On February 1st, Dustin Pedroia announced he is officially retiring from Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, this decision did not come as much of a surprise. Pedroia had only appeared in just 9 contests since 2018, and did not play at all during the shortened 2020 season.
He had been battling through a series of left knee issues since 2017. Many Red Sox fans point to this Manny Machado spikes up slide in April of that year as the main cause of these problems. Pedroia would gut through 105 regular season games and 4 postseason contests, but that was essentially his last season in the MLB.
Pedroia was off to a slow start
Pedroia’s career in Boston did not get off tot he best of starts. First debuting in 2006, he hit .191 in 31 games. The next season, he again struggled against Big League talent. During one 17 game stretch, he hit .104. But then, what happened, Dustin?
Indeed. Pedroia rallied and finished the season batting .317, reaching base at a .380 clip, and slugged .442. On the juggernaut that was the 07 Sox, with Ortiz, Manny, Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and others, Pedroia was the spark plug at the top of the order.
He also began to show Boston that he could flash the leather at second base. Fellow first year Clay Buchholz was no hitting the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway in September. Leading off the 7th, Miguel Tejada shot a ball up the middle that, at first glance, looked like a base-hit.
Pedroia, who actually maneuvered to his left before the pitch, sprawled to his right, corralled the ball, and then slung it to 1st to record the out. Buchholz would go on to complete the no-hitter.
During the 2007 playoffs, the 5 foot 9 rookie wanted to show off his power. In game 7 of the ALCS, the Red Sox were back at Fenway trying to eliminate the Cleveland Indians. Up 3-2 in the 7th, Pedroia unloaded on a Rafael Betencourt pitch to give Boston some breathing room.
The Red Sox would best the Indians and move on to the World Series. Leading off in Boston’s 1st was number 15. On the second pitch from Jeff Francis, Pedroia golfed a homer just over the Monster. Franics will never forget who Pedroia is.
The Red Sox would sweep the Rockies for the title, and Pedroia would end his first years in The Show with a ring and some hardware. He was awarded the Rookie of the Year.
No sophomore slump for Pedroia
The next season, Pedroia was an even more dynamic offensive player. He led the Majors with 54 doubles and 213 hits. Pedroia was first in the American League with 118 runs sored and was an eyelash from winning the batting title. He hit .326, Joe Mauer hit .328.
Along with the first of his 4 Gold Gloves, and 4 All-Star nods, Pedroia walked away with the MVP.
During the playoffs that season against the Rays, Pedroia enjoyed the finest playoff series off his career. He popped 3 homers, including a 1st inning blast in Tampa Bay during game 7. Had the Red Sox prevailed in that series, Pedroia had a strong case for series MVP.
Pedroia’s career got off to a phenomenal starts. He won the ROI and MVP in back to back years. He joined Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryan Howard as the only players in league history to accomplish that feat.
A hell of a run
For the next decade, Pedroia would continue to perform as well as any second basemen in baseball.
Despite his larger than life swing, he was one of the hardest batters to strikeout in the sport, evidenced by the fact his career high in a season was 85 in 2011. Impressively, on 4 occasions, he had more walks then strikeouts. He came within 4 walks or fewer of accomplishing that another 3 times.
Pedroia was a doubles machine who consistently added new dents to the Monster. From 07-16, he had at least 30 doubles in 8 seasons. While he was never a terrific homerun threat, he mashed at least 15 homeruns in a season 5 times, including a career best 21 round-tripper campaign in 2011.
Throughout his Red Sox tenure, Pedroia garnered much adoration from Boston. He was exactly the type of player the city gravitates towards. He was an absolute grinder who was always hustling, diving, getting dirty, openly showing his joy and frustration, outshot expectations, and played with a wonderful FU attitude.
Pedey and Papi
The dichotomy between Pedroia and his other beloved teammate, David Ortiz, was interesting. Ortiz was a massive human being who was known for gaudy power production and rarely played defense. That is literally the exact opposite description of Pedroia.
Both guys tapped into the opposite ends of baseball spectrum. Ortiz trotted around the bases, Perdoia always busted out of the box. One consistently admired his blasts, while the other very rarely stood and soaked in his work. Ortiz never played defense, Pedroia thrived in the field.
However, Boston embraced both of these players for both their similarities and differences. They were both swagger filled competitors who never lost confidence in their ability when going through a slump or recovering from an injury. They both gave everything they had, and then some, to the Red Sox organization and the city.
Playing through pain
In Pedroia’s case, he even gave up part of his left knee. Throughout his career, he would constantly be attacked by a swarm of injury bugs.
In 2010, he fractured his left foot and needed surgery to have a screw inserted. He only played 2 games after suffering the injury in June.
In the ultimate Dustin Pedroia story, he tore his UCL in his left thumb sliding into first on Opening Day, 2013. He gutted through a career best 160 regular season games, lead the league with 724 plate appearances, and batted .301. Oh yeah, he also won the second World Series championship of his career. He waited until after the season to get surgery.
In September of 2014, Pedroia would again go under the knife. In the worst full season of his career, he hit just .278 and slugged .376. He had an operation on his left hand after he had been dealing with the problem since April, according to Pedroia.
In 2015, hamstring and knee problems limited him to just 93 games. Since becoming a full time starter in 2007, that was the second lowest season output of his career.
His last real season
In 2017, the Machado spike only hindered his already worn down body. He got through 105 regular season games hitting .293. In the ALDS against Houston, a banged up Pedroia tried to contribute with Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez unable to go at 2nd base.
But Pedroia was ineffective in the series, going just 2 for 16. In a must win game 4 at Fenway, he came up to the plate as the potential tying run. Unfortunately, he grounded out to second, ending the series for Boston. Pedroia lumbered out of the box without any of the zeal he displayed throughout his Red Sox career.
Pedroia’s career in Boston was essentially over after that game. He tried like hell to get back on the field but was unable to make the comeback last.
Gave everything he had and more
Hopefully those fans who complained that he was taking up a roster spot can now look back at what he gave to the Red Sox. He busted his ass every time he took the field for his teammates, the origination, and the city. Not every player would have been as committed to recovering and trying to get back. Pedroia wanted to try every avenue to get back on the field.
Dustin Pedroia had a damn good career that he should be proud of. While he probably will not make the hall of fame, he was one of the best players at his position during his career.
Pedroia understood what it means and takes to play in Boston. At the time of his contract extension in 2013 he took a discount to stay with the Red Sox. He was always great with the Jimmy Fund. He played through injuries and put everything he had out on the field.
Red Sox fans will miss watching him dive and get to a ball that looked destined for right field off the bat. They will miss watching him lace an inside fastball off the Monster. They will miss the intensity he brought to the field every time he left the dugout. Boston will miss Pedroia just as much as Pedroia will miss Boston.
“Everyday I woke up looking to find a way to help our team win baseball game,” Pedroia said at his retirement press conference. “And I got to do it in front of the best fans, in the best city. Being a Red Sock means everything. Wearing that uniform is the best.”
Story by Chad Jones