Friday, May 8, 2009

JD will never be a Dirt Dog

So as I was studying for my last final reading the morning's Red Sox news I stumbled upon some comments about JD Drew.  Now, I know JD can be infuriating, especially in the injury department, but the disparaging remarks are getting old.  I actually saw a commenter who intimated that Drew "will never be a Trot Nixon."  What!?  Don't get me wrong, I like Nixon as much as the next fan, but across the board his stats are inferior to Drew's.  Nixon made it look like he was the much superior fielder, but mostly because of his style: he threw himself around the field with reckless abandon.  However, just because Drew lacks the weakness for theatrics does not mean he is an inferior ballplayer.

Yes, we're probably paying Drew too much money, as he is currently the highest paid player on the team, with a 2009 salary of $14 million.  But before you grab the torches and pitchforks, you might want to check who comes in second, with $13 million.  Yes, David Oritz is earning money way above his value so far.  In fact, among the top 10 highest earners, two are on the DL (Matsuzaka [$8.3m] and Smoltz [$5.5m]), a third is coming off knee surgery (Lugo [$9.2m]),and  the two (healthy) pitchers are underachieving for their prior standard (Beckett [$11.1m] and Paps [$6.2m].  The only players on the top 10 list who are performing where their salary should place them are Jason Bay [$7.8m], and Kevin Youkilis [$6.2m].

Now, both Bay and Youk are in fact performing above and beyond their tax bracket, but that begs the question: what is the market for average+ ballplayers?  This is precisely the problem that the Sox front office had in its talks with Jason Bay.  Bay is absolutely an elite player, and the market for elite players has been rather confusing in the past year.  Bobby Abreu signed with the Angels for $5m.  Milton Bradley signed for $10m. We all know how Manny ended up, and his stats are eerily similar to Bay's.

So what does all of this have to do with JD Drew?  It's just an excercise in reality.  When we signed JD, the market was different than it is now, and Theo inked his deal knowing very well that Drew would average 130 games a year due to his balky back.  Remember Drew's Grand slam in the 2007 ALCS?  I don't remember hearing much Drew-bashing that night.  The inimitable Chad Finn called Drew "usually one bloodless sucker in the clutch," and it's true.  Drew may have no feelings (ever.), but he comes through when it matters, and I'd rather have the results than the bravado.  So what if he didn't get a hit in last night's slugfest? He didn't need to.  If it's all the same, I'm a-okay with Drew saving the heroics until Nick Green and Jeff Bailey can't carry the offense anymore.
The man in this picture actually looks excited... Who are you and what have you done with JD Drew?!?

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