Friday, April 11, 2008

Lay Off Drew and Lugo?

If you were to do a Family Feud style poll of Red Sox fans and ask them to name their two least favorite players on the team, I am willing to bet JD Drew and Julio Lugo would be mentioned as one of the two players on all 100 ballots and they'd both be named on probably about 75 of those. Obviously, those two guys are not popular and yes I know this is hardly a revelation.

Today I have actually come out to defend those two guys. No, I'm not going to try and hoodwink you and say that I think they are good players, undervalued by the fan base. Instead, I will urge you to direct all vitriol en route to those two guys directly upstairs to Theo and the front office. You see, you really can't hate on people for being themselves no matter how maddening it may be and like it or not, Drew and Lugo have turned out to be pretty much exactly as advertised and I'd like to open up the "what did Theo see in from the start" debate all over again.

Let's look at the red flags for JD Drew before signing with the Sox:

* Injury prone/will sit out with the smallest of injuries/soft -
He played in 140 games last year which was the third time in four years that he had reached that mark (maxing out at 146 in 2006 which really is not that impressive) and he probably would have played more if not for his ineffectiveness. Therefore, believe it or not I'd say that he actually outperformed his reputation in this regard.

* Plays with a lack of passion -
Maybe he was thinking about his kid, maybe he wasn't. Either way, you really can't argue this point. I'd call this 100% true.

* Wilts under scrutiny -
It's tough to definitively make a ruling on this either way. I'd say yes because he didn't start hitting until September which leads me to believe that it took him a full five months to figure out what the whole "Boston" thing was really about and how to deal.

* He was really not that great to begin with -
Yes he can get on base, but no he is not much of a power threat. Before joining the Sox, he hit 20+ homers exactly three times in 8 seasons. Yes there have been injury issues but he played in 100+ games in each of those years which should be enough time for a hitter with supposed pop like Drew to get to 20. Similarly he only posted an OPS of over .900 three times in those seasons as well and that does not penalize him for missing games as it is a percentage, not a counting stat. As you can see, reports of the Sox getting an "elite" hitter with JD Drew were vastly overblown.

Well pretty much everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong with JD Drew. Yes, he vastly under-performed to expectations, but the above warning signs should have been enough to scare off any sane minded big, east coast market suitor (like maybe the Red Sox) from committing $70M over five years. In other words, don't hate JD Drew for being who he is, even if that person can lead you to "Serenity Now" like anger and dementia.

On the flip side, you could certainly argue that regardless of how awful he was for most of the year, without his home run in Game 6 of the ALCS the Sox don't win the World Series. Maybe they win Games 6 & 7 against Cleveland without that homer and maybe they don't - I say they don't because leaving the bases loaded in the 1st inning of Game 6 would have been a crippling momentum buster - but I think that home run is enough to justify year one of the contract because at least it brought them a World Series which was the goal to begin with. Years 2-5 on the other hand...well that is TBD.

Now, let's look at the Julio Lugo red flags pre-Sox (or actually flag):

* He was never that good to begin with -
First off, did you realize that Julio Lugo was 31 when he signed with the Sox? I remember prior to them signing him checking out his age, assuming that he was relatively young and that they were hoping to catch this guy on the up-tick of his career. Well, that obviously wasn't the case.

Lugo had his best year in 2005 with a decent .775 OPS and 39 steals. He followed that up with a decent 73 game stretch with the D-Rays in 2006 posting a .871 OPS with 18 steals in just 73 games. I think all Sox fans would be ecstatic with those numbers. But then he got traded to the Dodgers, couldn't get regular PT there (only 146 ABs in 49 games) and turned into the Julio Lugo we know and loathe. Does this line look familiar (avg/obp/slg)? .219/.278/.267. Wow. That is actually WORSE than the the .237/.294/.349 he put up last year. Incredible. Last year was actually an improvement over what he did in LA! Like I said, he wasn't that good to begin with.

