“He can play an Evans-type right field or he can play a quality center field. I think the fans in Boston are really going to appreciate his style of play, as the fans in L.A. did. We think J.D. has a chance to be very successful in Boston.” – Scott Boras, 2006
I found it somewhat funny (and still depressing) that in one fell swoop, the Boston Red Sox collected a trio of players that most of their fans would grow to despise. In December 2006, Theo Epstein and company committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the likes of JD Drew, Julio Lugo and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Did Drew earn his money in Boston? Ask one of his staunch supporters and they will defend Drew’s defensive prowess, his sporadic, but important playoff contributions and the advanced metrics which clearly articulate that in 2008 and 2009, he was a major asset to the Red Sox.
And if you ask the other 97th-percentile they will tell you that ‘JD Drew Sucks’. There are plenty of Facebook pages and message board forums who proudly wave their disdain for #7. To these fans, RBI production, grit, toughness and emotion play heavy factors and Drew was underwhelming to say the least in all of those aspects. At least to the naked eye.
According to Fangraphs, Drew was worth a little over 4 wins in 2008 and nearly 5 wins in 2009 during injury-limited seasons. This was a two-year stretch where Drew far-exceeded expectations as far as the front office was concerned. Here at our own website, Drew was named 2010 Fire Brand of the Year following his 2009 season in which he demonstrated excellent defense, near-elite power and home run-to-flyball percentages, a 15% walk rate and $22 million in total value.
Not everyone sees it that way though. A lot of fans see Drew as a baby, a wimp, a wuss and a guy who doesn’t care. These fans wish that Trot Nixon never left and many could care less about any of the value Drew brought defensively. They saw Drew as a detriment from early in 2007 until he limped his way out of town after the Red Sox collapsed in 2011. Good riddance.
If you prefer advanced metrics and want to point at Drew’s overarching value in 2008 and 2009, then you might be interested to know that based on his 2011 performance, Drew owes the team a little over $1 million. I say that half-jokingly, but the same value system that lead to Drew gaining support and street-cred amongst the sabr-slanted baseball crowd, clearly shows that Drew was worth LESS than a replacement-level player in 2011.
Here a little fun fact for you — Between Drew, Carl Crawford and Darnell McDonald, the three players were worth a TOTAL of $700,000 while earning a combined $29 million in salary.
2011 JD Drew -0.3 WAR, ($1.1)
2011 Carl Crawford 0.2 WAR, ($0.9)
2011 Darnell McDonald 0.2 WAR, ($0.9)
No, that is not a typo. Drew was a negative value in 2011, Crawford and McDonald were equal and both barely a squeak above replacement level. For a combined $29 million you got one-tenth of a win above replacement and $700,000 worth of production.
Following the footsteps of a revered dirtdog like Nixon wouldn’t be easy for Drew but like everything else, it didn’t seem to matter to him. However you interpreted Drew’s attitude is up to you. His demeanor led many fans to question whether he cared about any outcome during a game. Groundout to second base? No reaction. Home run to RF? No reaction. Stolen base? Blank stare. Gunned down at home? Reaction akin to completing a household chore — barely an expression.
Here we have a passionate fanbase, hanging on the edge of every ball and strike and their newly-minted and handsomely-compensated outfielder is barely reacting after being called out on third strikes repeatedly. What were they to think? That he cared? He sure didn’t look like it. By the summer of 2007, Drew was a punching bag for fans who longed for the days of Dwight Evans and the ‘Real #7’.
The funny thing about all of that is no one really knew what was going on in Drew’s head. He was consistent in his personality and behavior since the day he put on the Red Sox cap. Whether we liked it or not, it was how he was. And to that, he was always the same. He’s probably a good poker player because of his lack of response and expression. The problem is that in this city, the fans want to see emotion from you — even if you suck.
That is of course unless you are Lackey. In which case, you better not show as much reaction because if you you suck too much, shouldn’t be as fiery. We like fiery players only if they are good. Some emotion, but not too much if you are bad and if you don’t show any emotion, well then you better be awesome. Drew was not awesome. Hence, he was hated.
I was always a Drew supporter. I like to look at baseball beyond the stats that NESN runs up on a graphic during each player’s at-bat, but many other fans don’t. I can understand that many fans expect to see run creation but only to a certain point. I never thought Drew was as bad as he was made out to be, relatively speaking. His five-year career in Boston can be summed up as ‘meh’, very good, great, meh and bad. That’s 2006-2011 in a nutshell but most fans I hear talk about Drew act as though all five years of the contract were just like 2011 and that’s simply not true.
Drew’s 2011 was the most problematic and surely the injury battles played a role, but his base skills completely collapsed beneath him. Drew hit 49% of his batted-balls on the ground which was a direct result of poor-contact and weakly-hit balls. His hard-hit ball percentage was 23% and by far the lowest of his 11-year career. His weakly-hit ball percentage was nearly 25% and the highest of his career by nearly 10 percentage points. Not. Good.
It didn’t end well for Drew in Boston and we are all probably better off now that he is gone. He wasn’t what most people wanted, but let’s not act like it was a complete disaster either.