All week at NBC Sports Philadelphia, we're debating the biggest villains in Philly sports history. Today, we look at the Phillies.
Some 23 years later, the name still evokes the same emotions: anger, resentment, disgust.
The guy who was too good for Philadelphia.
The backstory is painfully familiar by now. Drew was a college baseball phenom at Florida State, a major-league-ready star who was drawing comparisons to Mickey Mantle. The Phillies suffered through a 95-loss season in 1996 for the right to pick second in the 1997 MLB draft. Drew was their target, a prospect who could change the trajectory of the organization.
Prior to the draft, Drew's agent Scott Boras reportedly told teams that Drew wanted an $11 million signing bonus. It was viewed as an outrageous request. The No. 1 pick of the 1996 draft, Kris Benson, received a $2 million signing bonus. Would Drew really refuse to sign for anything less than $11 million?
The Phillies drafted Drew anyhow. In terms of pure baseball ability, he was too good to pass up. The Phillies reportedly offered Drew $3 million but Boras and Drew never budged off their original demand. The particulars of the negotiations have been disputed over the years, but the bottom line was the Phillies never came close to signing Drew.
Drew played in the Independent League for parts of the 1997 and 1998 seasons before re-entering the draft in 1998. The Cardinals took him with the fifth pick and signed him for $7 million.
The whole ordeal left the Phillies and their fans fuming.
"I think a lot of us players were thinking he should just sign," said Ricky Bottalico, who was a Phillies reliever in 1997 and 1998 as the Drew saga played out. "He was being offered a lot of money, more than most of us had made playing in the big leagues. I think ultimately the fans disliked him more than anything, they felt shunned."
The fans were slighted and proceeded to make their feelings toward Drew crystal clear. During his first game at Veterans Stadium in 1999, he was booed loudly and had batteries thrown at him by a couple of fans. The booing never stopped or lost any steam. Every year Drew came to Philadelphia, he was booed intensely.
I went to several of those Cardinals-Phillies games and vividly remember legendary Phillies public address announcer Dan Baker announcing Drew's name very slowly, which gave fans the opportunity to prolong the booing. "Now batting, c\enter fielder ... Jay ... Dee ... Drew ..." (BOOOOOOOOOOOO)
Much to Phillies fans' delight, Drew never reached his potential in the big leagues. He was a good player, but not the transcendent star he was predicted to be coming out of college. He played for four teams over the course of a 14-year career, earning one All-Star selection and winning a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007.
He'll never be remembered as an all-time great, but his legacy in Philadelphia is secure.