Here in Tampa Bay, it has been a privilege to watch the ageless Johnny Damon play for the Rays. Clearly a future Hall of Famer, Damon has had countless clutch hits for his team. Recently, he was hitting .417 with the bases loaded this season before launching a three-run, bases-clearing double that was inches shy of being a grand slam.
Damon has never been outspoken when talking to the media. But you have to believe that he has emerged as a leader in the clubhouse since joining the Rays. In fact, it was reported early in the season when the team was struggling that Damon arranged a team meeting to talk about how the players needed to relax a bit because they were pressing too much at the plate. The team responded and subsequently set a record for going from worst to first in the AL East in such a short period of time. For an athlete at his age to step into a new and unfamiliar clubhouse and take on the role it appears he has is also a testament to how great a player – and human being – Damon really is.
The Rays had Wade Boggs. They had Fred McGriff. Someday, Carl Crawford will likely be in that category of greatness. But it is hard to argue against the fact that Johnny Damon may be the best baseball player to ever don a Rays uniform. He has two World Series rings, one with Boston and the other with New York. If he stays healthy and maintains that natural baseball instinct, wouldn’t it be something if he added a third ring to his hand in Tampa Bay?