07 September 2012

wishing you and yours an emotionally vacant christmas

isn't it ironic (don't you think) that pacific included jd drew as one of the players in their 2000 ornaments set? 
christmas, certainly one of the happiest holidays i can think of, does not seem to be congruent with the personality that jd drew projected during his playing career.  i would suggest that arbor day would be a more fitting holiday to associate with the emotionally vacant outfielder.

reviled in philadelphia, and merely tolerated in most of the places he actually played, jd drew was the ebeneezer scrooge of dodger stadium in 2005 and 2006.  only, instead of pinching his pennies, drew spent no emotional currency.  he never seemed to smile, and fans often wondered if he even cared.  he was tremendously talented as far as hitting a round ball with a round bat goes, but there seemed to be very little joy or passion in his game.

i can imagine the scene in saint louis, around christmas 1999, where tony larussa tells drew that he needs to show more passion for the game in order to fulfill his potential as a baseball player.  drew listens for a few minutes before saying 'bah, humbug' and walking away.  before he leaves the clubhouse, larussa tells drew that he will be visited that night by three ghosts.

and, drew was indeed visited by the ghost of christmas past - in his case, philadelphia phillies fans.  they rattled their chains and threw beer at him, telling him how he had ruined the visions of sugarplums and national league pennants that danced in their heads by refusing to sign after the phillies took him with the first pick in the 1997 draft.  once they were done with their cursing and their insults, they took drew back to a christmas from his youth where his parents begged him to come inside and open his presents. he refused and continued to hit tennis balls off of a batting tee made of pvc pipe and an old rubber hose he had found behind a dumpster.  the phillie fans had hoped to show drew that he once played the game out of sheer happiness and love of the sport, but even as a child, he never smiled.  meanwhile, the puppy his parents had bought as a gift for the drew children lay neglected in a corner, knowing that it would never know the love or companionship of a child.  the only response the phillie fans received from drew was 'we had a dog?'

up next, the ghost of christmas present. for drew in 1999, that meant mark mcgwire.  big mac took drew  to a local watering hole where the cardinals' manager was belly up to the bar getting sauced. unseen by the patrons, the cardinals' slugger sat drew down at a table next to two redbird fans.  their yuletide conversation centered around the disappointing stats drew had put together that previous season.  after debuting in 1998 with 5 home runs and 13 rbi in 14 late season games, drew hit only .242 with 13 homers and 39 rbi in 1999.  they spoke of his penchant for injury and his apparent lack of passion, to which the cardinals' manager raised his glass and said 'goldarn right'.  drew didn't care.  all he had to say was 'at least i know i won't get pinch-hit for in my final big league appearance', and mcgwire's heart was broken.  two years later, drew was in the dugout when mcgwire was pinch hit for in game 5 of the 2001 nlds - his final game as a big leaguer.  as big mac put on his jacket, drew walked by and said 'goldarn right'.

finally, in a last-ditch attempt to get drew to care, the ghost of christmas future came to visit in the form of then oakland a's assistant and future dodger gm paul depodesta.  he took the detached outfielder to atlanta - intending to show drew that if he did not change his attitude, he would eventually alienate the cardinal fans and field staff and wind up playing baseball somewhere else.  as they watched a future version of drew rake as a member of the braves, drew asked 'will this really happen?'.  surprised by what seemed to be even a small amount of interest in this potential outcome, depodesta laid it all on the table.  'jd, this is indeed a possibility.  but, if you make some changes, you could earn yourself a big long term contract.  in fact, if i were to become the general manager and you were to play hard and stay healthy and put up big numbers in a few years, i would give you a 5-year, 55 million dollar contract with an out clause after the second year.  you could even get injured half way through your first season and still walk away from the team.'  depodesta thought that this was quite an unlikely scenario, given his youth and relative lack of experience coupled with the fact that walt jocketty was firmly entrenched as the cardinals' gm, but he was happy that drew appeared to be concerned that he might not be a cardinal for life.

well, depodesta didn't count on drew not caring about whether he played in saint louis or not.  as it turned out, drew went ahead and played good baseball and put up those big numbers as a brave in 2004.  and, frank mccourt went ahead and bucked baseball tradition by hiring the 31-year old depodesta to be the general manager of the dodgers prior to the 2004 season.  true to his word, depodesta signed drew to that big contract after the season ended, complete with the out clause. that doesn't mean that drew was happy about it, though.  just check out his 2005 topps card.
bah, humbug indeed.

[if you have enjoyed this fictional account of the baseball player who just didn't seem to care, vote for me in the final round of nachos grande's blog bracket contest by leaving a comment on this post]

1 comment:

madding said...

Loved it. Was trying to figure out why you were writing about Christmas until I got to the end and realized that contest is still going on.