And naturally, the sarcastic cheers, jeers and tweets came pouring in from the masses; part of it being Drew’s .133 batting average entering the game. The other part being the biggest of the two — the fact his last name is Drew.
From the day he initially signed with Boston on December 26, 2012, Drew has received a bad wrap in Red Sox Nation because he’s the younger brother of J.D. Drew, who played for the Red Sox from 2007-11 on a five-year, $70 million deal. He was the subject of all criticism from fans thanks to his supposed low pain tolerance and lack of fire. Legend has it that Drew didn’t play hurt like Dustin Pedroia or smash his helmet every time he didn’t reach base like Kevin Youkilis, all while collecting a $14 million annual paycheck.
The stats show he was one of the most well-rounded right fielders in baseball over his five years in Boston. And he handled the excess criticism very well. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t play the game like Dwight Evans or Trot Nixon. Or it at least didn’t look that way.
When things aren’t going right, it’s always nice to have something to pounce on. Because of his association with J.D., Stephen has been that punching bag needed to get through what has been a disappointing 2014 season.
Signed in May after not being re-signed by the club following the 2013 season, Drew has been beaten on and pounced by fans, media and pundits alike. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington even more so for making the move.
They said he was going to hinder the development of rookie Xander Bogaerts, anointed as the shortstop of the future. They said Cherington was paying $10 million for offensive production that wouldn’t match the price tag. They said the signing simply made no sense.
And naturally, Drew has been blamed for what’s gone wrong in 2014.
The offensive struggles have been all Drew’s fault, as he’s hit just .143 through 18 games. That’s right, folks, the buck stops with the seventh hitter in the batting order. Pay no attention to the big bats in the middle of the lineup that have either underperformed or been injured, inconsistent or both.
Bogaert’s recent slump has been all Drew’s fault. Going nine for his last 83, it’s believed to be due to the fact he had to move over to third base in order to make way for Drew at short, as he’s hit .143 since Drew was inserted in the lineup on June 2. Pay no attention to the fact Bogaerts resembled Edgar Renteria circa 2005 in 54 games at short in 2014. Or the fact he went four-for-eight with two home runs and three extra base hits in the first two games at third. Pay no attention to the fact Bogaerts is a rookie, and rookies tend to go through slumps.
Most of all, pay no attention to the fact that Drew is doing what he was brought in to do. And that was not to save the Red Sox season. And that was not to carry the Red Sox offense. He was signed to sure up the middle of the infield. To give the pitching staff a good defensive player behind them, as opposed to a shortstop on his way to having a 40-error season.
And Drew has done just that since re-joining the team. He’s made just two errors on 79 chances. The pitching has been better since his return, much of that due to the pitchers comfort with Drew behind them.
Bogaerts looks more comfortable playing the hot corner. He actually looks like a third baseman, the same of which couldn’t be said at short.
If you watch Tuesday’s game against the Cubs, focus on the plays Drew makes and count how many times you say, “Bogaerts would’ve never made that play.” Warning: you might lose count.
But the more likely it is you lose count, the less likely it is we see a collective change in heart toward Drew. He will always be J.D.’s brother. He will always be the man who ruined Bogaerts’ rookie season.
If fans just looked Drew for the player he is — ditto his brother — the appreciation for the player would increase 10-fold.