Where was J.D. Drew?

Evan BrunellFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2008

As Wednesday night turned into Thursday morning, fans watched with dismay as the Red Sox left seven runners on base in extra innings. Making the matters worse, on two different occasions with two men on and two outs, the balance of the game fell twice to, of all people, Alex Cora.

Twice I found myself looking to the bench, waiting for Terry Francona to look down the bench and call a number as he waved back Cora from the on deck circle. Unfortunately, neither time did he make that call, and neither time was Alex Cora able to break through with a hit.

Mind you, this isn’t a knock on Alex Cora. He is what he is, a light hitting utility infielder. If he gets a hit in that situation, all the better. But we know what to expect from him, or better yet what not to.

This isn’t a knock on Terry Francona either. While I don’t always agree with the Red Sox manager, he’s proven himself to be the right man for this job. With the amount of decisions he makes on a nightly basis, I don’t expect him to make the perfect call in every one of those situations. But over the long haul, we know what to expect from him at the helm of this team.

But I digress.

As I look back at those Alex Cora at bats and Terry Francona looking through his options that may (and likely would) be better than Cora in any of those situations, I really only had one player in mind; Manny Ramirez

(gotcha…..I wouldn’t go there….would I? Let’s rewind.)

…I really only had one player in mind; J.D. Drew.

While J.D. Drew was officially off the DL, there were no guarantees of his health being 100% or even close, just look at Evan Longoria as an example. Coming off the DL after rosters expand in September doesn’t mean anything in relation to your overall health.

However, in Drew’s case, reports earlier in the day from Terry Francona had him ready and available to play.

“He did everything with no limitations, or at the worst, very little,” Francona said before the game. “So he’ll be available tonight, and we’ll work him back in after the offday.” boston.com

Great, so with Alex Cora up in a key situation and two out, the move is simple…Drew bats for Cora, Mark Kotsay moves to first base, Kevin Youkilis to third base, Jed Lowrie slides back to short and Drew moves back to his home in right field. Right?

Not so fast…apparently J.D. Drew wasn’t quite ready to play baseball.

“He had a good workout, went through everything full speed, and then his back tightened up, so we stayed away from him.” said Terry Francona after the game.” boston.com

Let’s all come back to reality a little bit here. Could Red Sox fans really be surprised by this? This is the same J.D. Drew who has only played in 80% of the games since donning a Red Sox uniform (73% this season).

Most of last season he was drawn from pillar to post by fans for being fragile and he’s been called soft by media personalities time and time again.

As one might expect, yesterday was no different as the WEEI call lines were lit up; “where was J.D.?”

Despite it all however, I think there is a desire by Red Sox fans to want to have a reason to root for J.D. Drew. While he’s had nearly as many mysterious injuries as Manny Ramirez, no one doubts his intentions or that he doesn’t feel 100% like they did with Manny.

Despite sitting on the sidelines in a late season extra inning affair that would go a long way to deciding the division (hmm…Nomar circa 2003 come to mind?), Drew wasn’t sulking in the dugout.

At the same time though, the questions are hanging right out there; Is J.D. Drew soft? Is he fragile? Does he have the competitive drive needed to succeed?

I’ve been back and forth with my opinion of Drew and I think the main reason for my ambiguity is that he doesn’t really give us, the fan, much to work with or grasp on to.

So I ask you….is Drew soft, fragile, unlucky? Does he lack the competitive drive to excel? Does it even matter?

One thing I can say for certain, I would have liked to have seen him at the plate with the game on the line instead of Alex Cora the other night.