I gave up a long time ago trying to find any sign of passion in J.D. Drew. Too many times I’ve watched him meander to the plate, calmly watch three strikes, turn on his heels, and meander back to the dugout.
Ho-hum, just another day at the office.
But the routine has become almost unbearable to watch given that it is no longer accompanied by anything resembling production. Drew is hardly the only person in the Red Sox lineup struggling—watching the Sox hit lately has been like brushing your teeth with a butter knife—but he’s the only one who doesn’t seem to give a damn.
Let me begin by saying I’ve never understood the infatuation with Drew. He carries with him a reputation as a steady, solid player, but in the three years he’s spent in Boston I’ve seen only a streaky, creaky outfielder. The guy apparently worth $70 million has yet to appear on my television screen.
But I’ve been willing to keep my mouth shut as Drew’s defenders continuously pluck ripe justifications from the excuse tree. That’s “just the way he is,” they’ll tell you. He may not show emotion, but that “doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.”
That’s what it means to me. And his words lately haven’t done much to change my mind.
I’m not looking for Drew to turn into the second coming of Kevin Youkilis. In all honesty, Youk’s antics are a little over the top at times. But a little hint that he’s in Boston to do more than cash his weekly paycheck might be nice.
Instead we get this: When asked about his recent slump, which included a truly horrific 0-for-22 stretch, Drew told the Boston Globe “they’ve pitched me tough … I’ve had some pitches that I’ve missed that I wish I could have put in play, but for the most part, we’ve faced some good pitching.”
More recently, following his demotion from the lead-off spot after he hit a whopping .190 in the position, Drew told the same newspaper he was “baffled.”
“When you hit a ball like that, you look up, you think it’s a hit, it’s right at the guy,” Drew told the Globe. “Par for the course for me right now. Every time I square it up, I hit it right at somebody. Sooner or later, they’ve got to start falling, I think.’
Allow me to translate: Shucks, coach, these other guys are pretty darn good. But I’ll get ‘em next time. When’s payday?
I want to see Drew drop his bat in frustration, just once. I want him to argue a call with an umpire. Or an opponent. Heck, even a teammate. I’d settle at this point for him to simply pause a split second before turning around and leaving the next time he takes strike three. At least then I could pretend he was spending that second thinking about baseball.
What’s funny here is this: Drew and Julio Lugo were signed to equally ridiculous contracts during the same off-season. And yet Lugo was considered an abject failure and ultimately jettisoned while Drew continues to glide by largely unscathed. Where is the outrage from Red Sox Nation?
I’m the first to admit, Drew has delivered some big moments during the two postseasons in which he’s participated. His grand slam against the Indians in 2007 may have been as big a catalyst toward the title as any single play. If you listen to the Drew Defenders, though, they’ll make him out to be Reggie Jackson. The truth of the matter is he’s hit .292 with three home runs.
Not terrible, indeed, but—like almost everything else Drew does—hardly remarkable.
And, to be honest, it would have taken a .450 average to offset his regular seasons, which have been borderline wastes of time despite the lack of public outcry. He hit .270 with a pedestrian 64 RBI in his first season, driving in fewer runs than immortals such as Jack Cust, Mark Ellis and—ironically—Julio Lugo. Despite playing in a lineup as powerful as the one the Red Sox rolled out each day—one in which, by the way, Mike Lowell plated 120 teammates—Drew couldn’t outslug a 150-pound shortstop in the No. 9 hole.
Last year he batted .280 and delivered 19 home runs, but played in a meager 109 games with such debilitating maladies as a “sore back,” an injury that, even after an entire off-season of rest, kept him out of most of spring training this year.
Speaking of this year, Drew has been virtually useless. He’s battled more of the same nuisance injuries and enters play Monday with a whopping .235 batting average. His 0-for-22 streak included seven whiffs, and his average plummeted at one point low enough to be the seventh-worst among everyday players in the American League.
I don’t have the list in front of me, but I’d bet the six people below him make a combined 10 percent of his salary. In reality, save for a bull’s-eye throw to the plate against Kansas City a few weeks ago, he’s delivered zero memorable moments I can recall.
But, alas, he’s built a career on such a situation. Perhaps it’s my fault for expecting anything more.
I guess I just don’t understand.
I don’t get why Theo takes so much heat from the media and spirited fan base over Lugo—who was as big a mistake as one can make—without getting the same for the Drew signing. Perhaps his weaknesses are more glaring given the Red Sox recent struggles, but the guy just isn’t the star people have made him out to be.
He’s got a few signature moments in the postseason to his credit, but considering the five-year commitment and $70 million price tag, he’s been a complete failure by most any measure.
Don’t be surprised if this is news to you. Because you sure couldn’t tell by looking at him.