Quick quiz, "Jeopardy"-style: Five years, $70 million, highest per-year salary on the team in 2009.
Answer: Who is J.D. Drew?
That's right - the highest-paid player on the Boston Red Sox is not Josh Beckett, not Jonathan Papelbon, not Kevin Youkilis, not Jason Bay, and not Dustin Pedroia. Heck, not even David Ortiz.
And for that $14 million per year investment, the Sawx have gotten the following: 43 HRs, 173 RBI, 225 R, and a .269 Avg. in 2-3/4 seasons... meanwhile, Drew has done nothing to shed his injury-prone reputation, playing in 80 percent of his team's games (349 of a possible 442, counting last night). It's not for nothing that Bill Conlin, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News (a city Drew famously spurned because they wouldn't pay him the Scott Boras-demanded $10 million as a draft pick), once called Drew "Superwuss" for his myriad of injuries.
By contrast, each of the positional players named (Youkilis, Bay & Pedroia) have played in 90% of those games -- collectively -- while making $15.8 million total. And each has more runs, more RBI, more HR and a higher batting average in that span.
What's most maddening, tho, is looking at the players currently outperforming Drew for other teams for a fraction of the cost, knowing that the Sawx are on the hook for Drew's salary for another 2 & 1/4 seasons, which hurts when you consider that Youkilis and Pedroia both have bigger salaries that kick in next season and Bay is a free agent at the end of this season, and you have to believe that Drew's salary will be a sticking point in those negotiations.
In his defense, you can't quite call Drew's salary "dead money" because chances are, on one of those days when he DOES play, he COULD do something to help the team win at least one game. Unfortunately, no one -- not Terry Francona, not his teammates, not Theo "J.D. has naked pictures of me" Epstein, and especially not Red Sox Nation -- knows when those days or that game will be. It's just as likely to be in a meaningless May game as it is in Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS to send the Sawx to a decisive Game 7 and eventual World Series title.
So when you watch Drew strike out on bad pitches out of the strike zone, bounce out to the second basemen to kill a rally, or pull up on a line drive to right field, it is enough to make you nuts. Last night's bad strikeout in the eighth inning (on an inside fastball around his eyebrows) and obvious pull-up on a line drive to him that scored two runs and prolonged a painful inning only serve as Exhibits 100 & 101 of how frustrating a player he is.
By all accounts, Drew is a nice guy -- respectful, deferential, a good husband and father (most players aren't either, let alone one or the other) -- but appears to be an indifferent teammate and not a "gamer" (on a team full of them) willing to "grind it out" and play hurt for the team.
And therein lies the rub -- he's a talented player who has proven that he can be a game-changing force, but has never delivered on that talent and seems to not give a crap either way. Epstein was captivated by the promise of that talent, and is now hostage to it.
And so are we... but just think: Only 2 & 1/4 seasons and $30 million or so left to go.