Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia wants others to step up to become team leaders
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia discussed the lack of leadership in the clubhouse last year and says he can’t fill that role alone.
An ongoing theme in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse last year was leadership, or lack thereof. That needs to change if this team is going to take the next step toward contending for a championship.
Dustin Pedroia has become the elder statesman of the group. The 34-year old has been with the team since his big league debut in 2006. He’s seen many variations of this roster over the years and different types of leaders. As the team started transitioning toward building around its young core, Pedroia became a leader by default. By his own admission, he didn’t handle the responsibility as well as he should have.
The veteran second baseman spoke to reporters at Jet Blue Park on Saturday about leadership. His message was simple – this team needs more leaders, it can’t all fall on him.
He talked about how the three Red Sox teams to win a World Series since the turn of the century had multiple leaders. Pedroia mentioned several examples, including Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell. Whether it was 2004, 2007 or 2013, each of those title teams had multiple veterans who could lead.
The 2016 team didn’t have that. They had David Price‘s spats with the media. They had a bean-ball war with Manny Machado and the Baltimore Orioles. They had a manager who was losing control of the clubhouse, letting the inmates run the asylum. Through it all, Pedroia did more to pour gasoline on the fire than he did to douse the flames.
Pedroia has been a reluctant leader who has never fully embraced the role. He tried to fill that void last season out of necessity but prefers to be the type who leads by example. So now he’s turning to his young teammates to step up and share the burden.
"“So I think our core group, our guys that, it’s my responsibility, I need them and they need me and we all have to work together,” said Pedroia. “Because it’s not one leader. And everybody always says that it’s not one guy in baseball. It’s me, it’s Mookie, it’s Bogey, it’s Jackie, it’s Benny. It’s our team. So we have to go be together and know that.”"
He makes some valid points. Pedroia shouldn’t have to shoulder the responsibility on his own but he seems a bit too eager to shift the role to someone else.
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The 2004 team had no shortage of veterans with a strong voice in the clubhouse but Varitek was still the Captain. The team held together when the longtime Red Sox catcher retired because they had Ortiz to turn to. Big Papi was the guy here for several years and many of the leadership traits he possessed came from what he learned from ‘Tek.
Pedroia says that Ortiz built that into him so that he could be the next guy to take that mantle. After only one season of the post-Ortiz era in which Pedroia struggled to live up to that responsibility, he already seems ready to pass the torch to the younger generation.
There’s no clear alternative options on this Red Sox roster to seize that leadership role. Chris Sale and Rick Porcello have both shown some of the required traits. They can help but they aren’t everyday players. A veteran free agent with a strong clubhouse reputation, such as J.D. Martinez, would help. Maybe this is the year one of the team’s young stars emerges as a leader.
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It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. The Red Sox can’t count on Pedroia taking the reigns himself so they will need another member of this roster to step up. Otherwise, they could be looking at another early playoff exit, if they make it to the postseason at all.