By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Dustin Pedroia was born in Woodland, California some 38 years ago. Nobody could have known it at the time in that small town, but Pedroia’s real home ended up being about 3,000 miles to the east, in a place called Fenway Park.
And on Friday night, Pedroia will be allowed to give his proper farewell to his only MLB home. And the Boston fans will be able to respond in kind.
June 25th at Fenway.
We’re celebrating the man & his career! pic.twitter.com/eAuN88kgm5
— Red Sox (@RedSox) June 4, 2021
The Boston Red Sox are honoring Pedroia prior to Friday night’s series opener vs. the Yankees. What the pregame ceremony entails, exactly, isn’t of the utmost importance. What matters most is that the moment will provide some closure for one of the best Red Sox players of the 21st century — and, really, of all time.
Considering Pedroia’s career sputtered to its end from in injury-ravaged seasons from 2017-20, with a global pandemic thrown in at the end for good measure, it’s a date that’s a long time coming and is long overdue. Putting the bow on the career of the surefire Red Sox Hall of Famer will present the opportunity to revisit all of his accomplishments … such as:
—Two World Series trophies. (He was on the 2018 roster, but was injured.) He batted .319 with a .917 OPS in the ALCS and World Series in 2007.
—2008 American League MVP. In just his second full season, Pedroia led the league in hits (213), doubles (54) and runs scored (118). He also hit 17 homers while winning his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
—2007 American League Rookie of the Year. A well-regarded prospect, Pedroia was hitting just .172 after his first month in ’07. With some fans and media calling for the rookie to be replaced, Pedroia responded by hitting .415 with a 1.072 OPS in May. He hit 10 doubles in June, and he batted. 324 over the final two months of the season. He drove in five runs in the Red Sox’ Game 7 win over Cleveland in the ALCS and then launched a tone-setting bomb to lead off the bottom of the first in Game 1 of the World Series vs. Colorado en route to a world championship.
–Four-time American League All-Star. Pedroia earned his first All-Star spot in 2008, the first of three straight seasons in the Midsummer Classic. He made the All-Star team once more, in 2013.
—Four Gold Gloves. A collegiate shortstop, Pedroia made the switch to second base during his minor league career. The four Gold Gloves in his home office show that he handled that transition rather well. He won the award as the AL’s best second baseman in 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2014. He also earned the Overall Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013 as the best defensive player in the AL, plus four Fielding Bible Awards and a Heart & Hustle Award.
In terms of Red Sox history, Pedroia has certainly left his mark. He ranks:
–8th in hits (1,805) and 8th in total bases (2,649)
–6th in doubles (394) and 8th in singles (1,256)
–7th in WAR for position players (behind David Ortiz and ahead of Bobby Doerr)
-9th in offensive WAR (ahead of Manny Ramirez)
–2nd in defensive WAR (behind only Everett Scott)
–8th in runs created
–10th in runs scored
–6th in stolen bases
–8th in extra-base hits
And he did it all while standing at (maybe) 5-foot-9 and (maybe) 170 pounds.
The old saying goes that you can see something you’ve never seen before every time you watch a baseball game. Well, nobody had ever seen anyone quite like Pedroia before he came along, and nobody ever will, either.
The accomplishments, are, obviously, significant, but it was Pedroia’s style that endeared him to the city. His trademark hop before every pitch embodied his laser-like focus and preparation. His filthy uniform put his unrelenting effort on display every night. His unique brand of swagger — “Ask Jeff f—— Francis who the f— I am” — made him truly one of a kind.
Unfortunately for him, his career didn’t end in storybook fashion. He underwent a left knee procedure after the 2016 season, which was the beginning of the end for his baseball life. The issue worsened in 2017 on the infamous slide by Manny Machado, and he underwent cartilage restoration surgery following the season. He tried to play in 2018, but he managed to get on the field for just three games in late May because of his knee injury. After watching his teammates win the World Series, he once again gave it a go in 2019; he managed to play just six games. He exited a mid-April game against the Yankees in the second inning in what proved to be the final MLB game of his career.
In a way, Pedroia was robbed of the final five years of his big league career. Without a doubt. In the same breath, it’s difficult to say that he didn’t squeeze every last ounce of everything out of that frame of his on his three-decade-long baseball journey.
The ending of Pedroia’s career was a long, painful, drawn-out process — an uncharacteristic whimper from one of Boston’s most brash athletes. And while the Machado saga and the lengthy contract became an annoyance for some, it all was no doubt a much more excruciating ordeal for Pedroia himself. Famously the first player at the ballpark every day, the man in full uniform hours before first pitch, the guy who woke up every day with the singular focus of playing baseball — he had the game taken away from him in his early 30s. That cannot have been very easy.
Fortunately for him, he’s had quite a while to process it all. And based on everything he’s said since officially announcing his retirement, he’s seemingly at peace with everything.
“I would love to play, love to put the uniform on and play. They were the best fans ever,” Pedroia said in February, after the announcement. “It would be a Tuesday night and there are 37,000 fans going crazy. I got a chance to do that as long as I did. To do it one more time, I’d do anything to have that opportunity, but I can’t. I can’t run. That part will always hurt me. I wish I had one more time, but I don’t regret anything. It is what it is, and I’m OK. Now I have everything I learned, I built up, all the energy I have — I have to give that other people now.”
For Pedroia, that will mean giving the energy to his family — his wife and three sons. But for one last evening, he’ll be able to share that love for the game, the city, the ballpark, and the organization one last time. And the fans — the ones who wondered for three years if they’d ever get to see him in the everyday lineup again — will get to give him the sendoff that he rightfully deserves.
(And given everything we know about Pedroia? Good luck to Alex Cora in convincing the 37-year-old that he isn’t allowed to bat cleanup vs. the Yankees. Being at Fenway with the Yankees in town without being in the lineup is sure to stoke that psychotic competitiveness that served him well for so long.)
The Laser Show.
Tonight we celebrate! pic.twitter.com/u6DSvOggVZ
— Red Sox (@RedSox) June 25, 2021
Pedroia said recently that his lone regret from his playing days is that he was always so hyper-focused on winning and competing that he never took the time to soak in how great he had it, living his dream in a baseball market that perfectly matched his personality. While he’d obviously prefer still being in full uniform every night, he’ll at least get this day to celebrate it all.
“The Boston Red Sox, to me … I mean, I can’t even explain how much it means to me,” Pedroia said during his retirement press conference. “It means everything.”