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Three for Tuesday: Why J.D. Drew is Trot Nixon and Terry Francona’s march to Cooperstown

02.22.11 at 1:11 pm ET
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J.D. Drew has hit 76 home runs in his four seasons with the Red Sox. (AP)

J.D. Drew has hit 76 home runs in his four seasons with the Red Sox. (AP)

Three Red Sox thoughts for a Tuesday as I keep one eye on ESPN, where in the last 45 minutes I have heard the word “great” associated with Carmelo Anthony (zero NBA Finals, zero First-Team appearances), Chris Bosh (zero playoff series wins) and Cam Newton (as many NFL pass attempts as Shane Falco). I’m actually begging for a montage of dunks set to unlistenable music …

1. Let us start with a little Player A, Player B:

Player A: .278 batting average, .366 on-base percentage and .464 slugging.

Player B: .270 batting average, .377 on-base percentage and .476 slugging.

Player A represents Trot Nixon‘s numbers with the Red Sox. Player B represents J.D. Drew‘s numbers with the Red Sox.

It’s amazing — all you ever hear from the Pink Hat crew is that J.D. Drew isn’t Trot Nixon. Turns out Drew has been almost an exact offensive replica of Nixon over the last four years.

But I get it. Drew doesn’t look the part. He didn’t own Roger Clemens (which I think an underrated factor in Nixon’s enduring popularity — the guy hit .400 with an OPS of 1.450 in 40 career at-bats vs. Clemens, including five homers) and he isn’t a Red Sox player by baseball birth, and he sure isn’t (and I’m holding my nose here) a Dirt Dog. Nixon’s baseball-reference page is sponsored by FenwayFanatics.com, who describe Nixon as “a gritty, hard-nosed player who was always ready to do what was asked by the Red Sox.”

Look, I have no idea if any of that true and neither do you. Really, what does “whatever is asked by the Red Sox” mean? The guy played right field, put up pretty good numbers and got paid a ton of money for it. Did I miss anything else?

But numbers are numbers, and they tell me that Drew has been Nixon at the plate over the last four years and they also tell me this: In 10 seasons with the Red Sox Trot Nixon played in at least 130 games three times. In four seasons with the Red Sox J.D. Drew has played in at least 130 games three times.

So, put aside the contract — is it Drew’s fault that he was offered more money than he’s worth? — and ask yourself this: If you think Trot Nixon was a productive player for the Red Sox don’t you have to feel the same about Drew?

2. Since we’re all assuming the Red Sox are going to win the World Series this year (with apologies to those haters who have predicted less than 100 wins and a World Series loss to the Phillies) isn’t it time for Terry Francona to book that room at the Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown for induction weekend in, say, 2017?

Think about it: Every manager with at least three World Series titles is in the Hall of Fame (with the exception of Joe Torre, a lock for future enshrinement). I think Francona is a terrific manager, the best in baseball today, but he joins some serious high cotton with another title. Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Connie Mack (who managed 56 for years, or five more years than Francona has been alive), Walter Alston, Torre, Sparky Anderson, Miller Huggins and John McGraw are the fellas with at least three titles.

3. So we’ve now had 43 seasons since Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown. When you look at the guys who have played over that span it’s amazing that no one really has made a serious run at it (I’m talking down to the last weekend of the season). Forty-three seasons. In the 43 years prior to 1967? Nine Triple Crowns (eight players — Ted Williams did it twice). Babe Ruth’s single-season and career home run records didn’t last 43 years. Hank Aaron’s career mark? Nope. Roger Maris? No luck.

Clearly, any short list of the top active candidates to win the Triple Crown starts with Albert Pujols. He’s played 10 seasons and has finished in the top three in Triple Crown categories a total of 16 times. So he’s the guy.

But how far down do we have to go before we arrive at Adrian Gonzalez?

If you project Gonzalez’s road numbers from 2010 to a full season you get 40 homers, 118 RBI and a .315 batting average, numbers that would have finished seventh, second and fourth in the AL last season.

But I’m thinking Gonzalez is going to hit more homers and knock in more runs with this team, isn’t he? Better lineup, he’ll see more pitches, all that stuff. Can he hit .340? Probably not, but maybe he sneaks in a .325-.330 year in the right season. I understand that I’m jumping ahead a little (you think, Minihane? The guy hasn’t had an at-bat with the Red Sox and you’ve got him as Yaz 1967 2.0) but I can’t think of five guys currently playing with a better chance than Gonzalez to win the Triple Crown.

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