Describing Dodgers J.D. Drew as a “30 year old, above average ballplayer” (“nothing wrong with that, as long as Frank McCourt is paying for it”), the LA Times’ Tim Brown takes a mid-career look at the oft-maligned outfielder.

Tiny round bandages on Drew’s thigh covered the pinprick scars of acupuncture, of another recovery from another irksome ailment. He concedes he’s not quite right from off-season shoulder and wrist surgeries, but has never mentioned it because pitchers read the papers, too.

He starts a lot of sentences, “When I’m healthy ¦” and tips his head to the left, acknowledgment that, yeah, it’s getting repetitive.

Those who dislike him outside of Philadelphia, where he famously refused to sign out of Florida State, find ammunition in the exceptional skills he has yet to turn into a single All-Star appearance, or a batting title, or a championship. Some would settle for another full healthy season.

Tony La Russa, his manager for six seasons in St. Louis, collaborated on a book ” “3 Nights in August” ” that cast Drew as the villain.

In the book’s index, the heading is Drew, J.D. Underneath, with other subheadings, it reads: indifference of. There are three references, totaling five pages.

“A lot of young players fall into this trap where it’s uncomfortable to push yourself on a daily basis,” La Russa says. “They settle for some percent under their max. If you have the chance to be a two-million-dollar-a-year player, they might settle for 75 percent of that. In the case of J.D., if you have the chance to be a twelve-million-to-fifteen-million-dollar-a-year player, you settle for 75 percent of that.”

Stuff like that has followed Drew for years. Drew calls it “garbage,” all of it.

La Russa’s observation came during the 2003 season, when Drew was earning $3.7 million. It’s fair to say he’s covered the last 25%; he’ll take $11 million a season from the Dodgers through 2009.

So, whether in the lineup or on a trainer’s table, Drew is going to be around for a while. It is imperative that the Dodgers’ brains de-emphasize his skills as they currently relate to their batting order, accentuate his feel for the strike zone, and remake the middle of the order on the assumption that Drew won’t be in it.

Anyone looking (desperately) for bullpen help is already aware that Mike Piazza’s old pal, former Dodgers/Marlins reliever Guillermo Mota was DFA’d today by the Indians. IF Ramon Vazquez was promoted from Buffalo.

Much as we’d all love to see offensive stats padded in the Eastern League, take it from Senator Joe Lieberman — if they move the fences in at Dodd Stadium, home of the Connecticut Defenders, the terrorists have already won.