PHENOM UNDER FIRE
J.D. Drew's $7 million deal has antagonized players in the
Cardinals system and beyond
This is an article from the July 20, 1998 issue
Let the record show that J.D. Drew finally began his career with
a major league organization at 6:09 p.m. CDT on July 4 in
Wichita, Kans., about a year later than the rest of the baseball
world thought he should have. His debut featured its own mocking
soundtrack. Before his first at bat for the Double A Arkansas
Travelers against the Wichita Wranglers, the public address
system blared Pink Floyd's Money. For his next at bat the
background music was the Beatles' Money (That's What I Want).
His third at bat was greeted by the strains of Dire Straits'
Money for Nothing, and his final turn was accompanied by the
Steve Miller Band's Take the Money and Run. It didn't take a
major leaguer to detect a theme developing.
A day earlier the Cardinals had signed the 22-year-old
centerfielder to the largest contract ever for a ballplayer
signed by the team that drafted him, providing a guaranteed $7
million (including a $3 million signing bonus) over four
seasons, with incentives that could make the deal worth $8.5
million. That ended Drew's 13 months of high-profile haggling
with, first, the Phillies, who selected him No. 2 in the 1997
draft, and then the Cardinals, who made him the fifth pick this
year. Along the way Drew, whose agent, Scott Boras, had
initially demanded $11 million from the Phillies, cemented his
status as baseball's new poster boy for greed.
Whenever Drew is asked about his prolonged holdout, he responds
with well-rehearsed piety, insisting that his career path is all
part of God's plan. "I've stuck to my principles all along,"
Drew says. "Scott told me what I was worth on the open market,
and I was willing to wait till I got it."
The deal has made Drew a pariah. While his Arkansas teammates
have publicly accepted him, one of them, second baseman Stubby
Clapp, allows that Drew's contract squabbling was "a black mark
on the game." Drew's signing is bound to create a ripple effect
throughout the game, raising the pay scale for all unsigned '98
first-round draft picks. It's especially vexing for the Phillies
as they try to sign Pat Burrell, the player they chose with the
No. 1 pick in this year's draft.
Of the 25 Cardinals on the big league roster, only seven have
more guaranteed money in their current contracts than Drew does.
To avoid further ruffling the feathers of the St. Louis play
ers, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty refused to grant
Drew contractual assurances that he would be called up to the
majors on a specific timetable. But having spent that much on a
draft choice, the Cardinals will now have to up the ante if they
hope to re-sign potential free agents Brian Jordan, Todd
Stottlemyre, Royce Clayton and Delino DeShields.
Jordan has called Drew's deal "outrageous." Mark McGwire
proposed a $250,000 salary cap on future draft picks after
saying, "You've got to have your head examined if you're going
to turn down $6 million out of college," referring to the
Phillies' offer that Drew refused. Reaction from other baseball
precincts ranges from similarly ornery to scary, especially in
Philadelphia, where righthander Curt Schilling has said, "They
better issue him a helmet with double ear flaps."
Drew understands that he can best deflect the criticism by
proving his worth, and the lefthanded-hitting slugger did crack
two home runs in his second game for Arkansas. Through Sunday he
was 9 for 31 (.290) with three homers and seven RBIs in eight
games, while eliciting comparisons to Mickey Mantle. With his
powerful swing, his grace in centerfield and his strong throwing
arm, Drew does not shy away from such comparisons and even plans
to wear Mantle's number 7 when he reaches the big leagues.
"Hopefully I'll turn out to be like him," he says. "Who wouldn't
want to do that? I set very high goals for myself."
If Drew makes the majors full time next season as the Cardinals
expect, he may be considered a bargain by the time his contract
ends in 2001. Although he might have collected more money in the
long run by beginning his career last summer and perhaps
becoming eligible for arbitration more quickly, Drew isn't
looking backward. "I'm at peace with my decisions, and if I had
to do it all over, I wouldn't change anything," he says. "Some
people have formed negative opinions of me, but someday
hopefully they'll judge me on my passion for baseball and how I
play the game."
Odd Batting Orders
PLAYING CRAZY EIGHTS
In this copycat era when black uniforms pass for innovation,
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa remains a maverick. After St.
Louis lost 10 of 12 games entering the All-Star break, La Russa
spent his three off days stewing over a solution to his team's
offensive doldrums. Last Thursday night, in the team's first
game after the break, La Russa penciled his starting pitcher,
Todd Stottlemyre, into the eighth spot in the batting order and
put second baseman Placido Polanco in the ninth position. It
marked the first time a big league pitcher had batted anywhere
but ninth since June 1, 1979, when Philadelphia manager Danny
Ozark batted Steve Carlton eighth and light-hitting Bud
"I don't see how it doesn't make sense for the ninth-place
hitter to be a legitimate hitter," La Russa explains. "It gives
you a double leadoff man and a better shot to score runs. It's
an extra guy on base in front of Ray [Lank ford], Mark
[McGwire] and Brian [Jordan]. The more guys who are on base, the
less they'll be able to pitch around Mark."
