Lucchino: Sox made 'very strong and concerted effort'

BOSTON -- Red Sox president Larry Lucchino thinks Boston made a "strong and concerted" effort to re-sign Johnny Damon and spoke to the center fielder's agent as recently as Tuesday, when he agreed to a preliminary deal with the rival New York Yankees.

Lucchino and co-general managers Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington declined during a Fenway Park news conference to discuss details of
their offer to Damon, but conceded that the negotiations ended
abruptly with the news Damon agreed to a $52 million, four-year
deal with New York.

"The last stages of this did come as a bit of a surprise to
us," Lucchino said. "We're not going to go back and reconstruct
the negotiations, and what would we have done. I leave it to the
Yankees to make decisions for the Yankees."

Boston was said to have made a $40 million, four-year offer to Damon during baseball's winter meetings two weeks ago. Lucchino said the team gave Damon until Christmas to accept, but the three wouldn't say whether the Red Sox increased their offer.

"I think it's fair to say that we left the door ajar for a
subsequent formal offer," Lucchino said. "We wanted to sign
Johnny Damon. We made a very strong and concerted effort to do so.
We're disappointed."

Damon, who turned 32 last month, led Boston with a .316 batting average last season. He had 197 hits and scored 117 runs.

The Red Sox have to replace his glove in center field, his bat at the top of the order and his charismatic presence in the clubhouse. With holes also at first base and shortstop, Boston's reorganized front office has much work.

Lucchino, Hoyer and Cherington praised Damon for his performance during four years with Boston, a tenure that included the team's first World Series title in 86 years.

"He was an offensive force," Lucchino said. "He was a
clubhouse leader ... and just a generally good guy. We will miss him."