BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox players met the news that Johnny Damon would block a waiver trade to Boston on Tuesday with a mixture of disappointment and understanding. The veteran outfielder told reporters in Detroit he would exercise his no-trade rights and decline a chance to rejoin the team with which he won a World Series in 2004.
"I knew this was going to be a tough decision," Damon said. "But I just wanted to be 100 percent sure this is the right thing for me."
The Red Sox claimed Damon on waivers on Monday afternoon, giving them a chance to work out a trade with the Tigers for his services. But Damon had listed the Red Sox among 21 teams to which he could refuse a trade, and he told reporters on Tuesday he would not waive that right in order to return to Boston.
The 36-year-old former Fenway Park favorite, who would likely have played left field for the Red Sox, is hitting .272 with an on-base percentage of .358 for Detroit. He likely won't take part in a pennant race in September -- the Tigers trail the Minnesota Twins by nine games in the A.L. Central -- but there were no guarantees he'd have done so in Boston, either.
That's one of the big reasons Red Sox players were reluctant to criticize the decision made by their former teammate.
"Playing with Johnny, the way he plays the game and the way he goes about his business, it would have been a welcome visit to have him back here," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, one of only a handful of players left who overlapped with Damon in Boston. "He would have been a big addition to our team with what he can do."
Said designated hitter David Ortiz, "I was hoping he would come, but it was something that neither you nor I could decide. He's the one that had to decide what to do for his own and do whatever he wanted to do."
Damon had until Wednesday afternoon to make a decision, just as the Red Sox had until Wednesday afternoon to work out a possible deal with Detroit. The Tigers could have tried to extract a minor-league prospect or simply let Damon walk away to save $1.8 million in salary.
But the refusal of Damon to waive his no-trade clause made the point moot.
"This game is tough enough," said closer Jonathan Papelbon, who made his major-league debut during the final season Damon spent in Boston. "When you're in a position and in a city and in a place where you want to be and a place where you're happy, I find no real reason for leaving that. I know Johnny's going to do whatever is best for him and his family."
Whatever Damon could have contributed to the Red Sox on the field -- and at his age, it's certainly worth wondering how much of an upgrade he would have been over Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava -- his presence would have brought some electricity to Fenway Park. Even the possibility of his return dominated the airwaves in Boston on Tuesday.
"Considering the buzz that Johnny created for many years here, one of the original 'Idiots' of the World Series champions here, I thought it would be a great idea," Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron said. "But sometimes the ideas of others are not the same as the person who actually has to be in the situation."
Said Damon to reporters in Detroit, "I would've loved to have gone back and played with Big Papi and Varitek, but that time has come and passed."