Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Celtics Did What?

If I was fatter and had more hair, this would be exactly what I looked like when I flipped to the Celts game at midnight tonight.

Unlike the rest of New England fandom, I've never really been a fan of the Celtics. I liked Larry and all but I was a Michael fan more than anything (and a Drazen Petrovic fan) as a kid and never really fell in love with the Celts. The only reason I have any interest in this NBA Finals is because I think Kobe is the most loathsome Superstar I can ever remember dominating a sport (at least Tyson was interesting) and I root for ANYTHING to beat Kobe (a speeding car, Russia, Colorado law, the Celts... whoever). So it was with this interest in mind that I tuned in at 9:30 to catch the first quarter of the game in the hopes it would be interesting enough to catch my attention. It was not. I turned to 9:30 U.S. Open coverage with the absolutely INSUFFERABLE Chris Berman numbing my mind after the Celts went down 15 8 minutes into the game. At midnight I turned back to see if the game was over and saw the Celts up 3 with 45 seconds to go. I almost shit my pants. The next sequence featured Kobe fouling Pierce and complaining like a bitch, a ton of missed shots with Kobe complaining like a bitch and an unorganized scramble at the end of the game that reminded me of a JV Girls game featuring Kobe scowling like a bitch. It was very enjoyable 5 minutes and while I don't care what the Celts did or how they did it, I hope to everything that is Holy that they do it again.

JD Drew Is Partying Like It's 1997!

These gals should have renamed their group "Handsome"... Right guys? am I right...? I'll show myself out.

Imagine it's 1997 and you're ripping down the street groovin to a new hit tune that you just can't get enough of from those crazy Brits "Chumbawumba" while still trying to get your head around your friend's suggestion that you sign up for what he described as "hotmail" so you can write to eachother on something called the "internet" (you are gay in this hypothetical world). All of the sudden you step in the street and get run over by a Toyota Camry, 1997's top selling car (yes, the world was a far different place in 1997) and fall into a coma. If you were to awake from that coma today, almost everything you knew or thought you knew would be completely different except for one truth: JD Drew is the best baseball player on the planet.

Coming into the 1997 MLB Amateur Draft (in distinct contrast to the MLB professional draft), JD Drew was perhaps one of the top 10 rated prospects ever to enter the draft. Here are a few quips from 1997 draft coverage (I scooped these news archives through Lexis or Westlaw, so providing links is pointless as most of you won't be able to access them and those that can could research it yourselves):
By all accounts, J.D . Drew is the most talented, most polished player available in today's major league draft.

He's regarded by many scouts as the best college outfielder ever. He's the only Division I player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. And he's simply a wonderful person, says his Florida State coach.


Florida State outfielder J.D. Drew is universally acknowledged as the best player in the draft. Drew is the coverboy on Baseball America's annual draft issue, the can't miss stud.

He put up some amazing numbers for the Seminoles. Drew hit .455 with 31 homers, 100 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. In fact, he's the first collegian to ever go 30-30.

Drew is most often compared to Lenny Dykstra. In fact, "The Dude" got to see Drew in action this spring and came away impressed.

General Manager Lee Thomas and Scouting Director Mike Arbuckle flew to Tallahassee to see the prodigy, up close and personal.

"He's special," Thomas said. "There's nothing not to like. He's got all the tools and he's a real solid citizen."

Indeed. Baseball America rates Drew as the best athlete, the second best pure hitter (behind Rice 1B Lance Berkman), the third fastest baserunner, the third best defensive player and the fourth best power hitter.

Add it all up and it's a classic no-brainer.

The 6-1, 195-pound, left-handed hitter is the Phillies man."
When that guy (you) walking down the street got hit by the car and fell into the coma, JD Drew was the best baseball player scouts had ever seen. But unlike coma dude, the rest of us have spent the last 11 years searching for that JD Drew. What we've received over the last decade has been a mish mosh of injury plagued seasons and top flight talent (see the Drew's 2004 season with Atlanta) that if balanced would lean heavier towards the disappointment than it would consistent excellence. But fortunately for you (coma guy), you've woken up just in time to see what JD Drew was supposed to be and you are none the wiser.

