All year long, we’ve been reminiscing about the 2007 World Series since, of course, it’s the ten-year anniversary of the team. I’ve talked before about how important this team was to me, simply because I was at the perfect age where I was old enough to know exactly what was going on and young enough where I didn’t have any responsibilities to hold me down. It was a special time for Boston sports, and though this Red Sox team was likely the most talented of my lifetime it’s also easily the most overlooked championship squad from any Boston sports team. So, we’re going to try to honor them as much as possible this season. Today, we’ll be looking at the two men who made up their corner outfield.
The 2007 Red Sox had one of the most complete lineups I’ve ever seen, really lacking an easy out throughout the group. They had elite talent — hello prime David Ortiz — in the middle, but the depth of the group is what stood out. There were so many memorable pieces to that roster that it’s always hard to focus on just one. And yet, the corner outfield is something that I think about a lot.
The most important thing to know about Manny Ramirez and J.D. Drew was that they were legitimate contributors in the lineup. Above all else, they did what they were paid to do more often than not. Other than that, there weren’t many similarities between the two. Ramirez was a mostly beloved member of this Red Sox team and represented the greatest big-money acquisition in team history. He was a goofball and was never afraid to show off his personality, and people loved him for it. There were certainly lapses of judgement — not to mention some bad off-the-field controversies involving team staff that would go beyond simple lapses of judgement — but his goofy personality kept people on his side.
On the other side was another big-money acquisition, but one that didn’t earn his money. Or, at least that was the perception. Drew was actually one of the better hitters in the game throughout the life of his contract with Boston, but he never got that credit. His quiet, understated demeanor led people to believe that he didn’t care, and turned the fan base against him. He truly was the anti-Manny, letting his play do the talking while keeping his personality to himself. Together, they formed the four-five punch in the middle of Boston’s potent lineup on the most complete team many of us have ever seen. Standing on opposite corners of the field and back-to-back in the lineup, they formed the perfect complementary pair.
Ramirez, of course, was the second-best bat in the lineup, and his pairing with Drew will never be the one we remember. Instead, it will always be about Manny and Ortiz, and for good reason. This was the final full season of those two hitting back-to-back in the lineup, something that had become one of the staples of baseball around these parts for the better part of that decade. Part of this is personal bias and growing up with that duo, but it’s hard to imagine a more intimidating one-two punch in the middle of the lineup than Ortiz and Manny. The 2007 season actually represented a down year for Ramirez at the plate, but that means something different for him than most other hitters in the league. The slugger still posted a 126 OPS+, part of a 17-year streak in which he posted a mark of at least 125. Ramirez went on to have a big postseason, too, particularly in the ALDS (1.740 OPS) and ALCS (1.290). After that season, things went downhill quickly and he was eventually shipped off the Los Angeles. Really, that 2007 marked the last time we thought positively of Ramirez, a player who had been one of the faces of the franchise for almost a decade.
In the other corner, Drew had always been one of the more underappreciated players in the game. A two-time top-five pick in the amateur draft, the expectations for Drew were through the roof before he even played his first professional game. He was almost certain not to meet those expectations. When you combine that with the fact that most of his production came on the back of patience and doubles, he was doomed from the start. He was particularly doomed in Boston, when he signed a big five-year, $70 million deal to replace Trot Nixon. Nixon, of course, had been a fan favorite for his overachieving style and was one of the original “Dirt Dogs.” Drew never had that kind of in-your-face style of play. His 2007 season was actually his worst full-season in Boston, but he was still an above-average hitter and provided a stable base in the middle of the lineup. He also put together a strong run in the postseason, particularly in the final two rounds, including a big grand slam to start off the pivotal Game Six of that ALCS against Cleveland.
This was the only full season in which both Drew and Ramirez were on the roster, but in hindsight they were the perfect match. Each member of the pair really made you appreciate the other one. Drew’s quiet demeanor made you appreciate Ramirez’ goofiness, while Manny’s....eccentric style of play made you really yearn for the professionalism of Drew’s style. They were on exact opposite ends of the personality spectrum, but together Ramirez and Drew helped form the core of (arguably) the best Red Sox team we’ve ever seen.