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Damon offers lofty praise for Francona

Damon offers lofty praise for Francona

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Damon offers lofty praise for Francona
ARLINGTON -- In his four years in Boston, including the 2004 season to end all seasons, Johnny Damon developed a profound appreciation of the managerial and coping skills of Terry Francona.

A driving force now with the Rays as they pursue what would be his third World Series championship in three cities, Damon was a pivotal player for those 2004 Red Sox "idiots" who ended generations of frustration in New England. He had lofty praise for Francona in the wake of his abrupt exit on Friday.

"It was definitely a sad day, especially since I was part of a team that helped create this bad September for them," Damon said before Saturday's Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Rangers.

"To me, Terry Francona is a Hall of Fame manager [for] what he was able to do in Boston and deal with that pressure on a day in day out [basis] -- and even the offseasons.

"Boston is definitely, I feel, the toughest place to play, just because the fans are passionate. The fans sit down with you at dinner [watching or listening to the games] every single night. You're eating dinner, the Red Sox game is on, and everybody knows what's going on -- and that's a great thing, but also it's a tough thing.

"I wish Terry Francona the best. I think he can manage any team or do anything in baseball he wants, and I think he would be successful."

Damon moved to the Yankees as a free agent after the 2005 season. His next four years in the Bronx mirrored the four in Boston -- statistically and in championship jewelry. His '09 Yanks won it all, giving him two World Series title rings to show young, impressionable teammates with whom he now shares a clubhouse with the Rays.

Damon, who has 70 hits in 56 career postseason games, also is showing the youngsters some things on the field. His two-run homer got the machinery humming in a 9-0 knockout in Game 1 on Friday at Rangers Ballpark. He also delivered an RBI single.

"He comes in and he's always in a great mood, always smiling," manager Joe Maddon said. "He is always the same cat that walks in the door. I know I appreciate that; I think his teammates do.

"He is unique, and he's been a huge part of our success this year."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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