Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: JD Drew

From Hollywood to Comeback Kid to… Blah

Ankiel newspaper ad (h/t Derrick Goold)

I was thinking the other day about a post I did last year about Colby Rasmus and JD Drew. (We randomly still get hits on the site from google using search terms such as “Colby Rasmus Tony LaRussa feud.” Those are my favorite!) With the Nationals currently in town and Rick Ankiel currently roaming the grass of Busch Stadium, I find myself pondering the centerfield position again. Now, I planned on doing this piece for today over the weekend, having absolutely no idea that the Nationals and Rick Ankiel were about to swing in to town. Now, after Ankiel took out a half-page ad in yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I feel slightly clairvoyant, and a little less original in my deciding to talk about centerfielders.

So I’ve been thinking over the past few centerfielders that the Cardinals have had. We’ve had Hollywood. We’ve had the Comeback Kid. Now we have… umm… Colby.

I have very fond memories of the man they call Hollywood in Jim Edmonds. He made ridiculous catches, flying over the wall, diving across the grass, and making jaws drop with his latest Sportscenter highlight. People were in awe of his flashy plays. His shelf is full of Gold Gloves, and his reckless abandon with how he played the game will not be forgotten for a long time throughout Cardinal Nation.

On the offensive side of the ball, Edmonds was a strong presence, hitting in a crucial part of the order, either behind Mark McGwire or behind Albert Pujols. He could hit home runs, work a walk, and strike out like nobody’s business. He was also a clubhouse guy – a cheerleader even. I will never forget the pure joy in his face back in 2004 when he hit the home run to extend NLCS on to game 7. It was a perfect baseball moment. Jimmy brought the joy.

When Edmonds left the Cardinals for the greener pastures of Wrigley Field, Miller Park and finally Great American Ballpark (still can’t believe he did all those things), he was replaced by a pitcher. Okay, a former pitcher. Okay, it was Rick the Stick.

Rick Ankiel was a pitcher, who had a historic collapse in his first postseason appearance in 2000, where he set actual records for wild pitches thrown in a postseason game. He kind of vanished from baseball, and was ready to quit altogether, when he decided to become an outfielder. He battled his way back up through the minors and made an incredible burst back into the majors in 2007, where he hit .285/.328/.535 with 11 home runs over the final third of the season. He was the Comeback Kid in every way.

Ankiel was not the defensive prowess that Edmonds was. He made the plays, yes, but by all appearances he did not have the range of an Edmonds. Fox Sports Midwest still loves showing the clips from when he threw out two Rockies baserunners in a game, and we knew he had a cannon of an arm, but there was a difference in his style from the flair that Edmonds had. He had a reckless abandon, something that became abundantly clear when he crashed headfirst into the walls of Busch about two years ago (yes, the video is included in that link, and no, I can’t watch it again).

Something Ank wasn’t, however, was a media darling. He was adored by fans, but he was a media pariah. When he left the team at the end of 2009, he deked the scribes waiting for closing statements while the players were cleaning out their stuff and snuck out without saying anything. He wasn’t a big clubhouse guy. He got along with teammates, but wasn’t a leader. The fact that he put out that half page ad in the P-D completely shocked me (and probably most of Cardinal Nation). It was a classy move from the Comeback Kid.

When Ankiel left, it was for greener pastures, and by pastures I mean dollar bills. No matter, people were ready for the next big thing. Colby Rasmus had been the heir apparent centerfielder ever since he was drafted in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft. Minor league fans were begging to see him at Busch, and major league fans weren’t always sure what all the fuss was about, but they liked having someone to fuss about.

Leave me alone... please?

Then Colby made it. He played solid. He kept his head down. He was… blah. We have a blah centerfielder. Don’t get me wrong – he’s good. He’s really good. He’s very quietly leading the team in several offensive categories. While he was at first too anxious at the plate, he is patient now, leading the team with 9 walks. He’s focused on getting on base, putting the ball in play, and getting into a good position to scamper across home plate. He has the most at-bats, hits, and total bases on the team, a welcome relief for the prospect geeks that screamed into the ethers of the internets for Tony to use Colby more consistently. Yet… he’s blah.

He’s not the face of the team. He truly doesn’t want to be. He looks scared to death with a microphone in front of his face and most of his quotes sound like a combination between a surfer and a hick. Don’t get me wrong – I’m becoming a bigger Colby fan by the minute right now, but gosh, this kid is just flat out boring!

I’m absolutely pulling for him though. He can hide from the media all he wants, and hang out in the shadows. He can be one of the most underrated players on the team. It’s what he wants. Cardinal Nation just doesn’t know what to do with him.

Colby Rasmus is (not?) JD Drew

I don’t want to talk about the team today. I did plenty of that yesterday over at i70baseball, and everything I said then still stands – the team needs to quit playing at the level of their opponent.

Based on the title, you can see I’ve been bouncing around an idea in my head. It started yesterday morning, when I saw that someone (I apologize that I do not remember who or where) had made a statement to the extent of ‘perhaps Colby Rasmus is becoming somewhat of a JD Drew type.’ I almost spilled my cereal because I was upset at just the thought of that.

Let me rewind for those of you that need a refresher course: Drew was drafted in the 1st round of the 1997 draft by the Phillies, but did not sign, instead choosing to play in the Northern League for a year (I did not know the whole saga about that – now I do). The Cardinals then drafted Drew again in the first round of the 1998 draft, and he did sign (For those that want to know, yes, his agent is Scott Boras). Drew received an insane bonus of $3 million and major league contract worth $7 million.

