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Cookie Monster, Wily Mo Pena, and J.D. Drew

Aug 25, 2009, 1:04 PM EST

One of these things is not like the others
One of these things just doesn’t belong
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

- Sesame Street, “One of These Things”
A recent Sports Illustrated poll asked 380 major leaguers to name the player who “gets the least out of the most talent” and the results are pretty interesting:
1. Wily Mo Pena
2. Daniel Cabrera
3. Elijah Dukes
4. J.D. Drew
5. Mike MacDougal
Perhaps not surprisingly four of those five guys last played for the Nationals, with Dukes and MacDougal still on the team, and the only non-Nationals player on the list looks like the answer to one of those “which of these things is least like the other four?” test questions.
Pena is a career .257/.303/.443 hitter and at 26 years old is a free agent after being let go by three teams in two seasons. Cabrera owns a 46-64 record and 5.09 ERA in 881 innings and is currently pitching at Triple-A after being cut by the Nationals. Dukes is a former top prospect with off-field issues who’s hit .234/.337/.423 through 208 games in the majors. MacDougal is currently the Nationals’ closer and is in one of his “effectively wild” stages after being a mess in four seasons with the White Sox.
And then there’s Drew, who somehow gets lumped in with that foursome despite being an All-Star last year, finishing sixth in the MVP balloting in 2004, posting the 25th-best OPS among active hitters, and playing 1,316 games over 12 seasons in the majors. Drew has missed lots of time with injuries, rubs some people the wrong way with his laid-back demeanor and patient approach to hitting, and hasn’t become the superstar that many people expected when he was a top-five pick in back-to-back drafts.
However, at the end of the day he’s a .282 career hitter with a .391 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage who figures to end up with around 1,800 hits, 275 homers, and $100 million in earnings. To call Drew a disappointment is one thing, but equating him to complete busts like Pena and Cabrera while suggesting that a 12-year veteran with a .900 OPS “gets the least out of the most talent” is all kinds of silly. Drew has more career value than Pena, Cabrera, Dukes, and MacDougal combined, and it isn’t particularly close.

  1. Joe - Aug 25, 2009 at 1:23 PM

    Isn’t this just a back-handed compliment?
    By that, I mean that it implies that the rest of baseball seems to think that JD Drew is one of — if not THE — most talented players in the game.
    I don’t think there is a disconnect here at all. The question wasn’t “Name the crappiest players in baseball” or “Name the players who keep getting jobs when they shouldn’t.”
    Anyone who has seen JD Drew play on a consistent basis would probably agree: based on how naturally the game seems to come to him, he should have a higher career OPS+ than the likes of Magglio Ordonez, Moises Alou, Carlos Pena, and Hideki Matsui.
    I’m actually surprised that Nick Johnson didn’t end up on that list.
    Anyone can under-perform their talent level, not just crappy guys.

  2. flash613 - Aug 25, 2009 at 1:57 PM

    There is some sort of a negative hint here against the Nationals. I think they saw the talent in four of these underperformers and decided to take a chance with them. Hoping to catch lightening in a bottle, sort of. Tremendous raw power in Pena and Cabrera, just unknown whether it can be harnessed. Obviously they have given up on those two. The jury is still out on Dukes.

  3. Takoma Park - Aug 25, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    Nats had to draft them. They had no money, so they took what they could. Just now are they finally being able to get who they want. Bowden didn’t help matters. Terrible GM.

  4. Todd Boss - Aug 25, 2009 at 4:35 PM

    This list essentially defines the Jim Bowden regime. Become enamored with “looks great on paper” and “tools-y” players, ignore blatant off-the-field issues such as attitude, reliability, criminal history and the like, then jumble them all together and call it a roster.
    Oh, make sure you give out indefensible contracts while you’re at it. And make sure the players have a history with the Cincinnati franchise too.

  5. hop - Aug 26, 2009 at 12:18 AM

    How is it silly to have Drew in this discussion? Did the “genius” who wrote this even bother to check his numbers from say the past 3 seasons? Obviously not but i will do the work for him and present them. This is drew’s 3rd year with the redsuks and so far he hasn’t even hit 20 HR’s in a season for them and it looks like there is a pretty darn good chance he won’t this season either.64 RBi’s is the most he’s knocked in with the redsuks and he might match that this year, might. .280 is the best batting average he’s given baston and its not likely he will be matching that high this year. And when you consider the cash they are paying this guy i am sure they thought they would get a little more than this. I know i would if i was a redsuk fan but thank God i am not!

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