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Sifting through the fog (cont.)

Posted: Thursday November 30, 2006 12:21PM; Updated: Thursday November 30, 2006 1:59PM
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Ramirez has been a regular on the "he's doggin' it" circuit, while Drew's baggage wouldn't fit in an overhead compartment of a jumbo jet, if you believe the common perception. The rap is that Drew doesn't play through pain or give a full effort. He's joyless in the clubhouse. He's motivated by money rather than winning. And to top it all off, in exercising his option to end his five-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers after two years, he reportedly betrayed assurances he had made that he would stick around.

There are counter arguments to the above. For example, up until the last minute, Drew retained every right to change his mind about opting out, and the Dodgers were responsible for understanding that. And playing through pain is often overrated. For all the images we have of Kirk Gibson-types gutting it out, you'll find plenty of players who make a nagging injury dimensionally worse, or who set the team back by keeping a spot in the lineup from a reserve who could do better until the starter has recuperated.

In a recent Boston Globe story, Gordon Edes wrote that "according to one major leaguer who has played against Drew for much of his career, one Dodger player greeted the news of Drew's departure by phoning friends in jubilation." Whether this anonymous story is apocryphal or not, it would seem to reflect badly on Drew ... until you question what wisdom and character conclusions we should draw from a Dodger who would be celebrating the departure of a player who was, except for Rafael Furcal, the team's most valuable.

A thoughtful general manager can and should weigh testimony like this without abandoning old-school values or turning tail from new-school ones. There's room to debate how much character and personality matter -- a lot or a little. But for those who give them any weight, there is also a way to take a Moneyball approach to character and personality, to do their best to find which character traits are overvalued and which are undervalued. It's entirely possible that the so-called character deficiencies of Drew -- or Ramirez -- are both relevant and misunderstood.

You'll go crazy with frustration if you can't accept the fact that Drew and Ramirez won't play 162 games like, say, Juan Pierre does. But those who can get past their biases about what every ballplayer should do in a perfect world, who can adjust their expectations and look at the overall pluses and minuses of Drew and Ramirez together, who can avoid letting preconceived notions distort the truth (Drew was notorious in Los Angeles for failing in the clutch despite posting statistics in 2006 showing that he excelled in every clutch situation, including close games in the late innings), will find their ability to make an intelligent assessment skyrocketing.

As for Boston, whose activities this offseason may well be discussed for years to come, it is possible that everything that the Red Sox think they'd be gaining from Manny no longer being Manny could be lost in J.D. being J.D. Or vice versa. If the Sox can't find clarity through statistics, they're stuck trying to decide which competing aphorism to buy into: "The grass is always greener" vs. "better the devil you know."

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