Johnny Damon On COVID: I Would Have Retired

Had the coronavirus occurred later in his career, Damon "absolutely" would have retired from baseball

Zach Gelb
June 17, 2020 - 7:33 am
Johnny Damon Rays

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Johnny Damon played in the major leagues from 1995 to 2012. He had a long, productive career, winning World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

But if the coronavirus had occurred about a decade earlier, it likely would have ended his career.

“If I were at the tail end of my career, it would make it a very easy time to retire,” Damon said on The Zach Gelb Show. “If I was in the prime or early on, I would just be ready to go. I think a long spring training is going to be tough. These guys are great athletes. The older guys in the game really aren’t around anymore. These guys, they all should be staying in shape. I feel like they can get something done if they shorten the spring training timeline.”

Damon, 46, played for the Red Sox from 2002-05 and the Yankees from 2006-09. He played for three different teams in the last three years of his career: the Tigers (2010), Rays (2011), and Indians (2012).

If there were a pandemic in the final years of his career, he would have retired.

“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “I was getting ready to retire in 2012 because it was an absolute joke after the year that I had with the Rays that I couldn’t get a job until May 1. I hit [.261], I hit 16 home runs, scored [79 runs], drove in 73, and I couldn’t get a job until May 1. All of a sudden, I’m an older player. As a young kid, I didn’t need spring training, but as an older player, [you do]. You have your kids, you’re on the golf course – after you don’t get a job going into spring training, you kind of just chill. Then when I got that phone call [from the Indians], I was like, ‘I might as well try,’ even though I hadn’t been picking up a bat.’ The same stuff that happened to Gary Sheffield a couple years earlier. Still a dangerous hitter and couldn’t get a job. Always a great teammate.”

Damon hit .222 with four home runs, 19 RBIs, and 25 runs in 64 games with Cleveland. His hypothetical willingness to retire would have had more to do with his family than anything else.

“At the time I retired, I had six kids, so thinking about moving them around and being safe [would have been difficult],” he said. “If I had one kid, it would be a lot easier. But these guys are going up against a very difficult situation. Me personally, I feel like all the baseball has to be in Arizona and Florida. Florida has been pretty good during this pandemic. . . . I’m glad the NBA and the MLS are coming to Orlando. . . . I know we have to be careful, but I also know we have to start moving and getting ready to have this great country come together and be the greatest nation again.”