The cock of the walk posture. The supremely confident pro that wills himself to be great more often than not. The team leader who sticks his chin and his business into the opposing teams’ operations every night and day. Dustin Pedroia is now Boston’s $100 million man; the centerpiece of a team who’ll be patrolling the right side of Fenway Park’s infield through 2021.
Whenever a player gets a whopping sum, especially a second baseman as opposed to a home run hitting outfielder or third baseman, tongues wag and pundits go over the risks and rewards. It breaks down to two simple risk/reward equations for me; style of play that impacts longevity/productivity and the business/professional/identity proposition.
Business, Professional, Identity
Dustin Pedroia is Boston personified. He embodies the blue-collar work ethic that Bostonians and all New England denizens value. Self-sacrifice, hard work and gritty determination made him an instant fan favorite since he debuted in 2006 and won it all with the Sox in 2007.
He’s got MVP, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards and four All-Star game appearance under his belt. What’s not to love? And the guy is an absolute bulldog who lives, breathes, eats and sleeps baseball.
This is a guy who paces his Fens apartment that overlooks the park, continuously peeping out the window to see when the baseball cage gets rolled out and is then off to Fenway in a hurry as soon as he sees it because he knows his house is open for business.
This is the guy who during Boston’s wretched 2012 season broke the ring finger on his left hand but decided to play through the pain in the season-ending series at Yankee Stadium.
This is a guy who plays hurt to a fault. Which brings me to the only potential downside in this scenario.
Style of Play Impacts Potential Longevity and Productivity
It is exactly what we value in Pedey that makes him a higher risk than other players. The guy doesn’t have an off switch. He regularly practices diving for scorching ground balls…for fun. His vicious swing produces Laser Show quality frozen ropes but it comes at a price.
When you swing that hard, you can bust something up, like in 2010 when he swung hard the ball ricocheted off his foot, breaking it in the process. In 2011 he had a bruised kneecap lining that, while not requiring surgery, was for a time cause for concern. In 2012 he injured his thumb – twice – the second time landing him on the DL. This season he tore the UCL in his left thumb early in the year and will be playing through it for the remainder of the season provided it doesn’t get worse.
Pedey will turn 30 in a little in less than a month. When his new contract is up, he’ll be 38, certainly not ancient by MLB standards but Pedroia’s mileage by that time will have been appreciably more rough than that of his contemporaries.
Red Sox owner John Henry said that Pedroia expressed interest in re-signing with the team a year a half ago. He clearly wanted to get a deal done and stay a Red Sox for what now looks to be for life. By their actions, Red Sox management feels the same.
I support the deal. Pedey will put butts in the seats, sell merchandise and remain an MLB poster boy by playing the game the right way and representing as a counterbalance to steroids and spoiled athletes who truly believe the world revolves around them.
I look forward to seeing one of the toughest and most talented baseball players in the bigs do his thing day after day. I just hope his grit keeps him on the field and playing at a high level until he’s ready to walk away on his own terms.