Dustin Pedroia, the undersized and overachieving second baseman who spurred the Boston Red Sox to a pair of World Series victories with his grit and a third, after a knee injury effectively ended his career, with his mouth, has retired.
“I never took one play off, from Little League on,” Pedroia said on a video-conference with reporters on Monday. “I hope I did enough and set the right example in the city of Boston.”
Pedroia, 37, was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and the MVP in his second season, but played in a total of nine games the past three years because of the 2017 injury from a spikes-high slide by then-Orioles shortstop Manny Machado.
He was the longest-tenured player on the Red Sox roster and the only holdover from the 2007 championship team.
“He was the ultimate team player,” said Terry Francona, the current Cleveland manager and Pedroia’s manager and cribbage opponent for six seasons. “He always seemed to save his very best plays for the most important time of the game. He seemed to will himself at times to lead us to victory. It is impossible to spend any amount of time with him and not become close to him. He just has that type of personality.”
A four-time all-star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Pedroia batted .299 with 140 homers and 725 RBIs in a 17-year career, all with the Red Sox. He is the only player ever to earn Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove and MVP awards along with a World Series championship in his first two full seasons; only nine other players have accomplished those feats in their entire career.
“I asked myself one day, `Who would be a player that you would buy a ticket to see, because it was worth it to watch him play for nine innings?’ And my answer was Dustin Pedroia,” long-time Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said. “He played with a little chip on his shoulder.
“The one thing I learned for sure was that this was not about size. This was about heart,” Ortiz said. “He was the whole package.”
Pedroia’s work ethic was topped only by his confidence. Team president Sam Kennedy relayed the story of Pedroia’s first conversation with then-general manager Theo Epstein after he was picked 65th over all in the 2004 draft.
“Bro!” Pedroia said, “What took so long?”
Pedroia made 11 consecutive opening day starts for the Red Sox, second in franchise history only to Carl Yastrzemski.
Asked about his career-ending play on Monday, Pedroia said he was at peace with it.
“I’m not upset about anything any more,” he told reporters. “There was a slim chance at a double play, and there was one guy on planet earth who could turn it. And you’re looking at him.”
Pedroia managed to play in 105 games that year but had surgery afterward; he admitted to rushing back in 2018, when he lasted only three games before going back on the injured list. The Red Sox won a franchise-record 108 games en route to the World Series.
“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” infielder Brock Holt said before the start of the Series against the Dodgers, which Boston won in five games. “To have him here — it’s always better with him here than when he’s gone.”
During the Series, Pedroia moved into the role of elder statesman. He said he was better able to enjoy the `18 Series because he didn’t have to focus on playing.
“We had a lot of young guys and at that time it was my job to help them come along and teach them things I was taught when I was a young player,” he said.
In 2019, Pedroia played just six games. He continued to speak of a comeback before having what the Red Sox said was a “significant setback” in the off-season.
Pedroia, who did not play at all in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, has one season remaining on a US$110-million, eight-year contract. He is owed US$25-million, to be paid through 2027.
“It sucks,” Machado said after the 2019 setback. “Obviously, he could down as one of the greatest Red Sox to play this game.”