Every year, Fire Brand gives out it’s prestigious, most honorable Fire Brand of the Year award. Previous recipients, chronologically: Tim Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Timlin, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Jason Bay.
Wondering what the award is?
The Fire Brand of the American League is a Red Sox player who exhibits character under pressure, an unassuming man who leaves the spotlight for other people but makes his indelible mark on the past season’s Boston Red Sox. A piece most people take for granted, but whom we would have missed dearly.
Given the picture above and to the right as well as the headline, might as well let the cat out of the bag, right? It’s J.D. Drew. Drew will adorn Fire Brand (sidebar, bottom right — it shows up as Bay, but it’ll be changed in a bit) throughout 2010, representing this Web site.
It’s a well-deserved “award” for Drew, who posted a .914 OPS on the year. His .392 OBP and .522 slugging percentage ranked second among American League outfielders, behind only Bay.
In 137 games, he cranked 24 home runs, 68 RBI and 84 runs. He batted at least once in every position, splitting the most time between second, fifth and sixth.
His defense was fantastic, as it led all right-fielders in UZR/150 with a 15.7 mark. Indeed, Drew was perhaps the most valuable right fielder in all of the game. Looking at Beyond the Boxscore’s DiamondView, a visual mark of how good a player was, only confirms it:
Drew has gotten a lot of flak — some of it rightfully so — over the course of his career. He spurned Philadelphia after being drafted and ended up in St. Louis. His agent is Scott Boras, and Drew personifies with his personality not particularly “caring” who he plays for.
Look, Drew may be a mercenary, but I don’t think the hate against him is reasonable. I can easily see jumping job to job if I keep finding people who will pay me more and more. What he cares about is his play on the field. His self-determination and drive to keep playing day after day after having made millions, won a title and an All-Star MVP… I must say, I am impressed. So what if he doesn’t throw helmets or break bats? His own frustration can be taken out internally or away from prying eyes.
He has been very valuable to a Boston club that tends to either mock or overlook him. I’m with everyone in thinking his rookie AL season — 2007 — was tepid. His $14 Million Grand Slam changed things, though, and he’s been nothing but a high-level contributor since.
Drew has also been miscast for years as someone who should be batting third or fourth — that his talent is that great. Drew is a complementary star player. That’s what he’s always been and will always be. Temper your expectations accordingly, and he gets all that much better. Is anyone expecting Mike Cameron, for example, to be our clean up hitter? No. Then why Drew? It’s because his reputation precedes him as one who should be. I think we’ve had enough body of work to accurately judge Drew… and what is he?
Someone with a tremendous batting eye who doesn’t embarrass himself in the batting average department. He has above-average power with great defense and is a smart baserunner. Even better, he bats from the left side of the plate. When you hear someone described like that, don’t you want that player on your team?
I do. I want J.D. Drew.