Sucker punch

Two-thousand eleven.

My wife and I are expecting our first child this fall. It frightens me to no end that the poor kid will be four by the time J.D. Drew’s contract with the Red Sox runs out.

Believe it or not, the lost Boston right fielder is signed further into the future than any other Red Sox offensive player. His $70 million deal runs through 2011. (The Red Sox hold a $12.5 million club option on David Ortiz and a $9 million vesting option on Julio Lugo in ’11.) Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is signed through 2012, as is Tim Wakefield in his infinite rollover deal.


It’s like a broken record at this point, but how exactly did Theo Epstein get suckered into this disaster?

Drew batted leadoff in last night’s 7-1 loss to the Rockies, and if he accomplished anything, he proved that it was yet another slot in the batting order where he could deliver complete futility. He went 0 for 5, watching his batting average dip to .230, and heard some boos from the hometown fans. Then he got really angry and vowed to return with a vengeance at the dish tonight against Barry Zito.
OK, that’s obviously a lie. Drew’s quiet demeanor was just one of the reasons that everybody outside of the apparent vacuum that is the Red Sox front office questioned the sanity of bringing Drew to Boston, never mind for the price of $70 million. In retrospect, that may actually be of some benefit to him in that he’s likely oblivious to it all at this point. Drew has never been the most popular guy wherever he has played, which makes everyone wonder a little more, just what was Epstein thinking?
I think it’s safe to say the Dodgers aren’t going to be complaining anymore about tampering charges. Drew has been an abysmal mess in Boston, and for once, we can say that with absolutely no pretense of hindsight. Sox fans hated the Drew deal in December. They hated it when it was signed weeks later. They hate it even more now.
These are not shining times for GM Epstein, who has had to watch his two highly criticized offseason signings in Drew and Lugo get off to horrendous starts to their careers in Boston. Lugo has gone from leadoff man to No. 9 hitter, and Drew, signed to be the No. 5 guy the Red Sox lacked all of last season, was at the top of the order last night. It is an astounding mess.
Here are a few aspects and “outs” of Drew’s contract:

  • A limited no-trade clause that allows Drew to block deals to 2 clubs.
  • Nine million dollars of his 2011 salary will be deferred at 1 percent interest unless Drew plays 500 games from 2007 to 2010 or 375 games from 2008 to 2010.
  • Boston may opt out of either of the final two seasons if Drew:
    A. spends 35 days on the disabled list in either 2009 or 2010 with an injury related to a preexisting right shoulder condition, or …
    B. If he finishes the 2009 or 2010 season on the disabled list and cannot play outfield the following season.
    I especially like that last one. Good luck proving that it’s the exact same shoulder injury to Scott Boras or the union. And even if they can, he’s still here through 2009. Through July is bad enough, never mind at least 2½ more seasons.
    When Drew opted out of his deal with the Dodgers last fall before the Red Sox contacted him about playing in Boston, the LA Times’ Bill Plaschke performed a classic rip job on Drew and his decision.

    He missed games with strange pains and hidden soreness. He missed games simply because the manager didn’t want to push him. Never once did he express anger that he wasn’t in the lineup, even in the final week of this season’s playoff push. Never once, it seemed, did he fight to get on the field. …
    … Insiders are saying that Drew truly did it love it here, until the season ended and he realized that not everyone in the organization loved him.
    He heard the rumblings that the front office was tired of the coddling. He grew weary of media that kept applying the heat.
    Drew is the sort of player who hates the hassles that come with being a star. He wanted to go somewhere and do what he does best — disappear.

    He won’t have that option here, as the fans are sure to get on him more and more as he continues to flounder into oblivion. They didn’t want this guy here, and he’s showing every reason why.
    To fans, Epstein these days is less the architect of the 2004 team, and more the guy behind the decisions that are contributing mightily to this team’s offensive woes. And despite Boston’s first-place status, he’d better be ready to start hearing from his constituency too, one that as a whole isn’t too happy with what he’s been delivering as of late, a maddening Lazy Susan of franchise philosophy that could change any day. Only Alyssa Milano falls in and out of love with baseball players more than the Red Sox do.
    There’s no easy fix for this season. It’s basically to hope the Sox can improve center field, either through trade or the likes of Brandon Moss. But Lugo and Drew aren’t going anywhere thanks to their long-term deals. So, you hope they can bust out into some semblance of normalcy. But Lugo hasn’t hit consistently since the first half of 2006. Drew has played with all the intensity of a fat, hairy man floating down the river on a raft half his size.
    I understand that’s not a pretty picture. But neither is anything concerning J.D. Drew.