Is It April Fools Day? No It Ain't!

The Dodgers catch a break. Long before he got to the NBA, multi-tattooed guard Jason Willliams earned the nickname "white chocolate." This name was given him by his Afro-American teammates. Given by white teammates, it could have been considered a perjorative. From his black teammates, in the different language of the locker room, the nickname was an accolade.

Now there is J.D. Drew. What do we call him? A left handed Garry Sheffield? A white Barry Bonds?

Drew started out his career not thinking Philadelphia was good enough. He tried St. Louis and played like Russia - you know that country Winston Churchill called a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. On to Atlanta.

Good enough for the Braves but they to allowed him to leave. And thence J.D. Drew was signed by the Paul DePodesta Dodgers. For many years and many millions.

Like elsewhere, J.D. Drew showed many moments of brilliance. And many moments of ennui. He was Milton Bradley with a zipper on his mouth and ice on his emotions.

J.D. Drew was and is a good player. A player who might have been great. His peak year this year had 20 home runs. That's all. With Raffy Furcal and Kenny Lofton on base plenty in front of him, the third place hitter barely nicked the 100 RBI mark.

The really GOOD hitters, Ryan Howard and Big Popi in Boston hit those numbers at the All Star break. Old players like Mr. Thomas doubled those homers.

The Dodgers were faced with having to pay J.D. Drew another $33 over the next three years. And then they caught a break. Drew's agent, the redoubtable Mr. Boros, figured he could get more elsewhere so he talked Drew into voiding the rest of his contract, which was his right.

What a break. For the Dodgers.

Boros and Drew handed GM Ned Colletti a great big Christmas present wrapped with a great big bow.

Drew showed the Dodgers a lot during his stay. Both good and bad. He showed he was brittle, or at least prone to sit with an alleged injury. He showed he had one great batting eye, but curiously mostly ready to take a walk in a key situation calling for a hitter, not a looker.

Says here the Dodgers are a whole lot better off with the flexibility of having Mr. Drew gone than they would have been retooling the team with him.

Drew, always ready to move on in the middle of the night, and Boros, always ready to rob another bank, chose great timing. For themselves, at the beginning of the market, and for the Dodgers also early in the game while they have maximum maneuverability.

Drew was making $11 and wanted more. For the money he wanted, the Dodgers are suddenly more in the market for Aramis Ramirez than ever before. Who would you rather have, Aramis Ramirez or J.D. Drew?

Ramirez plays more games, hits more homers, plays a more critical condition, gets more RBI. Has shown his pysche is, well, er, ah, more normal that the enigmatic Drew.

The curse of modern day baseball is the multi year overblown contract which just strangles a team, tying its hands, leaving all the wiggle room of Marilyn Monroe in one of those tight dress -look great, lots of motion, goes no place.

Now the Dodgers do NOT have to pay 10 or more million to: Drew, Nomar Garciaparra, Eric Gagne, Greg Maddux.

It will not have to pay 5 or more million to: Julio Lugo, Kenny Lofton, Aaron Sele.

Say one thing about the Dodgers, they have learned or are learning about the market from agent Boros. It's said they would be willing to trade Brad Penny, figuring if there is a market for Drew, there will be one for Penny.

Folks, the Dodgers haven't had a payroll this flexible in decades. Fred Claire, the silent half of the Tuxedo Tommy duo (how could he have been otherwise), never had this flexibility. You have to go back to maybe Buzzy Bavasi to have this kind of real chance to remold a team.

Less than a year on the job, Ned Colletti has had his biggest day in the Dodgers employ.

A year ago, he did remarkably good with the hand he was dealt when he sat down at the table. The cards were already dealt and he was starting with a pair of fours and staring at two raises. He pluckily played on and made it to the final table. This year, while maybe not starting as the chip leader, he's suddenly got a much more respectable starting position.

You don't have to be an experienced tea leave reader to know J.D. Drew will not be back in a Dodgers uniform in 2007. Much less a raise, the Dodgers had figured him overpaid. The laid back response to the bombshell announcement was a hardly contained scream of delight.

First fallout decision is a no brainer. James Loney is in the regular lineup. Period.

Other decisions are now automatic. The Dodgers may not get Aramis Ramirez, but they are going to try harder at the end of the week than they figured they could at the beginning of the week.

Ditto with Alfonso Soriano. (A few years ago, the Dodgers nixed a Soriano for a young pitching phenom deal. The phenom is where phenoms usually are, still in the minors. The Dodgers learned from that non deal).

The Drew bombshell probably does not mean any quicker resolution to the Garciaparra or Maddux situations.

Face it, they are complimentary and secondary decisions to be make after the Dodgers see what younger and healthier talents might be willing to take Dodgers money, southern California living, and the other blandishments of Tinsletown.

One caution, here's hoping the Dodgers have the good sense to keep Tommy in his Tuxedo, doing what he really does best, generate public relations. Keep him busy on the road. Do not let him muddy the waters in the decisions that belong rightfully to the general manager.

In one card game, you have one dealer. Have you ever heard of a poker game with two house dealers at the same time. Chaos. Distraction. Civil war. House loses.

J.D. Drew was an okay player during his stay. But there was always the feeling that if a little healthier, if a little more motivated, if a little less laid back, this kid was a superstar about to break out.

Well, it's 10 years down the road since the talented kid exploded onto the baseball scene, and you just have to say it, he is what he is. Decent, even good, but not great. Not a real three or four hitter. Not a real MVP candidate. Not a team leader.

If only we could have put Jason Repko inside J.D. Drew's latent talent.

Whatever bus Matt Kemp is riding on in south Caribbean or South American country, trying to learn to see the curve a touch quicker, and trying to learn how to run straight line outfield routes, it is assumed somebody has told him of the Drew Drop News. Hey Matt, the guy ran off, the house is empty. Ready for the taking.

Hey Ned, Andre Ethier can hit. Russell Martin is solid. Raffy Furcal is dandy.

James Loney will be solid. We got one more year from Hall of Fame Jeff Kent. You were smart to bring back Ramon Martinez. We still got Wilson Betemit. There is Marlon Anderson. The offense will not be that bad. you got money. Look to the pitching.

The Marlins want Kemp. They like him better than the Mets Lastings Millidge. (No wonder). Dontrelle Willis wants out. There's the germ of a deal. A very possible deal. The Marlins will not be able to keep slugger Miguel Cabrera much longer (its the money).

The Dodgers would package big Chad Billingsley with Kemp, and then add even bigger Jonathan Broxton in a three for three deal: Kemp, Billingsley and Broxton for Willis, Cabrera and the Marlins surprise closer of 2006.

Before the Drew defection, the Dodgers could speculate on what if's, but knowing there deck was not as full as other teams. Now we have a new deck and a whole lot more chips in front of us.

Ah, the sun shines brighter this morning.

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories