The Boston Red Sox put together an interesting August that has extended into September, winning ballgames and playing spoiler to a number of playoff-hungry teams. They have another opportunity, however unlikely, against the Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game series, starting today on Canada’s Labour Day. Possibly tomorrow, a member of the Red Sox will want to begin his labor after sitting for so long with injury.
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Dustin Pedroia has been on the disabled list for what seems like ages. Utility player, and 2015 All-Star, Brock Holt and newly-acquired Josh Rutledge have served to replace Pedroia since the end of July with a right hamstring strain. It was the same injury that he had earlier in the season, and had to be shut down only a few days after being reactivated.
Tony Lee of ESPN covered the story, reporting that the intent of the Red Sox “for the past several weeks has been to make sure there is not another setback […] Pedroia was running the bases earlier in the morning and did not appear to hold back. He went hard first to third multiple times and slid into second on a mock stolen base attempt.”
According to Lee, “[Red Sox interim manager Torey] Lovullo said that Pedroia likely would play one game, take one off, then play two more before another day off, all in an effort to ease him back into action. Nothing is set in stone yet, but Lovullo said he should have a certain plan by Tuesday.” Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe tweeted a similar report:
So, the 32-year-old Mighty Mouse (he’s 5’9″) will likely make his return against the high-octane engine of the Blue Jays in front of the home crowd of Fenway Park.
Nothing against Pedroia, but should he bother coming back for the rest of the year?
Put down the pitchforks for a minute.
Think about it: there’s 21 games left in the regular season, and the Red Sox are 14 games back of the American League East division. They are 7.5 games back of the final wildcard spot, with seven teams between them and the Texas Rangers. Realistically, the playoffs are a hope that will sorely disappoint people if they believe in it. If anyone was to argue that Pedroia’s return would bring them to the promised land, those people must not understand how baseball is a team game. It’s not like Pedroia is going to score 80 points in a single game to overpower another team, like in some other sports.
At this point in the season, as well as the Red Sox are playing, the time should be spent more on seeing what the other players are capable of doing. If anything, Pedroia’s return should be evaluated more for his health for next season, if he must return this year at all. Other than his health, which could relapse again, what else could be the reason?
Are they going to trade the four-time All-Star? Are they evaluating the health of the 10-year veteran, who has led the team in hits and batting average for years, just to include him in some package for an ace starting pitcher? Are they going to release the 2007 rookie of the year and the 2008 AL MVP award winner from his contract that extends to 2022 and guarantees him $84 million with no buyout clause? Are Holt and Rutledge going to inspire the troops in the dugout, when the going gets tough and they need a spark in their hearts as well as on the field? All of these are possibilities, but so are purple elephants.
This season, in 303 at-bats, Pedroia hit a slash line of .287/.348/.426, while earning nine home runs and 34 RBIs. In only 75 games, Pedroia is still eighth for the present Red Sox roster for RBIs, just four runs behind Holt, and is sixth for home runs, one bash behind third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Over three months, and a stellar career lasting a decade, should be big enough of a sample size to judge whether Pedroia’s skills have diminished. Any extended time in the field this September seems more like overkill or a pandering to the fans, who don’t want to see their hero hurt again when he could have rested for the next campaign. This almost-forgotten warrior hasn’t been a part of this recent Red Sox surge, but he’s earned the right to be remembered. He may want to play even more than Boston’s brass, which is why someone like David Ortiz, the face of the franchise, will have to tell him to scale it back to be ready for 2016. His trusted manager John Farrell is not there, as he’s trying to beat lymphoma, Lovullo wants to win now to keep his job (whether as an assistant or the headship), and the Red Sox execs have a new president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, to please. The loyalty to Pedroia’s career is in serious question, which is not a time to pick up another injury and a label that he’s prone to it.
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