Dustin Pedroia retired Monday at the age of 37, perfectly middle aged in human terms. In baseball terms, he was finally old, but in real terms he was old the first time he set foot in Fenway Park. That man was spiritually aged 37 for the entirety of his career.
His body has finally, fully caught up. He can no longer really run, which means he really can’t play, not like before, when he merely kinda couldn’t run, and played, and the time before that, which was the same, and the one before that, and that. A lesser player—certainly a lesser defensive player— probably would have officially hung it up earlier. But a lesser player also would have worked considerably less hard than Pedroia, who honest-to-Aceves played every game like it was his last.
A lot of it was because of the size. He’s small. Short, at least. This is basically Jurassic history at this point, but one of Nate Silver’s early claims to fame was predicting that Pedroia would thrive in the majors. It took a few weeks, and Pedroia later blew Silver off during the research period for The Signal and the Noise (“I’m getting ready for the big league ballgame,” Pedey told Silver during their appointed interview time; the interview would never come to pass), but it happened. Pedroia won the Rookie of Year award (and later, an MVP) en route to his three-time champion career, and until Monday, was still preparing for the next big-league ballgame.
The rest is not silence. Pedroia likely isn’t going anywhere for Red Sox fans, short-term or long-term. He’s very popular in these parts, within and beyond reason.
clearly, the moral of this story is that Rihanna and Dustin Pedroia are of equal standing as international sex symbols— joon (@joonlee) February 1, 2021
(As a note on the “equal standing” bit, Rihana is 5’8” and Pedroia is [extremely allegedly] 5’9”, so it works.)
In a real way, Pedroia’s legacy isn’t that of the pint-sized star, but the steel-willed wunderkind. David Ortiz is correctly seen as the link between the 2004 and 2013 teams, but only Pedroia can tangentially lay claim to all four; he was drafted, and opined upon, before the 2004 season, and is only gone now, after all four titles, whereas Papi was (albeit emphatically) there for three. It is altogether fitting that the Sox have only now emphatically changed their team-building approach, because with Pedey, they were all in all the time.
It fit him to be on that type of team. It would have fit him to be only any team, but this one fit particularly well. The Red Sox always tried and he always tried. The Sox fell on their faces a couple times during Pedroia’s tenure, but those were the exceptions, not the rule. The rule then was you tried your damndest, and Pedroia was the avatar of that rule. He would not have been—-was not—upset to be overshadowed by Big Papi, on and off the field. He wasn’t around to dominate. He was there to help win the big-league ballgame, however he could.
Sometimes, though, he did dominate. He won the Rookie of the Year. He won the MVP. He won a World Series, and another. The day before a season-crippling injury, he hit three homers in a game in San Francisco. This isn’t a thing that happens with most players, but Pedroia was born into such irreverence for baseball lore. The game was the game.
The last couple years were hard. He wanted to play but couldn’t, but tried, but couldn’t, but tried, and so on. Now the end is officially here, and so passes the best Sox second baseman most of us will ever see. If he’s popular around here for all the usual reasons, fine, but at least in this case it’s all true. We ask for everything out of our stars, and they rarely comply. Pedey complied. If there is nothing left, we can be damn sure there’s nothing left.