One of the catalysts to the Boston Red Sox success in two of their four World Series championships during this century, Dustin Pedroia found himself sidelined in 2018 with a nagging knee injury that ultimately ended his season.
Since his rookie year in 2007 where he took home the Rookie of the Year award, Boston fans have grown accustomed to the second baseman’s gritty playing style. It’s something that Red Sox fans have adored during his time with the team over these past 11 seasons. His determination to make the play is overwhelming and his passion for the game is consistently on display. And if you want to win over Boston sports fans, you need to lay it all on the line during every play.
However, with a gritty, hard-nosed style where making the play comes before your own body’s safety, comes injury and detriment to your health. And that’s what we’ve witnessed with Pedroia over the years. Nagging injuries were bound to appear and now, they’ve nipped the Gold Glover of an entire season and a half of play.
Even with his absence in 2018, the team still went on to dominate the league, winning 108 games in the regular season and they too made relatively easy work of their postseason opponents.
Their infielders who took turns filling in for the ailing second baseman started off as Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez. Two players known for their great utility in the infield. And later on, as the trade deadline came and went, veteran infielder Ian Kinsler was thrown into the mix and essentially took over that role semi-permanently.
These were all very serviceable and acceptable options if you’re a fan of this team. But are these the players that you want next to your first baseman on a daily basis? We know what Brock Holt is at this point and what he brings to the team is incredibly valuable. A utility man who can quite literally play anywhere on the field successfully who also produces effectively at the plate. Eduardo Nunez, more of the same in regards to his infield versatility. However, it was shown last year that he is much more comfortable at third base rather than second. And then, of course, Ian Kinsler who is a mega-talented defender but, he can become somewhat of a liability when you need some offensive production.
The position was held down with this revolving door of options and it was executed perfectly by the brilliant baseball mind of Alex Cora. But the question then becomes, why would anyone not want to see Dustin Pedroia return to the Red Sox lineup in 2019 when we have seen nothing but successful seasons–when healthy–out of the veteran?
To a point, I understand the frustration surrounding Pedroia. During the Red Sox “unlikable” 2017 campaign, he became one of the faces of a lot of fans’ frustration. It began after the hard Machado slide that some still blame for Pedroia’s current bothersome knee. Instead of standing behind his team after multiple retaliation attempts, he jumped to defend himself on the field by telling Machado that he was essentially not apart of what was going on. It goes without saying, this rubbed the Red Sox fanbase the wrong way.
Some would point to his attitude as to why they don’t want him back on this team. With his presence more so being in the shadows through an immaculate 2018 campaign, the argument becomes, “they were successful without him, why do you need him?”. I guess you can make that argument. Does the team need him? If you’re asking me, for 2019, I say absolutely you do.
The 2018 season was incredible from start to finish. The team kicked it off with a 17-2 record and things did not slow down. They managed without him and put on a show for Red Sox fans everywhere. If you were to add Dustin Pedroia into that lineup last season, do people really think that would have been a detriment? Or do you think he could have boosted the talent at the position in the field and at the plate?
Ahead of his knee issues, Pedroia was still finding success both offensively and defensively. Aside from constant injuries that would arise relatively often, year after year he was proving that he could still produce as he was getting older.
Taking it back to 2017, Pedroia posted a .293 batting average in 105 games. There weren’t any signs that he was becoming a hole anywhere in the lineup so why would you want to have that removed for 2019? In fact, if anything he proved to be one of the most consistent pieces of a Red Sox lineup that proved to have some inconsistency. In 2016, Pedroia was once again one of the most productive members of the AL East winning club with a .318 batting average which was accompanied by a .825 OPS.
Sure, again, the serviceability was there with what you could call the replacement pieces in 2018. But why would you not want to have someone who shows constant success in that role compared to a revolving door of backup utility infielders who have proven to have up and down seasons? Especially one who is a proven winner?
There is no doubting that the 2018 Red Sox were one of the best teams on the field at Fenway Park of all-time, but how would adding Dustin Pedroia to that mix be anything but a positive?
Has anyone ever asked Pedroia to hit for power? So his lack of power numbers can’t be a reason as to why he shouldn’t be added back into the lineup. While it would be nice, that’s just not his job. From the start of his career, he’s been a second baseman who can hit for average and that is what he does every single season without question. He gets on base and becomes a duck in the pond for your power bats to drive in. The prototypical leadoff or number two man.
His lowest batting average through his time with the Boston Red Sox–excluding his debut season in 2006–was .278 in 2014 which is higher than both Holt’s and Nunez’s in 2018.
Is there a chance that anyone thinks that his defense could somehow become a liability for the team? Pedroia has always been a high-caliber defensive talent and is known for the magic that he makes with the glove. If the ball is playable, he’ll find a way to get there. Is there a chance that his defensive ability seems to be lacking slightly to start the season? Sure, there’s the chance being that he did miss almost all of 2018. But eventually, it’ll come back to him without a doubt if this does indeed turn out to be the case.
Pedroia has seen success in most of his seasons on the diamond for Boston. Offensively he is a weapon. Defensively he has always been top of the line. So again, I ask, in what way would he be a detriment to the Red Sox in 2019?
Adding a veteran presence to this roster too couldn’t hurt. While there are plenty of veterans that accompany this young core, Pedroia’s infield persona and experience can be nothing but beneficial to the team. He shows exemplary determination and passion on every single play. That is the attitude that we want rubbing off on the young guys who will have the chance to watch him play each day. Maybe someone like Rafael Devers will benefit from this type of showing as his young career grows.
Most of the disdain toward Pedroia stems from those who are frankly tired of his attitude accompanied by the belief that he can’t be a true leader. There are players who are so talented and so consistently productive though that I can forgo any negative energy they may bring to postgame interviews where most form their opinions. Pedroia is one of those guys. Also, they’ve won two World Series titles despite this notion–excluding 2018–so again, I ask, why would his addition to the everyday roster be anything but positive?
In regards to his leadership or lack thereof according to some, there’s plenty of leadership surrounding the clubhouse where his alone isn’t completely necessary at this point like it might have been in 2017. He can go back to what he clearly enjoys being. The gritty player who shows up to play every day that he physically can. That’s his own, personal leadership style.
Having him back on the field and inserted into this already dangerous lineup just makes this team that much more lethal. Whether he’s inserted to the top of the lineup, or the bottom three. His addition will be felt and any hole that could be there will be plugged perfectly with this addition. He may not be vital to the team’s 2019 success, but he sure is a nice, shiny piece to have back.
Pedroia will open up the season on the Injured List. Per Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic, there are no setbacks, the team just wants to continue building him up.