Earlier this week, word began to spread about J.D. Drew hanging up his cleats. On Tuesday afternoon, Jon Heyman confirmed the retirement rumors. Just hours later, the story was an afterthought, thanks to Prince Fielder’s blockbuster deal with the Tigers.

If this is indeed the end for Drew, he will leave behind what, by most standards, is an excellent career. Over 1,566 big-league games, he was worth 39.8 WARP—a total most players would be thrilled with. Drew was the second overall pick in the 1997 first-year player draft, and hit 242 home runs. He won a World Series ring with the Red Sox in 2007, and was the MVP of the All-Star Game in 2008. Yet, for all of those accomplishments, Drew could never kick the nasty habit of leaving fans wanting more.

Blessed with a picturesque swing, outstanding instincts, and a strong arm, Drew could have been one of the best players ever to set foot on a diamond. A laundry list of injuries—back, shoulder, knee, wrist, you name it—set him back; he never played more than 146 games in a season, and often fell short of 130. With those injuries came nicknames like “Nancy Drew,” a perception that he lacked toughness, put forth insufficient effort, and as Heyman notes, was not worth the $108 million he was paid by the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Red Sox.

As the disabled list stints dampened Drew’s legacy, dissatisfied fans soaked it into submission. It’s hard to think of a recent player who could spark a more spirited underrated-or-overrated debate than Drew. The lifetime on-base percentage of .384 came with a plethora of looking strikeouts that left fans wondering, “How could he take that pitch?” The $14 million grand slam is one shining moment, but a career postseason OPS of 761 is hardly a feather in his cap. The same quick reads and solid speed that helped Drew reach most fly balls with ease led to questions about a lack of Web Gems and memorable plays.

Drew came into the league will all of the tools, but he now leaves it having barely built the foundation of a case for Cooperstown. On a day when Fielder receiving the fourth-largest contract in baseball history stole the show, Drew’s reported retirement plans could have—some might say, should have—been the top story.

Never one for the spotlight, Drew might prefer to sail quietly into the sunset. But a 39.8 WARP career—better than those of Shawn Green, Kirk Gibson, and Moises Alou—deserves recognition. It’s recognition that, as a victim of great expectations, Drew will never get. 

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J.D.'s quiet demeanor led too many fans in Bos to believe he was not putting forth an effort or just didn't care. He did not argue with umpires and made the difficult look easy. He did not drive in a ton of runs in Boston due to his spot in the order and was considered not "clutch". Combined with his grace at bat and in the field (and injury history) he was not not considered a "dirt dog" or fan favorite.

I'll miss his swing and his ability to cover a huge RF in Boston. I'll miss his willingness to take a strike without complaint (as compared to too many a Bos batter). I'll miss JD Drew, by all measures a fine person and player.
This is a great, subtle tribute. Drew was one of the best looking baseball players I have seen. You could see why scouts drooled over him. His grace, perfect reads, and effortless movements sometimes made him look cavalier or indifferent, but how could a baseball fan not appreciate how he played? Quiet confidence. He could have been better, but that doesn't mean he wasn't great.
I think something should be said about the fact that he and Scott Boras said he wouldn't sign for less than $10 million, but Philadelphia took him anyway even though they weren't going to give him $10 million. He made himself persona non grata in Philly for life for that.
Why? It's not like the Phillies didn't know his price. Sure, they called his bluff, but they lost fair and square - because it wasn't a bluff.
Thanks, DandyDan ... I'm with you ... I was very soured on JD Drew when he demanded $10 million ... I'm not at all a Philly fan ... so I'm just saying that he made himself a persona non grata beyond Philly also ...
Drew is top 150 all-time in both slugging and OBP. Think about that for a minute.

(And he was top 100 all-time until 2 years ago.)

I only wish this piece would get wider publication as I am tired of arguing that he is (was) an extraordinary baseball player.
Regular season OPS of 873. Given the small post-season sample size and the fact that he's facing superior pitching, a post-season OPS of 761 seems unremarkable to me.
"The same quick reads and solid speed that helped Drew reach most fly balls with ease led to questions about a lack of Web Gems and memorable plays."

Players don't have to do an Ozzie Smith back flip on the way to the ball to be a good defender.

If Drew has been an average defender instead of an extremely good one, he would not receive such a middling comment.
Great read - Extremely surprising that someone like the Braves doesn't snap him up for 4-5 million. He could be worth more than Prince...
Small sample size indeed. Drew's first playoff series for the Sox was a dud - 2 for 13 v. LA in the '07 ALDS. After that, series OPS's of .905, .878, .857, .796, and .856. Considering the quality of pitching faced, not too bad.

Drew strikes me as one of those players who was very good to great when he played, but it also strikes me that many fans "like" players who have fewer injuries, or are viewed as "scrappy" or as "reached his potential", even if the level of production of those players is not much better than average.

Was J.D. Larry Walker Light?

Drew's career OPS+ was 125 -- probably short of HOF territory, although there are a number of HOF players with OPS+ less than 125. A player who was 25% more productive than the average player over his career was an outstanding player, and probably several standard deviations from the mean at an OPS+ of 125 -- this would validate the earlier comment about Drew being in the top 150 players all time in terms of SLG and OPS.

Kirby Puckett had a shorter career than Drew, and a career OPS+ of 124, but was beloved by many fans because he looked more like most of us - not particularly athletic, a max effort guy who seemed to be trying his hardest all the time.

I think Drew was the better, more productive player. . . .

Setting aside the defensive value contribution of a SS versus a RF, Cal Ripken's career OPS+ was 112. But my take is that people adore Ripken's consistency, even though you might make a case that playing in long stretches without a break could have actually hurt his team.

Drew "appeared" to some as apathetic, or, because he was such a good athlete, it seemed he wasn't trying his hardest. He was fiercely protective of his body and his health, and would sometimes opt to not play if he felt injuries prevented him from playing his best. The perception of that seems to be very negative, especially in comparison to the converse in Ripken.

It's not for me to try and pass judgement but it never really looked liked Drew was enjoying himself while he was playing. He had as much or more talent than nearly anyone else on the field but always appeared that he would have rather been somewhere else. That he was one of the rare Cardinals' players to ever get regularly booed in St. Louis should tell you something. Drew hit one of the hardest balls I have ever seen in over 50 years of watching baseball; a screaming line drive off of the upper deck scoreboard in Busch II that was still rising when it hit. Of course he jogged around the bases and never cracked a smile, eyes downcast; I don't know, maybe his hair was hurting him or something.