Sunday, December 30, 2001

Boston Culture Shock

Kansas City Star columnist Jeffrey Flanagan has a poignant warning for what may happen to Johnny Damon as he moves from relatively fan friendly cities like KC and Oakland to the New England frying pan (hat tip to the BigDog for the link).

Damon was a stand-up guy when he was here -- the beat writers covering Oakland agreed, giving him their "Good Guy Award" last year.

But playing in Boston will be a culture shock for Damon, harsh enough perhaps to ruin a career teetering on the edge already after a shaky year in Oakland.

Red Sox fans are not anything like the forgiving folks in these parts, or even in Oakland. Once fans at Fenway get a steady diet of Damon's unorthodox swing and his weak arm (he'll be playing center field, believe it or not), he's going to be in for an earful.

That will be especially true if he struggles early, and doesn't he always?.

. . . And don't forget the Boston news media, infinitely more critical than their counterparts around here. Those reporters will find a whipping boy soon enough, and Damon will be the perfect candidate when he's hitting .207 in late May.

It all adds up to a dangerous environment for someone like Damon, who blossomed in the easygoing conditions in Kansas City (Jeffrey Flanagan, Kansas City Star)

I won't pretend that I know much about Johnny Damon, either his baseball skills or his personality, but I will vouchsafe that if he does struggle or in any way is perceived by the fans and/or media that he isn't living up to his imagined worth, then what Flanagan says is true.

Look at how Ramirez struggled emotionally his first year in Boston, and he was playing well plus the fans loved him. He just couldn't hang with being in the fishbowl 24/7.

We are a tough crowd and some carrying citizenship papers to Red Sox Nation are cruel and maybe even sadistic. (Take any collection of people and there are going to be some nut cases.)

I hope Damon is preparing himself mentally for the challenge. As winter really tightens its grip in the next couple of weeks, all over New England Red Sox fans will begin to get cabin fever and will place more and more of their proverbial eggs in the Red Sox basket. Invariably, some of those eggs will crack.