December 6, 2006

MONEYBALL FOR A TEAM WITH MONEY:

Outfielder has gotten a bad rap (Nick Cafardo, December 6, 2006, Boston Globe)

His critics will say they can't remember anything extraordinary he did last season, anything they felt singlehandedly won a game. They say he can't be the centerpiece of a lineup because sometimes he's too content to take a walk instead of trying to win the game on his own.

Can he play in Boston? Over and over it's asked. Some of the responses come back uncertain. Some, like Grady Little's, come back strong.

"Of course he can," said the former Red Sox manager, who had Drew in Los Angeles last season. "He's an outstanding ballplayer. He can play anywhere."

Strong in his opinion, too, was Dave Jauss, Drew's outfield coach in Los Angeles who spent many years in the Red Sox organization.

"I expect him to be a really good player in Boston," said Jauss. "The game is the same between the white lines. J.D. is a fine athlete. He's such a good human being, a Christian man, a family man. He'll do so much good in the community, as he did in Los Angeles, that you can't help but like him."

As for the Renteria-Drew comparison, Jauss said, "The situations are completely different. The player the Red Sox got was different than the player they had seen in St. Louis the previous year. I don't know if it was an injury thing or whatever it was, but J.D. is coming to the Red Sox as a fine athlete who takes pride in his athletic ability.

"He's an excellent outfielder. He's got very good speed. He can score from first on a double and definitely score from second on a single. The fact he doesn't pull the ball is going to make him an effective hitter at Fenway. Not so much for the wall but for the fact on those cold days there, he's going to be able to go the other way and contribute as a hitter."

All along, Little and Jauss have praised Drew to the hilt. There's no agenda. In fact, you could even see why there would be resentment toward Drew because he opted out of a five-year $55 million deal after repeatedly saying he loved Los Angeles and wanted to remain with the Dodgers.

"Oh sure, we were surprised," said Little. "We thought J.D. was going to be our right fielder for a long time. We enjoyed having him on the team. We liked his game. He played hard for us."

Sox general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona reaffirmed last night that they did their homework on Drew. They knew the reputation Drew had for missing games with injuries. It's not that much different from what they've gone through with Ramírez. Bill James's statistical analysis on Drew came up roses, especially his .393 on-base percentage. And injury-related studies provided data that indicate Drew's physical woes might be a thing of the past.

As Epstein pointed out, the Red Sox finished 30th among 30 teams in OPS from the No. 5 slot. Not acceptable. Drew will most likely hit fifth, barring a Ramírez deal.

"He was an excellent No. 5 hitter for us," Jauss said, "and when Nomar [Garciaparra] got hurt, he was hitting third. He also hit well in the cleanup spot when he had to, though he's not the prototypical cleanup hitter because he doesn't hit a lot of home runs. But he could be a very good No. 2 hitter as well."

Drew will make a lot of money with the Sox, and while part of the fifth year of the deal is guaranteed, there's a portion that's tied into games played. Obviously the Red Sox are somewhat concerned about Drew's past. He's averaged only 118 games per season since he became a regular in 1999. He's had his fill of injuries -- knee problems, backaches, quadriceps and wrist injuries.

The Sox were also attracted, as Epstein would put it, by the thought of putting a center fielder in right field. And Drew could end up in center, because there is a market for Coco Crisp. If Crisp could bring end-of-the-game relief help in trade, the Sox might turn to Drew to play center. Drew's agent, Scott Boras, said Drew has agreed to play either position.


The bit about accepting a walk instead of trying to win the game alone is classic old think.


Posted by Orrin Judd at December 6, 2006 12:00 AM
Comments

If they keep Manny, and plug Nancy into the 2-hole with Youks leading off, then the Sawx have a formidable lineup.

And they managed to improve enormously at ss, with a passable hitter and an above-avg fielder in Lugo replacing the atrocious AGon, who could neither hit nor field.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 6, 2006 8:01 AM

They need to ditch Manny while there's a market for him before he starts to decline.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2006 8:18 AM

>As for the Renteria-Drew comparison, Jauss said, "The situations are completely different."

Sorry, Pollyana, but that's the classic junior-high argument tactic: "Oh, that's COMPLETELY different."

Mentally, Drew is Renteria. He's obviously a MUCH better player, but he just has no hope of succeeding in Boston. It'll be a poor-man's ARod situation (although Drew couldn't carry ARod's jock in terms of production--but oj probably disagrees since apparently thinks Drew still is The Next Mickey Mantle, likely due to not following the NL for the past decade).

Within two years he'll be gone. My guess is he'll be packaged to Miami or some such club for one of their upcoming free agents at the time, with Boston picking up most of his contract.

Posted by: b at December 6, 2006 12:06 PM

Renteria's problems weren't mental. He wasn't very good for the Braves either:

sports.espn.go.com/mlbhist/stats/fielding?seasonType=2&sortOrder=true&split=82&groupId=8&season=2006&qualified=null&sortColumn=zoneRating

Drew doesn't need to be Mantle. He's not replacing Mantle. He's a better player than Nixon or Damon at this point in all their respective careers. That's what they need. He's more Abreu than Mantle, though given how badly Mantle deteriorated in his 30s, it's not out of the question that Drew will be as good.

We'll see what pitcher they get for Manny and whether they keep Wily Mo or send him to Bowden, but right now they look like they'll be better than last year when they were the best team in the AL until the break.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2006 12:18 PM

I think Detroit may have had a better first half than Boston.

Posted by: Bob at December 6, 2006 4:36 PM

Also, I seem to remember quite extravagant praise from someone here about Pena last year. Once Drew became available, another love affair cooled.

Posted by: Bob at December 6, 2006 4:45 PM

What happened to all that talk of not throwing money at aging white speedy outfielders in the post-steroids era?

Posted by: Matt Cohen at December 6, 2006 5:06 PM

Matt:

Money doesn't matter. Years do. They're out from under when he's 35, the age at which even Mantle had his last good year.

You can't play Wily Mo, Manny and Ortiz--they're all dh's. I'd rather dump Manny, but if you can't get value for him you may as well get some of Bowden's pitching for Wily Mo.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2006 5:55 PM

Detroit wasn't the better team then though, they were by the end of the year.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2006 5:56 PM
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