"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Return of the Oft-Injured, On-Base Menace, Sweety-Pie, Baby-Face Nicky Johnson

Who didn’t like Nick Johnson? He was a good kid, a pleasant, chubby-cheekedguy with a sweet swing and a good glove. Larry Bowa’s nephew. The one who never could stay healthy. A nice Yankee that fell away. 


Well, according to Ken Davidoff, he’s back, to the tune of one-year and five-and-a-half million. Why Johnson and not Godzilla Matsui? I can’t call it. Davidoff goes on to say that this surely spells the end of Johnny Damon in pinstripes. So no Matsui, no Damon, but Nick Johnson?

All I can think of is that noise that Scooby Doo used to make when he was confused, “BBBOORRPP?”


It’s not that I’m unhappy to see Johnson back–I’ve always liked his game and he’ll make an ideal number 2 hitter behind Derek Jeter–but I wonder if he can stay healthy and more to the point, I wonder what else the Yanks have up their sleeve. Johnson alone is not enough. Or am I missing something?


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1 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 17, 2009 8:58 pm


Not just a chubby-face from the looks of it...

They shoulda brought back Matsui... :(

2 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:10 pm

If this is the end of Damon, this is a disaster.

3 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:11 pm

Scooby just said "huhhhh?!"

I'll have a post later (overnight/morning) with my take.

4 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:15 pm

[1] I'm not saying he's thin (he's not), but the wind has literally inflated his windbreaker in that photo. Not fair.

5 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:19 pm

My first impression is that the Yankees didn't think Matsui would act so quickly, and fearful of being left without no other alternative to Damon, they jumped on Johnson.

And yet, I think Cashman is better than that. So, perhaps Cash thought about Hidecki's precarious knees and decided to turn the page. The obvious retort is that Nick Johnson hasn't exactly been able to stay on the field, but in reality, he has only recently missed significant time because of a very serious broken leg caused by a freak collision. He did play 131 and 147 games in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and then rebounded to play 133 last year. Also in those seasons, his OPS+ (obp heavy too) was 137, 149 and 122.

Considering that he is 6 years younger, I think it is reasonable to think that Nick Johnson will play more games and be more productive than Matsui.

I also don’t think this definitely closes the door on Damon, but instead gives Cashman some of the leverage back that he lost when Matsui signed.

Speaking of Damon, here is his reaction, according to Tyler Kepner:

Damon on Nick Johnson deal: "I'm glad Nick gets 2 come back 2 a gr8 organization. He will luv the guys & the new stadium."

6 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:31 pm

Cashman is either two steps ahead of everyone or two steps behind. Either he has some brilliant master plan that has yet to unfold, or he's penny wise and pound stupid.

7 The Hawk   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:31 pm

I think this is definitely a Matsui replacement. Granderson is now Damon's replacement. I suspect the Yankees are done for this off-season, unless they really do end up getting Holliday, which would be a whole 'nother ball of wax.

But at this point, every position is filled. I can't really see the offense improving through these moves, but on the other hand there's a good chance it would have declined had they signed Damon and Matsui too.

8 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:33 pm

[5] I agree with William, especially regarding Damon. I don't see how this deal---one year, 5.5 million---has much impact at all on Damon. In fact, given the shortness and cheapness of the deal, it may actually free the Yankees to bump up their offer to Damon, if they want to. Thus, 2009 = Johnny in LF, Nick at DH; 2010 Johnny at DH, XXXX at LF. Otherwise, as William says, it may give the Yankees both leverage and insurance when dealing with Johnny.

I loved Matsui as well, but when you look at their numbers, Nick and Hideki are just about equally productive, but the former is younger and his production is based more on OBP.

Oh yeah, he can play in the field, albeit at 1B.

So in short, if the reports are accurate, the Yankees got a younger player for less money who likely to just as productive (or more productive, assuming OBP > SLG), who can play in the field when needed (allowing the Yanks to keep both Teix and Swish in the lineup when any of the three DHs).

What's not to like or understand about the deal?

9 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:35 pm

[7] Some of the benefit of getting Granderson was it shoved the CF scrubs out of the lineup.

10 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:37 pm

[7] I think the Yankees could be done if something else doesn't present itself at the right price. If they are, I think Johnson and Granderson are pretty good replacements for Damon and Matsui.

It's funny, but before this season, I think many here were counting down the days until the Damon and Matsui money came off the books, but after very good seasons (a career year for Damon), no one wants to see them go. I think it is very possible, if not probable that Johnson and Granderson will be better bets to replicate Damon's and Matsui's 2009 contribution than they would be. If they can come close, the defensive upgrade in the outfield becomes gravy.

