The attraction of J.D. Drew to the Boston Red Sox seems to me to be one of the great mysteries of life. What would behoove the BoSox to be attracted to Drew’s up-and-down career inconsistency? Are we talking about attraction or fatal attraction? The only season where Drew even began to live up to his power potential was with the 2001 St. Louis Cardinals when he hit 27 homers, drove in 73 runs and hit .323 in 109 games while losing time to a broken right hand and a lower back sprain.
I can still remember J.D. Drew and his run-in with the Phillies in 1997. The woeful ‘97 Phils finished last in the NL East that year with a 68-94 record and sorely needed a player with Drew’s power potential.
Baseball Library’s profile on Drew reports;
Drew’s abundant talent garnered comparisons to immortals Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle before he had played even a full month with the St. Louis Cardinals. After a record-setting three years at Florida State, he had become a poster-boy for greedy ballplayers when he engaged in an acrimonious contract holdout after being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1997.
He didn’t take up baseball until the age of 13, when he tired of playing wide receiver on his high school’s run-oriented football squad. Taken in the 20th round of the 1994 draft by San Francisco, Drew elected instead for college, telling the Giants that he wanted to get bigger and stronger.
The Phillies selected Drew with the second overall pick of the 1997 draft. Boras and Drew asked for a contract package that totaled $11 million, a number that Philadelphia staunchly refused to consider. In a bizarre chapter of the saga, Drew claimed never to have received three executed minor-league contracts the Phillies sent via Federal Express to his parents’ home in Georgia and later to his Florida State address.
Unable to agree to a contract with the Phillies, Drew opted to spend the 1997 season with the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, where he batted .318 with 18 home runs and 50 RBIs in 44 games, earning the league’s Rookie of the Year Award. Despite his offensive assault, Drew faced resentment from both fans and player for his holdout.
In my mind, the “poster-boy for greedy ballplayers” tag has stuck with Drew throughout what has been a mostly mediocre 9 year career. It seems apparent that after the Phillies suffered Drew’s attempted shakedown, they unloaded him like a bad habit.
Baseball Library’s profile on Drew continues;
Drew re-entered the draft the next year, and the Cardinals took him with fifth overall pick in June 1998. After signing a four-year deal worth approximately $8.5 million and playing just 45 games at Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Memphis, Drew was called up to St. Louis that September. He made his debut on September 8, 1998, the day Mark McGwire hit his record-setting 62nd home run. Playing his first road game the next day at Cincinnati, Drew responded to the jeers and boos of the crows by launching his first major-league home run, a 438-foot blast off Gabe White. In 14 games that month, Drew batted .417 with five home runs, fueling expectations for his impending rookie year. While Drew tore through the exhibition season in the spring of 1999, Cardinals coaches fell all over themselves trying to praise him. Hitting coach Mike Easler described the left-handed swinger as “Wade Boggs with power” and compared his running and defensive skills to Mantle. Manager Tony LaRussa opined, “He has the standard five tools and I give him an extra-credit half tool because he knows how to use them.”But despite opening his rookie campaign batting in the most coveted lineup spot in baseball – directly ahead of new home run champ McGwire – Drew’s first year did not turn out as planned. He batted just .242 with 13 home runs and 19 steals in 104 games, and was criticized by LaRussa for poor outfield fundamentals. Adding injury to insult, Drew was sidelined more than six weeks by a quadriceps injury in May.The rookie also suffered the wrath of the City of Brotherly Love when the Cardinals traveled to Philadelphia in August. Philadelphia fans booed Drew lustily and brought all manner of colorful signs to the ballpark. Eight arrests were made at his Veterans Stadium debut on August 10, 1999 when two D-cell batteries were thrown at him in the outfield.Drew’s 2000 season augured better, as he raised his average to .295 with 18 home runs. He began to fulfill the predictions of greatness in 2001, when he batted above .320 with bulked-up power numbers despite losing time to a broken right hand and a lower back sprain.
But then, in the 2002 season, Drew suffered a regression slumping to 18 homers, 56 RBIs and a .252 for the Cards in 135 games and then to 15 homers, 42 RBIs and a .289 average in 2003 before again putting up decent power numbers; 31 homers, 93 RBIs and .305 average in 145 games with Atlanta in 2004.
In 2005, Drew went to the Dodgers and suffered through another injury-plagued season appearing in only 72 games and hitting 15 homers, driving in 36 runs with a .286 average. Last season, Drew played in the most games of his career, 146 and hit 20 homers with a career-high 100 RBIs with a .283 average for the Dodgers. At best, he can be called a middle-wrung and over-priced commodity off of his failure thus far to live up to the potential portrayed by “comparisons to immortals Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle” when he was drafted.
The Red Sox seem intent on acquiring a replacement for powerful rightfielder Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez, while being a character with two years left on his eight-year contract and having asked to be traded several times, has impressive, consistent power numbers; 0ver 30 homers in 10 of 14 seasons, over 100 RBIs in 10 of 14 seasons, batting average over .300 in 10 of 14 seasons and a lifetime .314 batting average. With those numbers, it would seem that the Sox could overlook a lot of shtick.
The questions are; How big a difference does age (Drew 31, Ramirez 34) make? With J. D. Drew’s apparent asking price; $70 Million for 5 years, is signing him seen by Boston as an economy move for the Sox after shelling out the highly pulicized $51 million to merely bid on Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka? Ramirez is due $18 million next season and $20 million in 2008. Both players have seen bouts on the DL. Would Drew’s price tag be accompanied by his finally reaching potential or would Boston be swapping one high-maintenance flake for another while losing Ramirez’s immense numbers? Loss of such numbers is bound to have negative impact on Boston’s 2007 won-loss record unless recouped somewhere.