Long-respected hub journalistic staples, delusional interweb hacks and ordinarily thoughtful bloggers alike are tripping over themselves to kill JD Drew before he even hits the tarmac at Logan. At best all I can say is that a local baseball loving public deserves better analysis from its “sports experts” and at worst I will say that those lining up to take their shots at Drew carry on like self-aggrandizing blowhards, positioning themselves to cheer on the hometown team unaccountably if wrong, and pat themselves on the back if right.
Said Bob Ryan the other day during a conference call Theo Epstein was kind enough to schedule with the local media, “On behalf of an eager constituency, let’s hope the rumor is not true. Thank you.” How courteous, Bob.
We have come to expect hackery from the Dirt Dog, but an anti-Drew petition? Really? Already as low as they come, Dirt Dog has yet managed a new one. Dirt Dog runs a “fansite,” with pictures and big font and little more and so he has to figure out ways to maintain fan interest. Of course when it comes to the running of his site, he’s morally bankrupt and perpetually unaccountable, so you see what he is up to with Drew. I mean he kills Manny all the time too. What does he propose the Sox do? But it’s always so transparent what’s going on over there. If the Sox are going good, he’ll see his traffic. If they’re not, a rabid fanbase will turn to the Dirt Dog to assail those Red Sox not living up to expectations. Either way, he’s covered.
Fantastic internet voices like Chad Finn don’t want to see any part of Drew, either. Says Finn today…
I’m with Ryan. What’s the fascination, Theo? I know the skill-set and the OPS is appealing . . . but damn, it’s time to start giving consideration again to a player’s mental makeup. I’m tired of watching this supposedly progressive front office throw multimillion contracts to well-known Cowardly Lions who will shrivel under the scrutiny.
Of course Chad does not offer up any specific insight into Drew’s character, but has no problem dubbing him a “Cowardly Lion.” What’s sad is that I am beginning to believe that a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts may be taking hold here. Drew is human, after all, and if all one is greeted with at the outset of a new employment opportunity is skepticisim and snide commentary about his or her mental state, well, that might adversely affect an individual.
What the Drew discourse needs is an injection of reality, and so let me proceed with a series of facts relating to JD Drew, and further, to Drew as he stacks up to the rumored-to-be-departing Manny Ramirez.
First, a Drew career recap:
He came up with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 at the age of 22 and lit the league on fire for the month of September. In 1999 and 2000, Drew was pretty good (superb in 2000) but St. Louis Manager Tony LaRussa never entrusted him with a truly full-time job. That changed in 2001, when Drew put up a superb .323/.414/.623 campaign, albeit in a season cut short by a David Wells fastball that hit him square on the wrist. Wells, then of the Chicago White Sox, hit Drew on June 17 during an interleague tilt. Although he finished the season strong thereafter, Drew would not see action again until July 31.
Drew experienced legitimately chronic and frustrating injury troubles in 2002 and 2003. Recurring patellar tendinitis in his right knee limited Drew to 711 AB’s in the two seasons combined. Frustrated, the Cards shipped Drew off to Atlanta after the 2003 campaign.
He went crazy in 2004. Injury free and locked in, Drew put up his best season as a pro, hitting .304/.436/.569 in 645 plate appearences, all the while playing a very good right field. Drew cashed in on his career season by signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 2005 season. Once again he put up stellar numbers, this time in spacious Dodger Stadium, hitting .286/.412/.520. Problem was, just as he had his 2001 breakout season cut short by a David Wells fastball, so too was his 2005 cut short. Brad Halsey plunked him on the wrist on July 3 and Drew would miss the rest of the season.
This past season, with Grady Little babying him all season long, he logged 146 games played and 594 plate appearences. He once again played a solid right field, and hit .283/.393/.498 – a tremendous line for a guy playing home games at Dodger Stadium.
Which brings us to the present. Drew turned 31 just 11 days ago. He has been chronic injury free for three full seasons now and really his whole career except for 2002 and 2003. This is not to say that his hitting style might not lend itself to HBP’s or that his bones may not be more brittle than the next MLB’er (both things may be true). That said, I am comfortable slotting the HBP’s into the fluke category, which thereby mitigates the perceived injury risk that a Drew signing bears.
Since 2004, here is how he compares to one Manny Ramirez. I resort to Baseball Prospectus’s WARP1, a catch-all stat that seeks to incorporate offense and defense and determine how many wins over and above a replacement player a given pitcher or position player contributes. The figure is admittedly imperfect, but a good proxy nonetheless:
Drew: 3.9 (although a .321 EQA)
Manny: 6.9 (.317 EQA)
So what we have in Drew is a guy who has been a better player than Ramirez over the last three seasons, is 3.5 years his junior and played more games in 2006.
And yet, here is the media (and others) eager to sack the man. Well, be above it, Sox fans. At least give the guy a chance.
Update: To be clear, the Drew or Manny argument is not necessarily material to the big-picture Red Sox roster optimization discussion. Drew is not Manny’s replacement. I included the comparison above simply to point out that Drew stacks up quite favorably to Manny irrespective of who may or may not be replacing whom.