11 ny2ca2dc   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:38 pm

Once again, if this means no Damon: BAD. I would rather just have had Matsui, but there's a lot of emotion contributing - objectively it seems pretty even. It does seem like Cash got caught off guard wrt Matsu - he had every intention of dragging out the DH slot, then bang.

Regardless, my concern is just that we don't repeat the Doug Minky mistake and carry a league-average bat in a primo offensive position (Melky in LF). Damon would still be a great add - with his and NJ's fragility, Melky would still get plenty of playing time and would be the primary bench bat. (Garnder is trade bait, or an awesome pinch runner). Last year Matsui & Damon made $26 mil. Granderson is $5.5, NJ at $5.5 leaves tons of money to bring back Damon (and I do assume he'll sign, eventually, for an Abreu-deal).

12 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:38 pm

[6] Your pessimism is typical, but in this case, I simply can't see the reason. At worst, as Hawk suggests [7], the Yankees league leading offense has simply replaced two aging players with two younger players (who cost less and will probably be just as productive). Of course, this all comes down to how Granderson performs.

And heck, Cashman could still pick up a spare part like Nady for LF, pushing Melky to the bench, and suddenly the team has a legit player at every position for (still) the same or less payroll as last year.

13 Newyawka15   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:39 pm

I dont see the downside. Johnson has proven that if he can stay healthy he will get on base at a very high rate. Also, with our new right field porch I think he will fit in very nicely.

14 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:43 pm

[11] Last year Matsui & Damon made $26 mil. Granderson is $5.5, NJ at $5.5 leaves tons of money to bring back Damon (and I do assume he’ll sign, eventually, for an Abreu-deal).

Bingo! Yes, yes, yes!

And even if Damon is not signed, there is still very little chance the team starts the season with Melky in LF. Another move is a comin', probably not a huge blockbuster deal, but someone who is a it more credible at corner OF.

15 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:43 pm

[11] Is Melky in LF such a bad thing? If you accept that Granderson and Johnson can match Damon and Matsui, the net difference between 2009 and 2010 becomes Melky's LF defense versus Damon's. Also, Melky is 25...he can get better.

16 The Hawk   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:44 pm

[11] Here I come to Melky's defense, but just pretend Granderson is in LF and Melky is in center. Now your primo offensive position is filled!

17 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:46 pm

[14] If he could play some outfield, I wouldn't mind the Yankees bringing in Vlad for $5-6mn (assuming that's what he gets). Vlads splits away from Anaheim were very good last season. Also, with his opposite field ability, he could take advantage of YS.

18 wsporter   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:49 pm

High OBP, sees lot's of pitches per ab, hits lefties - that's very good.
Hurt a lot, cheesey mustache and no collection of Japanese Porn - that's not very good.
If he stays healthy it's a nice home coming for not much money. I have a hard time not liking this move.

19 ny2ca2dc   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:49 pm

[15] Because I don't want to step on toes, I want to step on necks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBwpm46EPWA

Even if Damon comes back, Melky will get enough ABs to keep improving. If not Damon - maybe the M's give him 3 years, in which case all the best Johnny - at least some more depth would be nice. a Nady type, maybe even Ryan Church if he's not done. Hell, Hinske. Someone who can at least hit like a LFer.

20 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:51 pm

[19] If Damon signs an $8mn deal, then you can raise your eyebrow. But right now, all indications are he wants 3/$39mn, which is out of the question.

21 The Hawk   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:51 pm

[18] Hurt a lot, cheesey mustache and no collection of Japanese Porn – that’s not very good.


22 ny2ca2dc   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:51 pm

[16] That way lies Doug Minky

23 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:52 pm

[19] Church would be a bad fit and Nady is a questionmark off his surgery. I wouldn't mind seeing Marlon Byrd, but it would cost a 2nd round draft pick.

24 ny2ca2dc   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:53 pm

[20] You are right about that - the evaluation will have to come after we know what Damon signs for. I hope it's with us on an Abreu-type deal is all.

25 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:53 pm

Why would the Mets not go after Johnson...do they really think Murphy is their 1B?

26 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:54 pm

[17] I thought of Vlad. Can he play the field? Nady is Nady, which is not the worst thing. Rick Ankiel is a FA, but he was a disaster last year--was that injury?

27 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:55 pm

[24] If that's the deal he accepts, Cashman will do it because it would still leave room for a starter, which apparently the Yankees need owing to Cash's comments about Joba and Phil battling for one rotation spot this spring.

28 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:56 pm

[18] Actually, does the cheesy (porn) mustache mitigate the lack of (known) porn collection?

29 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:57 pm

I guess you could say the Yankees are taking this development thing so seriously that even their free agent signings are home grown.

30 ny2ca2dc   ~  Dec 17, 2009 9:58 pm

[27] I didn't see comments about one rotation spot - all I saw was a mention of an innings limit for Hughes. I'm curious, you remember the source?

