This is two days late, but I’m finally getting around to commenting on TJ Simers’ LA Times article defending JD Drew. The piece basically says that Drew’s decision to leave is a business decision, people are entitled to change their minds, and the Dodgers will find it challenging to fill his team-leading 100 RBI hole. Fine. But what really surprised me was Simers’ dissection of Colletti’s play of the religious card, smack dab in the middle of the article:
Colletti went on a conference call with the media and said, "I know J.D. is a spiritual guy and a man of his word. I guess he changed his word."
As a rule, no one will say it with their name attached. But there is a feeling in the sports world that a player who talks openly about being a Christian will be too soft to compete all out, and it's well known Drew is a devout Christian.
And when you have the laid-back personality that Drew has and you're a Christian, it's the explanation — along with his penchant for getting hurt — that you hear most often around baseball when it comes to explaining Drew's inability to live up to expectations.
Over Drew’s ephemeral two seasons here in Los Angeles (during which he played in only 2/3 of the Dodgers’ games), people have had ample opportunity to form their own opinions on Drew, his play, his behavior, and personality. And those opinions are irrelevant to what religious practices Drew chooses to embrace. Simers’ assertion that Drew’s Christianity implies that he is “too soft to compete all out” is absurd; history has many cases of Christians being excitable and aggressive and emotional (take, for example, the Crusades).
Our dislike of JD Drew stems from the fact that, when he wasn’t sidelined by injuries, he would play right field with timidity and strike out at the plate without any apparent care. His religious background had nothing to do with the fans’ opinion or expectations, which were formed by his actions and behavior on the field. Even former Dodger Shawn Green dove head-first a couple of times in the playoffs for the Mets—granted, both times were in vain, and he looked like a beached seal—but at least he gave some effort out there in right field. Green, who is Jewish, also drew frustrated boos from Dodger fans with his unemotional visage during his final year with LA. And when he was traded to the D’backs, despite 162 HRs and 509 RBI over his five years of service here, it was also applauded by the fans—which had nothing to do with his religion, either.
Yes, Colletti played the religion card when describing JD, implying hypocrisy when Drew went back on his verbal promises to return, apparently uttered to multiple Dodger organization members. (Shame on us for not recalling Drew’s contract history, including a year-long hold out on the Phillies, demands for $10M/year, and then acceptance of a $7M salary with the Cardinals the next year. To think of Drew, flanked by his agent Scott Boras, as a man of negotiating integrity is a stretch.) It is unfounded, though, to link religion to what has catalyzed opinions about Drew’s play.
Drew's former manager Tony La Russa, in his book Three Nights in August, described Drew as a cruiser who has great natural talent but low desire to push himself to greatness—without mention of Drew’s religion. Drew’s failure to live up to his own expectations may be personality-driven, action-highlighted, and agent-augmented. But don't insult Dodger fans by insinuating that our opinions reflect what we think of his god.