New season, same story—J.D. Drew's back is bothering him, and one can only envision he'll be riding the pine for at least another 50 games in 2009.
We've all heard the Drew sympathizers talking about how he hit that grand slam in the 2007 playoffs and how he hit that home run in the wild come-from-behind win over Tampa Bay in the 2008 playoffs.
These two home runs mean we should be content with Drew. Really? Are those two home runs really worth five years, and $70 million?
Drew's biggest statistical success since signing with the Red Sox prior to the 2007 season has been his on base percentage (OBP). While Drew hasn't quite put up home run and batting average numbers to meet the lofty expectations driven by his inflated salary, he has certainly held his own when it comes to getting on base.
And OBP, as we know, is one of those areas, along with on base plus slugging percentage (OPS), which have become sought after commodities in today's game.
Drew hit 11 home runs in 2007. The only logical assumption, it would seem, is that Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein signed Drew based on his two career years—in 2001, while with St. Louis (.323 BA, 27 HR, 73 RBI, .414 OBP) and in 2004 with Atlanta (.305 BA, 31 HR, 93 RBI, .436 OBP).
Those seasons are worth five years, and $70 million. I will not argue that.
But if you look at the bigger picture, last year's 109 games played (67% of the season) appears to be more what should be expected from Drew. His OBP has been decent, but it has not reached his 2001 and 2004 career years.
Drew's signing, along with Julio Lugo's and Matt Clement's, remain the biggest blemishes on Epstein's record during his tenure as Red Sox GM. The writing was on the wall about Drew. His career has been marred by injury, and Epstein chose to ignore this enormous red flag, and bid against himself to sign Drew.
Were these bonehead moves by Theo the exception to the rule, or are these gigantic blunders the sign of a larger issue with his ability to assess free agents? It is these types of acquisitions which lead me to downgrade my overall opinion of Theo. Save for the large payroll he is afforded, including the ability to cover up his mistakes with cash (Red Sox commonly pay players to play for other teams), I think Theo is "good" but not "great."
As spring training is just warming up, Drew is again complaining of back pain. The same back pain he complained about in 2008.
Yet another injury-filled campaign is ahead of us. I can't wait.
Thanks, Theo. You're swell sometimes.