Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Squirrel Nut Zippers

Game 132 – Red Sox

Yankees 5, Red Sox 3
Record: 80-52

Call me Ishmael. Wait, no, wrong story.

Call me crazy, but I was a bundle of nervous energy throughout last night’s game. Even as my head knew that it didn’t matter all that much, my gut still tightens when I see those pinstripes. And despite the fact that the game itself was a pretty entertaining one, the result – and the winning blow – left me more irritated than the situation perhaps warranted.

Once again, Daisuke Matsuzaka was victimized by a handful of ill-timed bad pitches. His lack of command in the first inning cost the Sox 2 runs, but they quickly erased that deficit. Then, he left a fastball up in the zone to Derek Jeter, who snapped a recent slump by ripping it into the rightfield seats. Sox got that run back courtesy of a Jason Varitek homer, and I was feeling pretty good about their resiliency. And about the good-luck squirrel that had taken up residence atop the right-field foul pole - the very same foul poul that signalled the Yankees' death knell in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS when Mark Bellhorn's homer clanged into it.

And then, in the 7th inning, Johnny Freaking Damon hit a popup to right that carried 315 feet, just enough to drop over the fence and give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. He got a curtain call for that one. Of course, the denizens of Yankee Stadium award curtain calls to groundskeepers who tie their shoelaces in a single motion, so I suppose that’s not worth much.

Instead of Damon, Yankee fans should be bathing J.D. Drew with flowers and chocolates this morning, because he was the wrench in the gears, the sugar in the gas tank, the annoying governor on an otherwise lightning-quick golf cart for the Sox offense last night. Several months ago, I took up Drew’s cause, preaching patience and the season-long view in support of his potential. Sorry, dude, last night was the final straw. And more precisely, the impotent wave you made at Joba Chamberlain’s 3-2, 2-out slider in the dirt with men on 1st and 2nd was the final, meager straw. Coming as it did on the heels of your impotent, hopeless, ass-out, foot-in-the-bucket pass at an Andy Pettitte slider in the 4th and the rally-killing double-play you hit into in the 6th didn’t help matters much.

The season is 132 games old – at this point you are what your record says you are, in the words of Bill Parcells. Drew’s .749 OPS says he’s basically Aaron Hill, or Kaz Matsui, or…Johnny Damon – damning both overpaid outfielders in the comparison. Drew’s 7 HR put him on pace for the lowest total in that category in his career – and that includes 4 seasons in which he played fewer than 110 games. Feh. I’m done with watching your languid swing sweep over breaking balls in the dirt, done with saying, “C’mon, J.D., make ‘em love you”, frankly, done with the J.D. Drew Experience in 2007 – which makes me just about the last guy out of the room. I’m turning out the lights and locking the doors. Pity.

Beckett against Clemens tonight with Manny’s back a question mark. You think the ESPN HypeMaster 2000 will get any work?


TJ said...

So you're finally ready to admit what an epic disaster the Drew contract was?

Whitney said...

Here's Rob's J.D. Drew Chronicle, going backwards from today's last straw. You have to admire his optimism in the face of negativity. In a sense, it vbery much sets the stage for a heroic comeback.

July 13
ORACLE: Manny will hit. J.D. Drew will hit.

June 17
This week's Sports Illustrated reveals that MLB players rate Wily Mo Pena and Drew 1 and 2 on the list of players who get the least out of the most talent. Pena, I get - he's clearly got massive power and skill at the plate but seems incapable of the most basic adjustments. Drew, though, carries a career .892 OPS, is a superior defender, and despite scuffling thus far in 2007, has demonstrated an ability to be a top-flight major league outfielder. Yet players and fans seem to share an irrational dislike for him.

Y'know what? I'm starting a crusade to change that. A likely ineffective crusade, doomed to premature oblivion as a result of my short attention span and lack of follow through, but a crusade nonetheless. J.D.'s my guy, and with MLC's support, he's gonna be the spark the Sox' offense needs. All you doubters mark this date and remember to genuflect appropriately when I come around to bask in the "I told you so" at the end of the season.

June 8
From the sublime to the below replacement level, we’re beyond the small sample size excuse-making for Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo, and J.D. Drew.

May 2
J.D. Drew can play baseball. This statement may in fact be as controversial to the media covering the Sox as anything out of Mr. Gore’s mouth. Drew’s skidded a bit over the past few weeks, but he’s shown this impartial observer enough to be sold.

April 10
J.D. Drew chose an auspicious time to hit his first homer in a Sox uniform, launching one to centerfield to give the Sox a 7-0 lead in the 2nd inning. WEEI plans to run an expose tomorrow on Drew, certain that he could've hit a homer in the first inning, but for his utter lack of "gamerness" and "dirtdoggitude".

March 19
Whither Daisuke Matsuzaka and J.D. Drew.

If I were choosing two and only two players like my good man from the IHOP, I might settle on the newest big name acquisitions to wear Boston uniforms. Both embody Peter Parker's Uncle Ben's admonition - of whom much is given, much is asked. Wait, maybe it was, "with great power comes great responsibility". Whatever, it works either way.

All Dice-K needs to do is give the Sox 200+ innings of near-dominant starting pitching and manage not to wilt under the relentless pressure of the Boston market. As for Drew, he's got to post a .950+ OPS while playing 140+ games, and, oh yeah, getting his uniform at least a little dirty to make Johnny Burger King forget about the original Dirt Dog, Trot Nixon.

Early returns for both are positive - Matsuzaka's got nasty, nasty stuff that he seems to be able to locate effectively, and he seems typically Asian in his stoicism on the mound. Drew's an obviously gifted ballplayer who'll have a great opportunity to hang out in the shadows cast by Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Curt Schilling and get tons of opportunities to drive in runs batting from the 5th spot. He needs to produce from Day One, though, as the Fenway crowd will have less patience with him than they might ordinarily.

December 8
As for the Sox offseason exploits, there are certain amongst you who’ll not likely take my fiscal sanity harangues seriously anymore, and I suppose I’ve got that coming. I will say this – after seeing Ted Lilly get $10 million a year and Gil Meche (Gil Freaking Meche!) sign for $55 million guaranteed smackeroos, the Drew and Lugo contracts are market value at worst, and damn near steals. Drew’s a top-25 offensive talent with elite defensive skills. His career OPS is over .900, and he projects to be a plus-power on-base machine at Fenway if he stays healthy. Ahhh, but that’s a big if, no? Drew’s a risk, no question, but if healthy, he combines with Ortiz and Ramirez to create an imposing middle of the order.

Kind of a sad story.

Oh, and for kicks, here's something I wrote on 6/5/06:

"-- The jury is no longer out. I'm pretty much never, ever going to like J.D. Drew."

rob said...

nope - i'm ready to admit that 2007 has been a disaster. i'm still holding out hope that he'll be better next year after a season's adjustment.