The final proverbial nail in coffin on the Lugo signing was the fact that in the 7 seasons he played in the bigs prior to 2007, he only posted an OPS+ of over 100 once and that was the aforementioned 2005 when he put a 105 spot on the board. If you are not familiar with OPS+, it reflects a player's OPS (you all know what that is) in regards to not only the league average but also the park he plays in therefore giving bonus points to hitters playing in pitchers park and negating points if they play in a hitter's park. An average score here is 100. Anything above 100 is above average and anything below is below average. Therefore, only once in his career was Julio Lugo considered an above average offensive player and even there he did so barely. So, the bottom line here is that Julio Lugo has never been very good and his only "good" seasons came in his late twenties - when most players peak - making a 4 year, $32M investment on 31 year old who had already maxed out his talents absolutely inexplicable. Again, don't blame Lugo for being what he is, a not very good baseball player. Blame Theo for making an absolutely moronic signing.

To further illustrate my point let me give you a couple of hypothetical scenarios that maybe you can relate to.

Scenario A, The JD Drew circa August '07

You are the man at your high school. You are a star athlete. You are good looking. You hook up with every hot girl. You have a massive hog. You want to go to the prom and get laid.

Your prom choices are either the pretty and fun girl that you've gotten with a few times who you know you'll have a blast with and the night will definitely end in sex, or the smoking hot good girl who doesn't really drink, is a notorious virgin, but by being a big tease and flirt she gives you the idea that maybe if you're on your game you could get with her.

You choose the good girl.

You go to the pre-party and everybody is drinking. You start to pound a beer but she gives you dirty looks and starts ignoring you. Because you want your end result to be some sex, you stop to try and remain under her good graces. You try and be a trooper but inevitably you start getting annoyed because all your friends are getting drunk and you are stuck staying sober. Your bad mood rubs off on her and by the time you get to the dance you are both in a bad mood and don't have fun. Next, is the after-party which could be your salvation, but because she is still a bit moody she doesn't drink and remains anti-social. You still are holding out hope of a good end result so you don't drink yourself while also stepping up your game. Finally, people start passing out and the party slowly dissipates. It is time to make your move. As you are plotting how you want to go in for the kill, she asks you to take her home and you do because of all the things you are, rapist isn't one of them. You try to get a good good night kiss in in the car and she gives you the turn-away. She walks in her house alone. You drive home alone and instead of getting the sex that you wanted - and could have had - you are stuck servicing yourself.

So, whose fault is this? The girl for being who she is, or you for ignoring all of the red flags and going for it anyway? Exactly, this one's all on you. And that is how I felt about the whole JD Drew situation last year, pre Grand Slam. Theo was the arrogant jock and JD Drew was the pretty, prude girl.

Obviously, the Grand Slam changed everything last year and with that in mind, I'd change the scenario.

Scenario B, JD Drew circa November '07

Here, you stay the same guy, but the girl becomes the girl from the other high school who has a good buzz about her for being a menace in the sack. The only thing is, she's not as hot as you had heard and her personality is a bit grating. You tough it through the semi-awkwardness of the dance and finally get to the after party. There, after a few drinks she starts coming out of her shell a bit AND gets better looking (obviously). As the night winds down, she pulls you into an empty bedroom and just crushes you - in a good way. A total freak. All of a sudden, the rest of the night does not seem as bad and your feelings warm towards her some. It was an arduous journey, but ultimately worth the payoff. Despite the happy ending would you want to suffer through the beginning stages of the evening in hopes - no guarantees - of a payoff like the first time? Probably not. Maybe you'd go for it one or two more times, but four? It may not sound bad at first but by that last time you'd probably be ready for the whole experience to end.

And that to me now is the JD Drew experience that we are living. A high note preceded by a lot of pain the first time around and the hopes for maybe one or two more of those payoffs over the next four years with absolutely no guarantees. Maybe they will come, maybe they won't, but when the end comes there will no tears shed.

Scenario C, Julio Lugo

As for the Julio Lugo scenario, well take everything from the second Drew scenario except the girl is a little uglier, has a bad reputation for sloppy drunkenness, and may or may not have an STD. Then, imagine that at the end of the night she vomits on you, and somehow manages to give you an STD via contact. And with that you have the Julio Lugo experience. The writing was on the wall but you rolled the dice anyway and in the end you wound up getting thrown up upon and an STD. Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Julio Lugo!!

I think I'll signoff on that note.

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