For this week’s roundtable, it was extremely easy to figure out a topic. Dustin Pedroia retired at the beginning of the week. Obviously we’re going to talk about Dustin Pedroia. The question for the staff this time around was simply to pick the thing they’ll remember the most about Pedroia. I didn’t put any specifics on that. It could be anything from a skillset to a moment to a personality trait to a specific quote. Just whatever feels like it’ll be the lasting memory of Dustin Pedroia.
I don’t really have any specific favorite memories of Dustin Pedroia, to be honest. That isn’t to say I didn’t like him or I didn’t pay attention. Just that he was always there and there wasn’t anything to note once he installed himself as a fixture on the team. He won Rookie of the Year. He won an MVP. He got on the cover of MLB the Show. He showcased his skills on both sides of the ball. He was an All-Star talent. He played hard and loved what he did.
I will remember his dirt dog approach to the game. I will remember how he never gave up, even when a large portion of the fanbase called for his head in his first major league appearances. But unfortunately, the thing I will remember most will be how Manny Machado robbed him, and us, of so much more, and how the good times had to come to a premature end.
When I think of Dustin Pedroia, I think of this clip. It’s a popular clip that’s been circling since his retirement was announced, but it shows just who he was as a player. He meant business when he stepped on the baseball field. Pedey was there to play his ass off, not discuss pointless extracurriculars. We saw it every time he took the field at second base, and we saw it in the sheer number of times he attempted a comeback despite his significant injury. Second base won’t be the same without you, Pedey.
When I think of Dustin Pedroia, I think of his competitiveness. He always wanted to win and he didn’t care how. He gave up his scholarship to another player at Arizona State so another player could go to school and improve the team. His actions in the dugout and how active he seemed to be when there was a conference on the mound, you knew he was doing everything he could to win the game that night.
There are so many great moments in Dustin Pedroia’s career that it’s hard to even identify the key one for me so I’m going a little off the beaten path: the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Pedroia signed on in December 2008 for the competition taking place the next March and was really jazzed up about it. Coming off winning Rookie of the Year in 2007 (with a World Series), and the AL MVP in 2008 a mere month before announcing his participation, Pedroia was on a rocket to the moon career wise. And his thought was “yeah, I’ll play some more baseball to try and win a tournament.” So often the conversation about the WBC and Olympics becomes bogged down with injury risk or worry about taking away time from the season when it’s just a big, fun, baseball event. And given the chance to play, Pedroia said “let’s go” and took it as an honor.
Dustin Pedroia did a lot of things very well. He had excellent patience and bat control, and his defense was stellar. But I think one aspect of his game that was never fully appreciated was his work on the base paths. As an immense fan of stolen bases, I always appreciated that he was aggressive going station to station. Between 2008 and 2012, he stole at least 20 bases four times and he threw in another 17 in 2013. Steals obviously became much less of a part of his game as he aged and the injuries piled up, but he finished his career with 138 thefts, which ranks sixth in franchise history.
However, my favorite Pedroia moment doesn’t involve base stealing. No, it involves a good old fashioned postseason home run. Pedroia hit five home runs in the playoffs during his career, but none was as exhilarating as the two-run home run he smashed over the Green Monster in Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS. Watching Pedroia flip the bat and stare down the ball’s trajectory as he went down the line and then hug David Ortiz after circling the bases is self care for any Red Sox fan. The Red Sox may have been leading at the time Pedroia hit this, and they might have gone on to win 11-2 (with Pedroia contributing three more RBI to that total), but, emotionally speaking, that home run was really the final knockout punch of the series.
That home run also came during Pedroia’s Rookie of the Year season, so it was only the beginning of a career of great moments. Thanks for all of them, Dustin. Laser Show Forever.
My favorite Pedroia moment is the lead off homer in the 2007 World Series. Kicking off a four-game sweep in that style from a rookie is just wild. He set the tone on the field with his bat and off the field with his personality, and seeing a rookie just light a fire under the team like that was just so cool. It was clear they were about to house the Rockies.
When I moved to Vermont in the spring of 2007, I got hooked on the Red Sox. I had played baseball my entire life up to this point, but never got engrossed with it like I did football because my local team growing up were the Kansas City Royals. Vermont was the third state I’d lived in that school year and thinking I could find a way to relate with the kids at school, I started watching Red Sox games in our hotel room on NESN. Before long, I was infatuated with Dustin Pedroia. He was about my height, had my build, and hit the stuffing out of the ball.
For the next decade he’d remain my favorite player because he made me think I could be a major leaguer even though I didn’t possess an nth of the skill Pedroia had. I tried to swing like him, wanted to play second base like him (until I fell in love with pitching by way of Tim Lincecum), and wanted to play with his intensity. I never made my high school team, but I tried out every year thinking that if I worked hard enough I could make it. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but Pedroia’s story helped instill perseverance in me. I’m sad his career ended the way it did but I’m glad he was there when I latched on because I couldn’t imagine a better player to root for.
When I think of Dustin Pedroia I can’t help but to think of “Laser Show.” Early in the 2010 season the swaggy young second baseman came to the defense of David Ortiz who had been struggling at the plate. Pedroia said to the media, “A couple of years ago, I had 60 at-bats, I was hitting .170, and everyone was ready to kill me, too. And what happened? Laser show. So, relax.” This quote was Pedroia. It captured his loyalty to his teammates, his borderline narcissistic confidence in himself, and his sense of humor in a single soundbite. Red Sox Nation didn’t need any more reasons to love the undersized young All-Star who had already captured Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in 2007 and 2008, but now we had even more reason to do so. If you liked Pedroia before this quote you loved him after and I will always remember him for it.
I sorta did this yesterday, but another thing I think of when I think of Dustin Pedroia is the game he hit three homers in San Francisco, then got injured the next game. It is very hard to hit three homers in San Francisco! And yet he did it, and then paid the spiritual price. Off the field, I think of that photo of him at a bar after the 2007 title; there are so many memories I could be here all day, but instead, I’ll retire this bit.
I’ve said this basically everywhere all week since he announced this retirement, but for me Pedroia’s ability to turn double plays was the thing that did and always will stand out. I think that’s even more true now given how second base is changing and there’s not as much emphasis on defense at that position. Shifting has certainly made it easier to field, but the footwork required to turn a double play hasn’t changed, and putting more players from other positions in that spot will only lead to that part of the game being worse.
But Pedroia had everything you look for in a second baseman turning a double play. His footwork around the bag was impeccable. His arm was strong and accurate, even without the momentum of his body moving him in the right direction in the way it does for a shortstop. His hands were lightning fast getting the ball from his glove to his throwing hand and then out of that hand in mind-numbing speed. And his toughness never allowed him to bail out from a player sliding in. That last part ended up costing him his career, but it also allowed him to be the defensive player he was leading up to that moment.