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Damon to Yankees fans: I should have played better

From the NY Post:

November 23, 2006 -- Johnny Damon's first year as a Yankee should have been better. At least that's the way the center fielder and leadoff hitter views it six weeks after the season ended with bitter disappointment in Detroit.

Talking for the first time since speaking in the hushed Comerica Park clubhouse on Oct. 7 following Game 4 of the ALDS, Damon told The Post he could have had a better Bronx debut.

"Sometimes [the fans] saw the player I was, with the home-run stroke, but my numbers with runners in scoring position were way off," said Damon, who hit a career-high 24 homers but batted .260 in the clutch.

"I chased a lot more pitches than I normally should. I have to show the fans a lot more."

That .260 with runners in scoring position was down from the .331 he hit for Boston in 2005, and 38 points below his lifetime mark of .298.

Damon, who was in the first season of a four-year, $52 million deal, batted .285, which was five points off his .290 career average.

Losing to the Tigers still hurts.

"It still stinks because the Cardinals won [the World Series] and I thought a number of teams were better than they were. But they played good at the right time," Damon said.

"Detroit caught fire after the rainout [Game 2 of the ALDS]. I am not going to cry about it because they shut us down, but I still thought we were the best team this year. Hopefully we can come back and be better, but I am still [ticked]."

Much was made of Alex Rodriguez' poor series against the Tigers, in which he went 1-for-14. But Damon was 4-for-17 and hitless in nine at-bats after a three-run homer in the fourth inning of Game 2.

"I can look in the mirror whether I was good or real bad," Damon said.

A lot of Damon's first Yankee season was draped in injury. He fractured a bone in his right foot in April. Back trouble came and went, and his left shoulder was a concern to the point he went to Dr. James Andrews early this month for an MRI. The shoulder problem that developed into a small tear surfaced when Damon was playing for USA in the World Baseball Classic in March.

"That worked out good, I don't need surgery," Damon said.

In the aftermath of the Detroit downer, Damon didn't mope around his Orlando home.

"I went surfing for a few days, went to Homestead (Fla.) for NASCAR and went to the Knicks-Heat game with A-Rod," Damon said.

Now Damon and wife Michelle are playing the waiting game for the couple's first child, due in mid-January. Damon, who has two children from a previous marriage, said he wouldn't be surprised if Michelle gives birth sometime next month.