're already overloaded with both.

What they need is an everyday outfielder, and Damon has not fit that description since 2009, his last year with the Yankees. He had a great World Series that year and they still let him go, because they could see which way his career was trending.

Four years later, Damon has only gotten older, not better. His .222 batting average and .281 on-base percentage in 64 games with the Indians last season is more indicative of the player Damon is now. In August, the Indians gave him his walking papers.

To think the Yankees should pick him up, dust him off and expect him to turn the clock back four years, even for just five weeks, is not just unrealistic.

It is fantasy.

UP NOW: My news story on what Cashman said about signing Damon and another one on Joba Chamberlain's unscratchable itch. Plus, a blog on Tuesday's loss to the Phillies in Clearwater.

COMING SOON: Players Association meeting in the clubhouse sets everything back an hour or two today, but there is a game against the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. at The Boss. Here's the lineup. You can catch it on YES. The clubhouse will open after the pregame workout at around 11:30 or so, but no Morning Joe today because the manager won't speak until after the game. I'll have live updates via my Twitter feed, @ESPNNYYankees, so check in all day and as always, thanks for reading.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146