Here we go again: In defense of (or at least an argument for) J.D. Drew

December 6th, 2006 → 10:12 am @ // No Comments

Last night brought a couple of much-anticipated Red Sox moves: the signings of J.D. Drew (5 years, $70 million) and Julio Lugo (4 years, $36 million). From a pure economic standpoint, these signings are either crazy expensive (you’re not going to hear the end of “but they could have signed Johnny for $52 million” for a good while) or pretty damn cheap (is J.D. worth $4 million more a year than Gary Matthews? Hell yeah).

J.D. will come to Boston with a lot of expectations…a lot of low expectations, that is. There were petitions urging the Sox front office not to sign the guy. He’s been repeatedly labeled a lily-livered pansy, a guy who’s soft, who can’t play hurt, who lacks fire.

Here are some thoughts — and observations — on that.

* We’d all do well to check out exactly how good a player Drew is. He has the 25th highest slugging percentage of all active players, and the 15th highest among active players under 35. He’s posted a career line of .286, .393, .512. His OPS is .905, compared to .924 for David Ortiz (and an otherworldly 1.011 for Manny). And he’s a better fielder (and baserunner) than either of the Sox’s Big Two.

* I have a hard time believing that a player gets to be a major leaguer while being truly “soft,” just as I think it’s usually a load of crap when we all debate about whether this or that player can or can’t handle being booed. By the time you reach the majors, you’ve pushed through enough so that you damn well better be able handle some catcalls. And it’s incredibly difficult to make the physical commitment to being a professional athlete while being a big-time wuss. Drew makes me nervous, but not because I think he’s a crybaby; he makes me nervous because I worry he might have one of those bodies that’s just not that durable. If that’s the case, we just committed to five years of Drew renting space on the trainer’s table.

So why the rep? It could be because, unlike, say, Trot Nixon, Drew comes off as a more passive player — there’s not the helmut slamming or frequent cursing. (Drew and Trot have averaged pretty much the exact same number of games played per year in their careers. Go figure.) Drew’s also never particularly endeared himself to fans, so when Manny sits out for last month of the season despite a clean MRI and medical clearance from the team, it’s because he knows his body better than anyone, yada yada yada. But we’re all too ready to label Drew, who’s not only never played in Boston but has never played in the American League, as a bust from the get-go. Maybe he will be. But let’s give him a chance.

Tony Massarotti has a little item showing what the Red Sox’s lineup would look like if the season started tomorrow. I’ll throw in career BAs, OBPs, and SLGs:

Julio Lugo, .277, .340, .402
Coco Crisp, .282, .329, .416
David Ortiz, .283, .374, .550
Manny Ramirez, .314, .411, .600
J.D. Drew, .286, .393, .512
Mike Lowell, .273, .339, .463
Jason Varitek, .269, .348, .450
Kevin Youkilis, .275, .379, .423
Dustin Pedroia, NA

Papi, Manny, and J.D. wouldn’t exactly be a modern-day Murderer’s Row — Ruth and Gehrig both had slugging percentages of over .750! in 1927 — but they’d be pretty damn good.

Meanwhile, the assumption is that any effort to trade Manny is losing steam. I can only assume that means there’ll be a news conference announcing his new destination within the next couple of hours…

Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & J.D. Drew & Julio Lugo

8 Comments → “Here we go again: In defense of (or at least an argument for) J.D. Drew”

  1. redsoxtimes

    17 years ago

    Given the signings of Lugo and Drew, and looking at that lineup, I have backed off on my desire to deal Manny for prospects. With that lineup and a revamped pitching staff (including Matsuzaka and possibly Gagne), I feel confident going into next season in much better shape than we did in either ’05 or ’06.

    I love your last statement: “Meanwhile, the assumption is that any effort to trade Manny is losing steam. I can only assume that means there’ll be a news conference announcing his new destination within the next couple of hours…”

    To quote Rowdy Roddy Piper, “Just when you think you know the answers, I change the questions.”

    Red Sox Times


  2. schlom

    17 years ago

    I think the main complaint should be the lack of a plan by the Red Sox management. None of their moves, when taken together, seem to make any sense. They haven’t really net improved over the past two year but have made the payroll take a significant jump. Every move seems to be an overreaction to a previous move. All they’ve done is push players around, opening up new holes and filling them with much more expensive players.