Today, JD Drew is the best right fielder in the American League (apologies to Nick Markakis, Mags & maybe Vlad Guerrero). And to watch him play on his hot streak right now is to recognize just what everyone was talking about ten years ago (and hence what everyone was bitching about the last ten years). His game is absolutely effortless. He plays a borderline gold glove right field, he has an extremely strong and accurate arm (not a Vlad, Markakis, Ichiro gun), he doesn't screw up on the basepaths and is fast enough to get home from second at Fenway, which is a feat. But the real joy is in watching him swing.

When Drew is on (and not getting beat by sliders inside and down) he has one of the most effortless swings you will ever see. His swing looks like Wade Boggs but instead of driving the ball over infielder's heads, he's driving it over the wall. When he drives a ball it just friggin carries. He's a "wrist-flicking" lefty (as opposed to a "weight shifting" lefty like Bonds, Griffey and Papi) and his bat speed is outstanding. Fast enough that he can allow himself that extra split second to see the ball and make up his mind past the point when lesser players are hoping the pitch doesn't catch the corner while their bat skuffs up the shoulder of their uni. And for whatever reason he is completely locked in right now. Since June 1st, JD Drew is 18/36, with 10 BBs, 15 RBI, 15 R & 6 HR. I'd tell you his OPS but it doesn't even make sense (hint: it's close to 2.000). It's just absurd. And it's because of this unreal talent and ability to con teams into unreal contracts that people have never had a whole lot of sympathy for Drew (I wrote an unflattering piece about the man just last year), but maybe the criticism was unfair.

First of all, all the controversy about Drew's initial contract was Boras produced. Even the Philly media admitted as much in 1997 when they flat out BEGGED the Phillies to take him and in doing so pointed out that Drew himself didn't really give a shit about the money:
Drew seems embarrased by the money. He's a throwback. All he wants to do is play ball. But, even he admits, if Travis Lee was worth $10 million -- and scouts say he's as good or better -- well ...

But I do know this. J.D. Drew will be the pledge the Phillies take that they are serious about fielding a winning ballclub.

Please, don't punk out and take a Lance Berkman or Troy Glaus or Darnell MacDonald and then put the spin doctoring on it.

It should also be their rallying cry today. Yo, it's Spike Lee Time. Do the Right Thing. Pick Drew and show him the money.
What Phillies fans love to forget is that Drew was a puppet in Boras' plan to fight the constitutionality of the draft. What every other fan of teams that Drew has played for forgets is that in the healthy seasons of Drew's career (450+ PAs), he's a .290, 25+ HR hitter who drives in around 90 RBI a year. But because he's never healthy and he never talks to the media about his injuries, fans see him as an overpaid prima donna. I don't blame fans for that because I do the same thing when I think guys aren't "toughing it out." As an athlete, JD Drew "deserved" that criticism because athletes aren't supposed to be hurt. But last year, in retrospect, the treatment of JD Drew was the worst by far (by fans and life) and had Drew's story been made public, even the fickle fans of Boston (or maybe even Philly!) probably would've held back a boo or too and rightfully so.

In the beginning of the 2007 season for the Boston Red Sox, JD Drew suffered the toughest blow of his entire career and he wasn't really hurt. Drew's 17 month-old son Jack was diagnosed with developmental displacement of his hips and would require surgery and nearly 2 months in a full body cast. Drew didn't say shit about it to the media and fans had no reason to know about it as they booed Drew unmercifully throughout the 2007 season. To be sure Drew was underperforming, but after moving to a new city and taking on this event, it was probably understandable if Drew was a little distracted (a quote from Drew about the event sums up that theory, "It was hard walking out that door this afternoon," Drew said. "You hate to leave a little guy like that crying for his dad when you're walking out."). By September of last year Drew was the hottest hitter in the lineup and as no Sox fan will forget he hit the game winning Grand Slam in Game 6 and pretty much carried the Sox to the World Series. What was great about that moment is that Drew didn't take the Sox media bait about "vindication" and "silencing the boos", he just went about his business and praised the crowd as he'd done all year. Given what he'd endured (silently) all year, it says a lot about Drew that he never waivered throughout.

So now it's 2008 and Drew is in a good lineup, protected by Manny, he's healthy, he's happy and he's not distracted. To look at him today is probably to see the same guy the scouts saw in 1997 when he was scouted as the greatest college player in the history of the game. If this is the JD Drew renaissance maybe we shouldn't be shocked. After all, if you fell asleep in 1997 and woke up today, you would be wondering what all the full was about. This is the way it was supposed to happen. You'll excuse me if I get nostalgic for a little 1997 love, "Mmmm bop" indeed.