By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Dustin Pedroia had resignation in his voice on Monday, and what he said was not nearly as important as how he said it. He got off to a slow start in the major leagues, remember. Many wondered whether he could play at all. Pedroia’s response? He pulled back his shoulders, pushed out his chest, walked into your space and got right in your face.
And then he told you to get ready for the laser show.
Here’s the point: deep down, Pedroia knows. He knows. He knows the end is probably here and that he has run out of options, that the sprinting and diving and hustling has finally caught up with him. He just has never really been good at accepting defeat. Pedroia has been to the Red Sox what Tanner was to the Bad News Bears, a spitfire second baseman with a Napoleon complex that drove him to be what he was. Tanner showed up with a black eye after fighting the entire seventh grade. Pedroia won a Rookie of the Year trophy, an MVP, four Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. He played in four All-Star Games.
During Pedroia’s fullest, healthiest years from 2007-17, he was one of the most productive players at his position in baseball:
Now here’s the sad part: Pedroia has played just nine games in the last two seasons, and the truth is that he has not been the same player for a very long time. Since Sept. 15, 2017, Pedroia is just 6-for-67 in the major leagues, an .090 average. He has one double and no home runs. On those occasions when he has been on the field, he hasn’t been able to stay there. Or to produce.
Along the way – especially in more recent years – there have been some visible signs of frustration. In Baltimore – just a couple of days after Manny Machado slid into Pedroia’s troublesome knee – he stood on the top step of the dugout, on camera, and distanced himself from the idiotic actions of his teammates. In 2012, he lashed out against then-manager Bobby Valentine when the egomaniacal Bobby V. tweaked Kevin Youkilis. Pedroia took criticism for those things, justifiably so, mostly because he was publicly airing the team’s dirty laundry.
But then, if you think about it, he was also right. On both counts. It just wasn’t in his nature to keep his mouth shut.
In the end, how you remember Pedroia is entirely up to you, but here’s a suggestion: don’t be a baby about it. He wasn’t perfect. Nobody is. But in the contract that exists between a player and the fans, here’s what you can reasonably expect: effort, production and – this is a big one – commitment. Pedroia gave you all of those things, especially the last one. And the mere fact that he has hobbled along for the last two years should tell you that.
Am I biased? Sure. Absolutely. Pedroia is probably the last Red Sox player that I regularly covered for any significant length of time. He got annoyed when it was suggested he signed a team-friendly contract after winning the MVP, then shrugged it off as nothing more than a foolish disagreement only days later. A couple of years ago, after David Ortiz retired, he agreed to a phone interview after becoming the senior member of the Red Sox, something he never really seemed comfortable with because he had a pretty simple approach to succeeding in a place where, let’s face it, a lot of players couldn’t hack it.
“It’s a crazy environment,” Pedroia said at the time in an interview conducted for Boston Magazine. “Even if you win, there’s always something someone can find in a player or the team: They don’t have this, they don’t have that. Yeah, you have a parade, and then a week later they start talking about the next year. You kind of have to put the blinders on and just play.”
So here we are now, a couple of years later, and Pedroia can no longer do the thing he wants, the only thing he ever wanted. And if this is indeed the end, you should be able to acknowledge that he gave you everything he was supposed to and more.
He gave you effort. He gave you production. He gave you commitment.
And along the way, he even gave you more than a few laser shows.