  3. dannyg

    17 years ago

    A couple other points on Drew.

    First, in 2005 when his season ended July 4, it was because he was hit by a pitch. That was not because he was out of shape or soft. That is just the dumb luck of baseball.

    If you then look at 2004 through 2006 (he played 145 games in ’04 and 146 in ’06) and project what he could have done in ’05 over 144 games (he had plated 72, so .285, 30 HR, 75 RBI, 100 walks, .410 OBP, .930 OPS, .520 slugging), you’re looking at the three best years of his career on teams that were far from offensive juggernauts.

    Assuming Manny stays, he’s never been in a lineup this good where Youk and Lowell likely bat 7 and 8. It’s more likely he has his best year than falls on his face. The question is can he do it for 4 years? If he has just hit his prime, as the numbers seem to indicate, and his injury days are over or lessened as the last three years indicate, possibly he can do it through the contract, although years 3 and 4 could see some fall off.

    Second, if you believe he’ll have issues in Boston because of press, fans, etc., then Nomar for example, and others, should never have been sucessful here. That is hard to predict. His talent could take over when he’s between the lines even if he dislikes the other aspects of playing here. Worked for Manny.

    The only issue is the money. If it weren’t $14 million over four years, who wouldn’t want a guy with his ability? People will want a stat line comparable with the money, which is unrealistic.

    I do worry about the money because it makes it tougher to afford going to games. Otherwise, it’s not our money, so focus on can he play to a high enough level to improve the team and help them win. I’m going to give him a chance to prove me wrong and say he can. Others should do the same.

    Ordway, Callahan, and the freaks at WEEI who never met the man, never saw him play a season, and want to run him out of town before he gets here (or just create talk for their ratings), should consider doing the same and quit fanning the flames of the “get a life” callers.


  4. Xristafer

    17 years ago

    You’d really want to bat Lugo & Crisp 1 & 2 Seth? I’m not so sure I like the idea of two guys with career OBP’s under .350 being right ahead of Papi & Manny all year. If you take a look at Lugo’s stats when he was with TB, his OBP was much higher when he was batting leadoff or simply coming up first in an inning, so that doesn’t worry me too much. I think that’s a formidable lineup though if we simply switched up Crisp & Youks (who only grounded into a handful of DP’s last year) to bat in front of our killer 3 through 5. Just a little nitpick.


  5. chris

    17 years ago

    So how do we gauge the “reaction” of the collective several million people here to Drew signing? There seems to be this assumption in the media that Sox fans are violently opposed, and at least Seth has the grace to cite some evidence, however anecdotal. But Wilbur and Cafardo both write columns on the premise that we’re all ready to kill the guy… and meanwhile the Globe’s own internet poll — not a perfect gauge, but over 7,000 votes is at least empirical evidence — shows fans guardedly optimistic and supportive.

    I’m a regular on a few political blogs, and as such am pretty sensitive to columnists writing that “people are saying X” with no attempt to cite anything probitive. I suspect “People” is usually a surrogate for the writer’s friends, or voices in his head, or talk-radio screaming morons. Whatever, there’s no reason to believe it represents reality.

    File this we-hate-Drew shit next to the evidence-of-a-curse folder.


  6. rope789

    17 years ago

    Drew is a complex player — at times dominant, at times seemingly indifferent. Sometimes fluid, smooth players get a bad rap for “not trying” in part because they look like they are giving less effort compared to less talented players who at least look like they are “hustling.”

    I have a close friend who is tight with a top scout in the Tigers organzation. The scout played with a number of players who played with Drew. The rap on Drew is that unless he believes he can play at his peak level, he’ll ask out of the lineup — this causes some resentment among players who are more willing to play through the inevitable little injuries that are part of a 162 game season.

    The scout also tells my friend that when healthy, there are few players in the game with better athleticism and such a broad base of skills.

    I think Drew will prove a better player than Nixon, and I think some of the ‘injury-prone’ rap on Drew is more (bad) luck than anything else. When healthy, I think Drew is an elite player who is a major upgrade to lineup that needs more offense.

    I’d hit Youkilis first, Crisp or Lugo second, Ortiz, Manny, and Drew . . .TB

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  8. […] there’s been lots of speculation about this. As I’ve said before, I think the Drew signing was a good one (as do lots of other people, including SI’s Tom Verducci, although I can’t find that […]


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