Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Curious Case of J.D. Drew

As we approach the end of the J.D. Drew era, what can we conclude about the enigmatic right fielder? His Churchillian 'finest hour' came during the 2007 post-season, with a critical grand slam against Fausto Carmona. At other times, he was capable of carrying the team with mercurial, epic heights; occasionally, although playing hard he seemed indifferent.

We love guys who wear their heart on their sleeve. Kevin Youkilis disappoints. He punishes equipment and looks penitent and fretful. Dustin Pedroia strikes out and curses the day he was born. He even gets a base hit and spins around while running to scream at the umpire over perceived indignity. But Drew approaches the marathon with as even-temper as is humanly possible. He seems to be a machine, one that gets good jumps on balls hit his way, throws accurately and well, hits the cutoff man, and runs the bases with quiet efficiency.

Baseball is a game of failure. Three successes of ten at the plate make you an all-star. Four of ten hasn't occurred for seventy years. We have blown saves, caught stealing, missed signs and other transgressions. And to quote George Carlin, the game is played at the park, not War Memorial Stadium. Every player has a finite playing mortality and Drew's seems to have come prematurely.

Or not. I don't think for a minute Drew used performance-enhancing drugs. But Peter Gammons cautioned that after drug testing came on the scene, mid 30's guys would start playing like, well, older players. The immutable (unenhanced) laws of physiology and aging have returned to the game. Home runs are down, scoring is down.

We need shed no tears for J.D. Drew, and in fact, part of his problem emanates from our expectation of performance per year...PER DOLLAR. And most of us contend, with statistical support, that even at his best, Drew didn't match OUR expectations. We want to compare the contemporary player's salary to our heroes, reminiscing that Drew was no Yaz or Lynn or Dewey.

Did Drew give ever not give an honest effort, play hard, or shirk any of his duties? I think not. But maybe he never was one of "our guys"; as Shakespeare would remind, "the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves."


MacLeodCartoons said...

Ron - love it. an elegant, clear and honest appraisal. I never doubted JD's abilities and ethics but irrationally always wanted him to look like he gave a damn a bit more often!

RudyMass said...

Love it. Well written, thoughtful, objective, and generous of spirit. All I know is that if we are in the ALCS, up a run in the bottom of the eighth, and Cano shoots one into the right-center gap, I want Drew running that sucker down. Was he worth the contract? No. But I've never questioned his effort.

Dale Sams said...

'Drew running it down'?

Nah. He's not coming up with the defensive plays anymore either. And Im JD's biggest defender.

Anonymous said...

Decent article.

"Did Drew give ever not give an honest effort"


"We love guys who wear their heart on their sleeve. Kevin Youkilis disappoints. He punishes equipment and looks penitent and fretful."

I think you meant "does not disappoint."

Bill Hodgeman said...

I don't buy your theory that drug testing is bringing HR totals and scoring down. I think that MLB is loosening the balls to give the appearance that they are down, just like they tightened the balls after the strike to win fans back with the long ball.

Anonymous said...

I watch 90 plus Red Sox games a year. I've never once seen Drew dive for a ball. Not once. He slides sometimes, but never an all out diving effort. Remy once commented that that's because he gets a good jump on balls and doesn't need to dive. What a ridiculous comment. Sure, he might get to a ball that another player might need to dive for, but likewise that should put him into situations where he has the chance to dive for balls that other players with less of a jump would not have a chance to dive for. What I have seen him do is leave the bat on his shoulder time after time with men in scoring position and a chance to win the game. No player strikes out looking more to end games than Drew. I don't care that he doesn't show emotion. The bottom line is that he has no mental toughness. We all remember the grand slam. I'll give him that one. Was it worth the years of uselessness in right? Maybe, but I'll be glad to see him go.