Now that you mention starters, I wonder if I would rather have Ben Sheets or Johnny Damon, if they both cost the same and the budget only allowed one... hmm.

31 wsporter   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:01 pm

[28] If there was a porn collection I think the cheesy mustache would be an enhancement so in it's absence it follows that it mitigates. No?

32 The Hawk   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:03 pm

[22] How so? I mean if the OF will be the same as last year, except with Granderson replacing Damon, thus improving the defense.

33 williamnyy23   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:03 pm

[30] Michael Kay was going on and on about it.

34 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:06 pm

[31] I think so, but these things can be tricky. For example, a cheesy porn mustache and starring in a porn collection would, I think, accentuate things in a very negative way.

35 The Hawk   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:06 pm

Strange to say perhaps, but I do not want to see Hughes or Chamberlain in the bullpen to start the season.

Joba still strikes me as a reliever through and through but they ought to give him one more year as a starter to give him a proper chance, since they've started down that route.

36 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:10 pm

[35] I agree with you. I just have a feeling that whoever ends up in the BP stays there for the rest of his natural Yankee life. I'd rather see them both start in the rotation and give them both the opportunity to stick in the rotation...

37 wsporter   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:11 pm

[34] I'm almost certain that this is a case of the negative enhancement of a positive detraction.

38 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:25 pm

[15] [11] I just can't watch another year of Cabrera and Gardner. It hurts my soul.

39 thelarmis   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:30 pm

i always liked NJ, but i like him better on another team. in this case, i'd definitely rather Upper Deki Godziller!

as far as nick having a baby face - huh?! not even close! i always thought he looked like a mix between Babe Ruth & Eddie Munster. he and matsui are both fugly...

40 The Hawk   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:31 pm

Huh, so Girardi wouldn't give up 28? What a turd.


41 Just Fair   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:33 pm

I'm glad to see Nick back with the Yanks. Now the noise I've heard about Mr. Granderson batting second can stop.

42 The Hawk   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:35 pm

[38] I prefer to think of them as discrete entities ... Not really a Gardner fan. I'm picturing his swing and it's making me sad.

43 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:35 pm

[30] And there's not a starter currently on the market that I want.

44 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:39 pm

[41] But Nick the Sick will clog the bases!!

45 thelarmis   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:39 pm

[40] yeah, i thought that was weird, too. from Motown to the Boogie Down and "Dancers Groin Rust" has to cut his # in half. at least he's worn it before and it's related to his customary 28. plus, it's a "low" number on the Yankees! (whatever)

i guess we'll just have to win the World Serious again next season, then Curtis can go back to 28 the following year! : )

46 The Hawk   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:40 pm

[44] He will just be lying there cause he broke his foot or something. Triple play.

47 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:47 pm

If this is IT, then...retarded. (And as I've said I HATE that word).

If we get Sheets...I feel a little better.
If we get Damon...I feel a bunch better.

If we get Holliday...I feel GREAT.

For now I go to bed PISSED.

48 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:48 pm

[47] I don't have the patience for Ben Sheets.

49 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:51 pm

[47] Don't go to bed angry...it will ruin your sleep. instead, consider just how very, very good this move is. Because it is. Good night, sleep well.

50 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 17, 2009 10:57 pm

[47] Ben Sheets for 4 or 5 million would be a Great move..CC, AJ, Andy, Joba, Phil, Sheets, CWM (minor-league deal)..you can't have too much pitching...

51 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:02 pm

[50] Plus, pitching wins championships AND good pitching beats good hitting. Not to mention, momentum is the next day's starting pitcher.
OK, I'm a little giddy tonight.

52 The Hawk   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:05 pm

I really don't think Johnson + Granderson is much worse than Matsui + Damon, if at all. Sucks to lose Matsui but hey at least they got a former Yankee back. The team just won the world series. I say sign Sheets (not for 12 million though) and maybe try and get Wang and let 'er rip.

53 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:06 pm

[51] Been hitting the egg-nog early this evening? :)

Good pitching DOES beat good hitting..you just have to take it one day at a time and get a great group of guys who know how to grind it..

Say NO to Holliday, by the way...no more albatross contracts please!

54 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:08 pm

Meanwhile, from Feinsand (in an article about the rumored NJ signing):

Adding an arm would allow the Bombers to move either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to the bullpen. While Joe Girardi wouldn't say which youngster was more likely to make that move, both he and Cashman hinted that Hughes could be bullpen-bound in that scenario as Chamberlain's innings limits are a thing of the past.

"He's gotten through the maturity side now where we can turn him loose," Cashman said of Chamberlain. "He's graduated. His development program on that level has been taken care of."

