By Mark Paulette
On a sun-soaked Memorial Day afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field…or U.S. Cellular Field…or Comiskey Park…or whatever the Chicago White Sox are choosing to call their home this week; Dustin Pedroia crashed to the ground, wrists-first, after colliding with Jose Abreu in a play at the first base bag. The tumble landed Pedroia on the 10-day disabled list and immediately the murmurs began: “is it time for the Red Sox to move on from Pedroia?”
The longest-tenured member of the Sox, Pedroia was pegged as the heir apparent team leader following the void left by David Ortiz’s retirement. Those qualities quickly fell under fire following the ‘Machado’ incident and the botched retaliation attempt from the Red Sox. The cameras caught Pedroia expressing his non-involvement in Matt Barnes’ decision to take aim at Machado’s head, which the media took as Pedey tossing his teammates under the bus. Not a great look for a supposed leader.
The recent DL stint was used as a springboard for these aforementioned narratives which questioned Pedroia’s value to the team. It’s a fact New England fans and media alike are often guilty of believing the grass is always greener elsewhere, but we do not have to even look elsewhere to find Pedroia’s value on the 2017 Boston Red Sox. Just take a hard look at the team itself.
Want more on offense? Well, Pedroia’s first inning single on Tuesday night bumped him over .300 for the year, second on the team among qualifiers behind Xander Bogaerts. Speaking of the team’s no. 3 batter in the lineup, Pedroia possesses more RBI’s (25-to-23), a greater on-base percentage (.373-to-.371) and a higher walk-to-strikeout ratio (1.28-to-0.44) than Bogey. Not bad for a top of the order guy.
Want consistent defensive play? On a team which has its fair share of defensive deficiencies, ranking second-to-last in both errors and fielding percentage, the infield alone has contributed 40-of-47 total errors thus far in 2017. How many of those 40 errors has Pedroia accounted for? Zero. He’s the lone second baseman and one of just four infielders in the majors who have yet to commit an error this season. (Eric Hosmer, Joe Mauer [1B] and Nolan Arenado [3B] are the others). In fact, the 4-time Gold Glove winner hasn’t committed an error in his last 86 games and 303 total chances, dating back to August 19, 2016. In that time, all other second basemen across the majors have combined to make 264 errors. It literally doesn’t get better than Pedroia’s puzzle piece glove. (Which is the Frankenstein of gloves. The base is the same as it was his rookie year, but pieces have been woven into place as others wear over the test of time).
You want a leader? Just look at the emotion Pedroia displayed after slapping a base hit to right field in the 11th inning on Monday night for his second career walk-off hit. The 33-year-old sprinted around the field while his teammates showered him in water and sunflower seeds like he just recreated Bill Mazeroski’s “1960 World Series walk off” rather than poke a ground ball against the worst team in baseball in mid-June.
No matter the game, Pedroia’s approach never waivers. Whether it is a game seven in October or a Tuesday in May, you can find him hopping in the hole at second before each pitch delivered. Or screaming at himself after swinging at a 2-1 breaking pitch in the dirt. Or beating himself up for not being two inches taller after extending into a full-length dive for a ground ball which he came up 20 inches short of. It’s a grossly overused cliché, but Pedey plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He’s not only a model of consistency for Little Leaguers around the country, he’s a model of success, hard work and determination for his teammates.
So, let’s give this 12-year vet a break. Pedroia is invaluable for these Red Sox, a team driven by youth, from both a production and leadership standpoint. And while you’re at it, appreciate what the former Rookie of the Year, MVP, and two-time World Series champ has accomplished in a Sox’ uni. He may just be the next number bolted to the right field roof.
Mark Paulette is the Senior Producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.