This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
Before J.D. Drew arrived in Boston, he already carried a label of being a ballplayer who didn’t care that much about the game. He apparently only gave 75% of his effort, according to his former manager, Tony LaRussa. He was known as a fragile player who most likely won’t give you a full season in right field or at the plate.
When Drew took over right field in Boston in 2007 he replaced Trot Nixon, another fragile player but one who didn’t have any problem displaying that he was a hardnosed player. Trot Nixon was a dirt dog. Something J.D. Drew is not. His first season with Boston was one the his worst, offensively, of his career.
Things apparently can change when you come to Boston. Entering Game 6 of the 2007 ALCS against the Cleveland Indians, Drew looked to be continuing his decidely pedestrian season with just 5 hits in 16 at bats. With the Red Sox facing elimination, they quickly loaded the bases in first inning for J.D. Drew, who hadn’t homered with the bases loaded in 17 opportunities during the regular season. On a 3-1 pitch, Drew cleared the bases and put the Red Sox on top 4-0. J.D. Drew’s first inning grand slam became known as the $14 Million Dollar Home Run, a reference to his high salaried contract. In the third, Drew drove in his 5th and final run, as the Sox coasted to a 12-2 victory. Drew helped the rout continue in Game 7 when he knocked in a run and later scored during a 6 run 8th inning that put the final nail in the coffin for the 2007 Cleveland Indians. Drew kept up his torrid hitting in the World Series, knocking in two and scoring once in the 13-1 rout of the Rockies in Game 1.
In 2008, Drew’s numbers improved from 2007, although he played in just 109 regular season games. The owner of the $14 Million Dollar Home Run smacked another in Game 2 of the 2008 ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. After the Angels scored two late runs in the game, Drew came to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with Coco Crisp on second base, running for Big Papi who had doubled a batter before him. Entering this game, J.D. Drew had not hit a home run in the 9th inning all season and had knocked in just 1 run over 23 9th inning at bats. Like his home run in the 2007 ALCS, Drew crushed a home run to give the Red Sox a 7-5 lead and ultimately the victory.
Drew continued his postseason brilliance in the ALCS against the upstart Tampa Bay Rays. Facing elimination yet again in Game 5, the Red Sox entered the 8th inning trailing 7-4. A Jason Bay walk started off the inning, and Drew crushed a 2 run homer on his second pitch to bring the Red Sox within a run. A Mark Kotsay double and Coco Crisp single tied the game up entering the 9th inning. Red Sox reliever Justin Masterson kept the Rays off the board and the meat of the Red Sox lineup started off the bottom of the 9th inning. Despite this, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz went down quickly and Kevin Youkilis singled and took second on an errant throw. The Rays elected to put Jason Bay on first with J.D. Drew coming to the plate. Drew worked the count to 3-1 before hitting a line drive single to right, scoring Youklis and giving the Red Sox an 8-7 walk off victory.
Even with the 2009 postseason, it is possible to point to postseason heroics by J.D. Drew. Down two games to none, the Red Sox finally put on an offensive display against the Angels, holding a 3-0 lead after 3 innings in Game 3 of the ALDS. The Angels responded with a 4th inning home run by Kendry Morales. Entering the bottom of the 4th, Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to stick with Scott Kazmir despite the fact he had given up 3 hits and a walk in the 3rd inning and a single in the 4th before facing Drew. J.D. Drew took advantage of a tiring Kazmir and hit a 2 run home run, putting the Sox on top 5-1 after 4 innings. Another $14 Million Dollar Home Run.
Though 2008 and 2009 did not bring World Series championships to Boston, J.D. Drew’s successes with the Red Sox are a big reason they made it to the postseason at all. For his series of postseason bombs and solid regular season contributions, Happy 34th Birthday, J.D. Drew!