Yes, he did appear to be just that good. Drew spent almost no time in the minors and was already in St. Louis for a September cup of coffee by the end of the ’98 season. In his rookie year of 1999 he was installed as the center fielder and played in 104 games, putting up a good-but-not-great line of .242/.340/.424. He was projected to be a star. He was supposed to be the next big thing. He had a long way to go.

His 2000 season showed a climb – playing in 135 games and hitting .295/.401/.479, tossing in 18 HR and 57 RBI just for good measure. His next three seasons are where it starts to get painful for me. Drew did not go a full year in St. Louis without landing on the disabled list for one reason or another. Leg, arm, shoulder, whatever… he had it, and it wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. Eventually Tony LaRussa quit making excuses and started saying what he really thought. In the book Three Nights in August, Tony is quoted as saying that Drew decided to “settle for 75%” of his talent. Fans turned on Drew, referring to him as ‘Nancy Drew,’ ‘DL Drew’ or ‘AH (Always Hurt) Drew.’ Ouch.

After the 2003 season the Cardinals sent Drew (along with Eli Marrero) packing to Atlanta, in exchange for Jason Marquis, Ray King, and some skinny minor league pitcher named Adam Wainwright (Think the Cards won that deal?). This was the first deal I remember vividly, and I was absolutely excited. Drew is the first player I really just did not like. Support? Yes, I supported him. He wore the birds on the bat. But like Todd Wellemeyer in 2009, I just did not like him. He copped an attitude, was always injured, and just never played up to that star potential, at least not while he was in St. Louis. I spent all of middle school and some of my high school years as well just disliking everything about JD Drew.

I don’t want Colby Rasmus to be JD Drew redux.

If it wasn’t obvious before yesterday that Colby and LaRussa just do not get along, it is crystal clear now. On his radio show yesterday morning, LaRussa stated that Colby needs to do more than show up – he has to play well. He is streaky, gets homer happy, and sometimes does not play smart baseball. In the same hour TLR made a comparison to Jon Jay, noting that Jay positions himself better in the outfield, takes better routes to the ball, adjusts better to pitchers adjusting to him, and despite Rasmus having better raw talent, Jay is farther along in playing all aspects of the game.

I’m not talking about Jay here, so move past that. Tony is obviously frustrated with Rasmus right now, so much so that after originally listing him in the lineup for yesterday’s game, he changed his mind and pulled Colby out, instead shifting Jay over to center, moving Skip Schumaker into right and dropping Aaron Miles in at second. At first when I found out about the switch I had thought it was that Colby was just not quite ready to play yet from his injured calf that has been bothering him for the better part of the last two weeks. It was then passed through Twitter by Matthew Leach and Joe Strauss (among others) that the switch was made because of a manager’s decision.

Yikes. That is not a good sign for the young (okay fine, he’s the same age as me) center fielder. Now my wheels are spinning. Over the course of two hours, I pondered every possible excuse I could for Colby, then promptly blew holes in every one of them. I didn’t want to, but it happened.

  1. Colby spent three+ full years in the minors. For a potential star, that is not too small of a number. If he was that good, three years isn’t horrible. However, no college baseball. There’s a big jump from high school to the majors. Could a player make that jump in three years? Sure. He obviously did. But LaRussa states over and over again that teaching doesn’t happen at the major league level, and Colby seems to still need a bit of training sometimes.
  2. Colby has the skills. His home runs go a long way (I saw his 483′ bomb in Kansas City first hand – ridiculously far), he’s quick on the bases (yet doesn’t steal… WHY?!), he makes some nice catches in the outfield… and he strikes out a lot, has been caught stealing one third of the time, and is currently running in the negatives on zone rating in the outfield.
  3. Colby is a team… okay I can’t even finish that one. I don’t think he is a team player. I’m starting to feel like he cops an attitude. I understand being frustrated, but after being inserted as a pinch hitter last week after it was made clear by TLR/staff before the game that he was unavailable, Rasmus stated that he didn’t know why he was thrust in the game, dropping a lovely, “I just work here,” line. The word ‘entitlement’ was dropped about things like that, and I think I’m starting to agree. Please please PLEASE, do not let me start seeing mentions of Colby faking injuries while trying to get out of the lineup. I don’t want that at all.

 

The opinions are out there. Some argue Colby would be better off with a different manager and consistent playing time. Others think he needs to be sent packing via trade in the offseason. Honestly? Right now I just want him to get healthy and play. He needs to play like he knows how, and do the things he does well. He has yet to arrive in the bigs. His numbers are good-not-great, and he has the potential to be great.

Another thing – Colby, quit waiting for Tony to pat you on the head. It will not happen. Brendan figured it out, and he is finally playing better. Affirmation rocks, but Tony doesn’t give it. But whatever happens, please do not turn into another JD Drew.

Thanks to friend of the CDD Bob for bouncing this idea around with me yesterday afternoon. He definitely helped me get the dots connected for this piece. If you haven’t read Bob’s stuff, head over here to his blog, or look for his premiere post on i70baseball.com tomorrow!
Also, if you want a second opinion on this subject, azruavatar has a different perspective over on Viva El Birdos… link here! Dan Moore also takes a crack at the top five TLR Clubhouse Rifts… not pretty.

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