When the Red Sox signed JD Drew to a 5-year contract worth $70 million, the reaction among baseball insiders and fans was almost universal. This is a marriage of the worst possible kind.
Take a blue collar city like Boston, where the fans are extremely passionate and demanding of the players, and add JD Drew, who had the reputation of being lackadaisical and indifferent, and this is, shall we say, a disaster waiting to happen.
Drew did not squash those fears in 2007; he hit .270 (OBP of .373), but only had 11 HR’s and 64 RBI. His OPS was a somewhat decent .796, but minor injuries also limited him to 140 games.
His defense was stellar in the treacherous right field of Fenway, and all Red Sox fans will remember his huge grand slam in Game Six of the ALCS, but by all accounts, Drew did not have a good 2007.
Red Sox fans knew they were getting a guy who played baseball with the intensity of a mahjong game, but the one thing Drew always did was put up solid numbers.
In 2007, he did not even do that. As the ’07 season wore on, stories began to circulate that there were some issues at home with the health of one of Drew’s children.
It seemed as though Drew did not want to talk about this publicly, and perhaps he was understandably distracted on the field, but it seemed all was thankfully much improved and Drew was ready to have a bounce back season in 2008.
He still may very well do that, but in the early stages, it seems as though the evil JD Drew has reared his ugly head. Red Sox fans tuning in at 6AM EST to watch their season opener from Japan were welcomed with a surprise.
Rookie Brandon Moss got the start in RF, while Drew sat with lower back tightness. It is tough to know what kind of pain an individual is going through, but by all accounts, many players experienced discomfort and tightness stemming from the 18 hour flight to Japan, yet all other regulars took the field on Opening Day.
Then Drew missed Game Two. Last night, after a few days off, and back in the US, Drew again was scratched from the lineup. I am sure fans in St Louis, Atlanta, and LA are nodding their heads, having seen this scenario unfold before.
The term “dirt dog” or “gamer” or “intense” has never been tossed around when describing JD Drew, but Drew has always produced. In 2007, he still brought the same kind of laissez-faire attitude to baseball, but did not even produce his typical production.
The Red Sox specifically brought Drew in to fill a void in RF, but also to hit fifth. The Red Sox got terrible production from the five-hole in 2006, and Drew was supposed to provide solid numbers in that spot.
Also, Drew’s presence would allow the middle of the Sox lineup to go lefty-righty-lefty-righty (Ortiz, Ramirez, Drew, Lowell). That plan was scrapped in 2007 due to Drew’s lack of production, as well as increased production from Mike Lowell.
The Sox have moved Drew all around the lineup in hopes of getting him going, but other than a few spurts last season, it has generally failed.
Perhaps I am overreacting to three games of a 162 season. It is a long season, and Drew can still help this ball club. He is a five tool player with a boatload of talent. His swing is perhaps the prettiest in the game. And even the demanding Red Sox fans will deal with Drew's noncholanet demeanor if he can produce some better numbers (something like his 2004 with the Braves, or even his 2006 with the Dodgers).
But if history is any lesson, JD Drew will continue to tease and disapoint in 2008.