Why Do The Indians Want Johnny Damon?

Sea gulls fly near fans in the upper deck during the final innings of the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The White Sox defeated the Indians 10-6. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Johnny Damon is 38. Johnny Damon can't play the outfield very much any more, and the Indians already have a DH. So why do they want him?

Scott Boras was right, darnitall:

ESPN’s Buster Olney heard from Scott Boras today and quoted the agent as saying that Johnny "Damon will be signed by May 1st; just don’t know where."

With the announcement that Johnny Damon is close to signing a deal with the Cleveland Indians, Boras beat that "deadline" by more than two weeks, although it still might be a few more days before Damon is actually playing baseball in Cleveland:

Damon said he'd likely be ready after "three days of shagging and hitting," but noted the Indians "probably want at least a week."

But why do the Indians want Damon? In 2011, Damon was the Rays' DH for 135 games and played just 16 games in the outfield. The Indians already have a lefthanded-hitting DH, Travis Hafner, so it's likely Damon will wind up playing left field instead of Shelley Duncan. Damon is 38 and not much of an outfielder any more; the Indians are even, according to one report, giving Damon an "out":

Given the fragile health of Sizemore, that might not happen this season, or ever. So what are the Indians thinking?

There's at least one number that might explain this: 2,723. That's the number of hits Damon has in his career through the end of 2011. Obviously, he can't get the 277 hits he needs to get to the 3,000-hit milestone this season. But he is durable -- averaging 146 games played the last three years -- and productive, averaging 151 hits over that time span. If he has another year like that in 2012, he'd be in position to reach that milestone in 2013.

Which leads me to three more numbers: 10,518. 9,473. 9,072.

Those are the Indians' home attendance figures for their last three games. The Tribe has started 1-4 and been outscored 28-16 in the four losses. They were 33-40 after the All-Star break in 2011 and, with the Tigers adding Prince Fielder, don't figure to be in contention in the AL Central this season.

So maybe they figure a "name" like Johnny Damon -- even though he's not the player he once was -- might put a few human beings (rather than the seagulls you see in the photo attached to this post) in the seats at Progressive Field this summer, and perhaps a few more of them in 2013 if Damon sticks around.

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