Admit it. You hated Dustin Pedroia, didn’t you? From his dismal cameo in the bigs toward the tail end of last season and up to the beginning of May when he was hitting below .200, you couldn’t stand the guy.
You wanted Alex Cora. You begged Terry Francona to make the switch at second base. “He plays good defense, plus this guy can actually hit,” you thought. You didn’t get what the Sox and General Manager Theo Epstein saw in him, did you? Admit it.
I will. I thought this guy was a joke for awhile. I kept reading all the stories on how he hit his entire life, whether it was at Arizona State or down in Pawtucket. I kept hearing: “this guy hit above .300 at every level. He’ll be fine.” Then I’d come across a sample of a scouting report and it never would really identify a particular skill.
He doesn’t have much power. He’s not fast. He plays above-average, but not spectacular defense. He’s not known for a super eye like Kevin Youkilis. But, from what scouts said, he just got the job done.
Well, he didn’t get the job done first 2 ½ months in The Show. Now? He may be the best at it. For all the talk of the importance of Youkilis, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Hideki Okajima, Pedroia may be the one who has been the most valuable thus far in 2007. Since going on a tear in the second week or so of May, Pedroia has delivered no matter where he’s hit. He’s been a steady No. 2 hitter. He’s brought balance at the bottom of the lineup. He’s even hit leadoff in a pinch.
He’s hitting .320 with an on-base percentage a shade under .400 (.397). But he’s done much more than that. He’s brought a certain energy, or spark, or something to a team of veterans making a whole lot more than him (league minimum $380,000).
Take a July 16 game against the Royals for instance. The Sox had lost 5-of-7 games and desperately needed a win and confidence boost with the Yanks surging. Pedroia provided that boost. The diminutive second baseman – he’s smaller than me at 5’9” 180 – led off the fourth inning with a home run into the Monster Seats, staking the Sox to a 1-0 lead and sparking a two-homer inning when Manny put one on the other side of Monster two batters later.
In the very next frame, the top of the fifth, Pedroia did some work with the leather. Sox starter Kason Gabbard loaded the bases with two outs. Up to this point Gabbard had pitched a gem. But with the Sox clinging to a slim 2-0 lead, one mistake could change the entire ballgame. A single would tie it up, anything more would give away the lead – not to mention the ramifications it would bring on a minor league starter who’s pitching in a raucous Fenway atmosphere with his job on the line.
Kansas City shortstop Tony Pena Jr. hit a chopper back to the mound, the ball bouncing over Gabbard’s glove and into No Man’s Land in the area behind the pitcher and in front of the central infielders. A surefire infield hit and perhaps the beginning of a rally. Only Pedroia charged the ball and somehow got the ball over to first before Pena. Out. Inning over.
“The play with the bases loaded, that’s a game-changing play,” Francona told The Boston Globe after that game. “Because that looks like it’s got base hit written all over it, so they’re still hitting with a run scored.”
And on that day, you might have thought to yourself: “Gee, maybe I was wrong about this guy. Maybe he’s more valuable than I realized.”
You thought, “Maybe I prefer him over Robinson Cano or Placido Polanco.”
Then you might have gone and wrote about it.