"I think Joba is more prepared than Phil, because Phil didn't throw 150 innings last year," Girardi said. "It would be much more difficult to throw him in 32 starts."


Hm. Well, how did that happen, Joe?

55 Evil Empire   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:10 pm

[49] Yep, I will again beat the same old dead equine that I've killed in two earlier threads, including one this past weekend:

Nick Johnson + Granderson > Matusi + Damon

And when I say that, I am talking better in terms of:

1. Overall OPS

2. Overall OPS+

3. Having actual defensive value and throwing arms.

4. Subtracting 6 years from each player

5. The price is far less than last year and even less than what it would have cost to sign both Matsui and Damon and just stand pat.

6. Yes, Nick's an injury risk, but he rebounded from the broken leg to play 130+ games last year. To me breaking a leg is not indicative of being injury prone, but is more of a freakish thing (see Matsui's broken wrist in 2006). Given Matsui's knees, I wonder who's the real injury risk.

But the beauty off all of this is the money. Now, the Yanks can go get a good starter like Ben Sheets and potentially cut payroll.

This really seems like a masterful plan to me.

56 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:12 pm

[53] I'm just not a fan of adding an enormous injury risk to a rotation that already has Burnett, Chamberlain/Hughes and 38 year old Andy Pettitte.

if I have to see Fudgie the Whale pitch for the Yankees again, I'm not sure I can recover.

57 monkeypants   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:14 pm

[56] Have no fear...Sergio "Lucky" Mitre stands between you and the return of Sidney Ponson.

58 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:14 pm

[54] That reminds me. You would have to think that they'll handle Hughes 2010 in a less clusterfucky manner than they did Joba 2009 right?


59 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:15 pm

[57] I was slotting Serge in for the non-Sheets injury. Plenty of room for the Ponson fetish to rear its ugly head.

60 thelarmis   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:25 pm

[53] shit, thanks for reminding me - it's beer:30! gotta go crack me my first!

just listened to some old horace silver. i'm in the midst of unpacking, so i can't get mixed up in baseball talk. can't wait to catch up on the earlier comments from this thread! i'm just trying to soak it all in - listen to both sides - and decide how i feel about it. convincing arguments both ways...

[58] "clusterfucky" = great word!

[59] did you read the espn article on sir pontoon being the worst pitcher of the decade? i only read a few paragraphs and didn't have time for such a dumb article. but i figured it'd make you happy! ; )

61 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:29 pm

[60] I remember hearing about it. Not sure I read it

62 thelarmis   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:33 pm

[61] it was from just the other day. Mo was the best of the 00's, pontoon the worst. i read the Mo article. wasn't worth it to read the other.

similarly to the caple article that's up there now. talks about the best/worst teams of the decade. yanks = best; expos/nats = worst. caple is a yankee hating piece of dog shit and it's not even worth looking past the headline...

63 Yankster   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:35 pm

[55] Hell yes to every point. How can you not like this. I pray Johnnie of the red sux Damon doesn't come back to show his praying mantis throwing arm ever again. He's a decent player but he hit a good bit worse than Matsui and has much lower OBP than homegrown, dyed in the stripes NJ. I've seen NJ in about ten games this year since I live in DC. Will be fun to see how his game goes when he isn't one of the top bats in the lineup. He's no longer a youngster but there could still be some upside from his averages given the absence of batting order protection on the Nats. Now he has Teix behind him. Let's see how Damon's numbers look hitting fourth for the Royals.

64 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:43 pm

[62] Just read it. Still expect him to be back with the Yankees at some point.

65 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:54 pm

[64] Sir Sidney has made more than $30 million dollars playing baseball..I am not sure whether this gives me hope or has totally shattered any faith I had in humankind...

66 OldYanksFan   ~  Dec 17, 2009 11:59 pm

People are also thinking about 2009 Matsui and JD.
I don't believe the 2010 version will be near as good.
These guys do not get better with age.
Although, it seems Cashman does.

67 thelarmis   ~  Dec 18, 2009 1:53 am

this paragraph made me smile: (i was reading an article about a-rod's hip being okay...)

Rodriguez was the Yankees' top hitter in the postseason, batting .365 with six home runs and 18 RBIs as they won the World Series. He had 30 homers and 100 RBIs during his injury-shortened regular season.

68 sonyahennystutu   ~  Dec 18, 2009 9:17 am

[67] That's a SICK line for the post season. Love it!

I woke up feeling slightly better. Re: Johnson, I'm still not convinced that NJ + CG 2010 > JD + Mats 2009, even accounting for CG's defense. However, they are certainly younger and cheaper (though apparently not in the case of NJ vs. Matsui alone). I pray that NJ's time at DH will help lessen the likelihood of injury but it definitely worries me.

Still want Holliday.

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