La Russa used a similar philosophy when he managed Oakland in
the American League and regularly placed a solid hitter in the
number 9 spot to set the table for McGwire and Jose Canseco. La
Russa says he might not have dared this approach with the
Cardinals if the team had a more conventional number 2 hitter,
but Lankford is a run producer in his own right. La Russa used
the new alignment in four straight games through Sunday, and the
team won three of them, even though the number 9 batters went a
combined 2 for 14 with one run scored. "It's not like we were
breaking up a red-hot offense," La Russa says. "We'll see what
La Russa's decision to sacrifice the number 8 hole presents an
interesting contrast with the Yankees' lineup, in which the
eighth spot has been one of the most productive in the order.
Because Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius hit only .203 in '97
and had a poor spring training this year, manager Joe Torre
placed him in the eighth spot early this season. Brosius has
thrived there, even making the All-Star team. "I remember
looking at this lineup when I was traded here and telling my dad
that I could hit .300 and never get out of the eight hole,"
Brosius says. "There's no bad spot to hit in this lineup. Even
when you're hitting eighth, the fifth, sixth and seventh guys
are getting on base, and there are opportunities to drive in
Indeed, Brosius was hitting .310 at week's end, ranked third on
the Yankees with 55 RBIs and had effectively become a second
cleanup man in the order. Torre says he has no plans to remove
Brosius from the eighth spot.
TALES OF THE HOFFMANS
Padres reliever Trevor Hoffman spent a fair amount of his
childhood trying to get his older brothers, Glenn and Greg, to
let him join in their games. Ping-Pong, basketball, Wiffle
ball--you name it. Glenn, who is 10 years older than Trevor, and
Greg, who is four years older than Glenn, would go head-to-head
while Trevor would sit by and watch. "No matter what they were
doing, I always wanted to be around them," says Trevor. "They
used me as their human remote control, but I couldn't be around
Perhaps the most intense brotherly battles were fought in the
dining room of the Hoffmans' Anaheim home, where Glenn and Greg
would hang team banners from the chandelier and then play
Strat-O-Matic baseball until all hours of the morning. "The
dining room would look like some kind of war room," says Trevor,
who would sneak down from his bedroom and plead to at least be
allowed to roll the dice once in a while.
Last weekend the scene repeated itself at Dodger Stadium.
Forty-year-old Glenn was managing a baseball team--this time a
real one, the Dodgers--and doing his best to keep his pesky
little brother, who just happens to be the best closer in the
majors, from joining the fun. "I didn't want to see him [come
into the game], so I shot some bullets early," Glenn said after
last Friday night's 6-2 win, in which he used his top pinch
hitter, Jim Eisen reich, in the sixth inning in hopes of erasing
a 2-1 deficit before Trevor might be summoned.
You can't blame Glenn. Trevor hasn't blown a save since the days
when there were 28 teams and five Spice Girls. He began his
career, like Glenn, as an infielder, but was only a one-tool
player. He couldn't hit for average or power, couldn't catch the
ball and couldn't run. The only thing he could do was throw. But
he did it well enough that in 1991 the Reds, who had drafted him
two years earlier, suggested that he take up pitching. "I could
throw strikes across the diamond, so I figured I could do it from
60 feet, six inches," Trevor says.
In the lower minors his 95-mph gas was enough to get by on. He
saved 20 games and struck out 75 hitters in 472/3 innings in his
first season as a pitcher, at Class A Cedar Rapids and Double A
Chattanooga. As he worked his way up through the Cincinnati
system, he added a curveball and a wicked changeup. The Marlins
plucked him out of Triple A in the 1992 expansion draft, and
after half a season shipped him to San Diego, where he has
become the most reliable closer in the game. Since last Aug. 22
he has converted 35 straight save opportunities, including 27
Number 27 came on Sunday against Los Angeles, in the final game
of the four-game set that marked Glenn's first critical series
since he replaced Bill Russell as manager on June 21. Trevor's
team won the bigger battle as well, as the Padres took two of
the four games in L.A. to maintain their 13 1/2 game cushion
over the Dodgers in the West Division. Glenn's chances of
removing the "interim" from his title may now depend on how the
team does in the wild-card race. At week's end L.A. was 6 1/2
That the Hoffman brothers are playing such significant roles in
Southern California baseball shouldn't come as a surprise. Their
father, Ed, who died three years ago, was a local baseball
legend. After ending a professional singing career, he took a
part-time job at Anaheim Stadium and became famous as the
Singing Usher. He regularly led the crowd in seventh-inning
renditions of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and if there was
ever a problem finding someone to sing the national anthem, Ed
was always ready to fill in. "If they ever got in a pinch, he'd
always say, 'Give me five minutes to get loose,' then he'd come
in," Trevor says. "I guess he was the family's first saver."
For complete scores and stats, plus more news from Tom Verducci
and Tim Crothers, go to www.cnnsi.com.
As the July 31 trading deadline approaches, here are the deals
that were being talked about the most at week's end:
--Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson to the Dodgers for reliever Al
Osuna and second baseman Wilton Guerrero.
--Reds pitcher Pete Harnisch could go almost anywhere. Most
popular rumor has him heading to the Padres for prospects in a
three-way deal that would send San Diego righthander Joey
Hamilton to the Tigers.
--Twins righthander Bob Tewksbury to the Rangers, who need a
more reliable starter than Darren Oliver for the stretch drive.
--Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar to the Indians--where
brother Sandy may get Robbie out of his funk--for infielder
Enrique Wilson and minor league pitcher Willie Martinez.