Commentary

Have we seen the last of J.D. Drew?

Darnell McDonald praises former teammate, but has no clues on recluse's intentions

Updated: March 2, 2012, 11:52 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The question made Darnell McDonald laugh. Had he heard from J.D. Drew?

"J.D. probably has no phone and is in a tree stand somewhere, man," McDonald said Friday morning. "I don't think anyone has gotten ahold of J.D.

"I'm sure he's probably doing a lot of hunting, taking care of his farm. I guarantee he's doing something he loves doing right now. Shoot, man, he'll be missed. He was a unique individual."

[+] EnlargeDarnell McDonald, J.D. Drew
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesRed Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald, left, has "nothing but good things to say" about former teammate J.D. Drew, right.

In the span of a week, two Boston Red Sox players have retired, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. J.D. Drew, who turned 36 last November and made his big league debut in 1998, came to the end of his contract with the Red Sox after last season but has not signaled his intentions for 2012. He hasn't signed with another club, and has uttered nary a peep since walking out of the Sox clubhouse for the final time last September.

Scott Boras, Drew's agent, was here Thursday for Varitek's news conference. When asked whether Drew was planning to announce his retirement, Boras replied, "He's happy and he's home."

Done playing baseball?

"You know J.D.," McDonald said. "You might see J.D. appear somewhere in the middle of the season. He could get off the couch and play baseball."

Let's leave for another day the debate on what Drew meant to the Red Sox in his five seasons here. It's a given that he was one of the most polarizing players ever to wear a Sox uniform.

Instead, let's give a listen to how Drew was viewed by McDonald, a fellow outfielder and Drew's teammate for the better part of two seasons. McDonald is well-acquainted with all the criticisms of Drew, most of which centered on two things: that he appeared passionless, and he wouldn't play hurt.

"He wasn't a guy who threw his helmet or cuss when he got out," McDonald said. "People mistake that as he doesn't care. I just think he was a guy who has his life in perspective, man. He cares about his family. I'm not going to say he didn't care about his job. He might have gotten a bad rap for that."

Drew was at his most emotionless the day Jacoby Ellsbury stole home: The ballpark went bananas, and Drew, who was in the batter's box, didn't register a reaction, stepping back into the box as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred.

"He'd do the same thing if he hit a home run," McDonald said. "Everyone's different, man. That's just J.D. That's how he approached probably everything, with the same demeanor. As a fan, I guess they want to see reactions. J.D. wasn't going to give you that, he wasn't a rah-rah guy or someone who would get in your face, but he was probably one of the smartest baseball players that I've played with. He always picked up little things in a game, guys tipping pitches, things like that. The guy was a student of the game."

This may come as a surprise, considering Drew's public utterances were few and he rarely dawdled in the clubhouse long enough for reporters to collar him after a game, but McDonald claims Drew could be downright chatty.

"He's a unique guy, man, he had that [dry] sense of humor," McDonald said. "He talked baseball, hunting, politics, church. He talked about everything. He kept it light around the clubhouse, and he gave me an opportunity to play.

"I love J.D., man. J.D.'s a great person."

As to the accusations that Drew wouldn't play hurt -- a gripe that was expressed within the Sox clubhouse as well as outside it -- McDonald advised caution.

"That's a fine line," he said, "when you start talking about things like that. You don't know how someone feels. Everyone's pain tolerance is different. You can't judge anybody on that. Everyone's different.

"Look at Tek. I was at his press conference yesterday and the biggest thing that struck me was when he talked about blocking balls. That's what made him, one of the little things that made him tick. J.D. is a different guy. We're all different, but we all have the same goal, we all want to win and compete. J.D. won a World Series. He hit that grand slam in the ALCS. When I think of J.D., the guy had a great career, man. He did it his way."

Here's what may have hurt Drew most, McDonald suggests.

"Everything he did, he made it look easy," McDonald said. "J.D. was one of a kind, and you're not going to see too many guys come around like him. We called him 'The Natural.' He could get off a plane and swing the bat, hit you a line drive, give you a walk. He played an unbelievable right field.

"Maybe that's why he got that bad rap, or whatever you might want to call it. He made the game look easy. But we all knew the skills J.D. had. We all recognize guys who can play, and J.D. was one of those guys."

Now he's gone, at least from the Red Sox.

"He's one of the few who came here and won a World Series," McDonald said. "That's something we all want to do.

"I got nothing but good things to say about J.D. God bless him, man, I wish him well. He earned it, man."

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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