A little more than a decade ago, I took my son to Arlington to watch the Red Sox play the Rangers. I’d been to the park a few times – whenever Boston came to town we’d try to catch a game or two.
A couple of years removed from 2004’s Curse Breakers, the ‘07 Sox were good. Objectively speaking, they were far and away the best of our three recent World Series teams. The 2007 Rangers sucked. Most of the 40,000 in attendance were there to watch Boston.
First Glimpse of Greatness
I don’t remember much about the game except that Julian Tavarez started for Boston and somehow managed to avoid having a psychotic episode on the mound – which was rare for him. The other thing that I’ll never forget? Watching our diminutive rookie second baseman play for the first time.
Clinging to a one-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, Pedroia put together an epic AB against Texas closer Eric Gagne. To be fair, this was not Cy Young Gagne. He was three seasons removed from his chemically enhanced prime, but he could still pitch.
He and Pedroia went at it for nine or 10 pitches. Then, Gagne made the mistake of throwing him a high but hittable fastball – not the 101mph steroid specials that made him a hero in LA, but a low-mid 90s get-me-over – and Pedey drilled it 400-plus feet to the left-field bleachers to seal the win.
That single moment in time epitomizes Pedroia’s career. He fights for everything and he usually wins.
Though his most recent stint on the DL is hopefully coming to an end this weekend, the number of those has piled up over the last few years. It isn’t too soon to start wondering how much game he has left. He’s a 12-year veteran, but over the course of the ten full seasons he’s been with the big club (’07-‘16) he’s only averaged about 137 games a season. He’s tough, but he isn’t exactly durable. And he isn’t getting younger.
Can he go the distance?
So where does his career land him?
He’s clearly one of the all-time great Red Sox players. But a Hall of Famer?
If Pedroia can get back in the line-up this season and contribute at his pre-DL rate, he’s on pace for his career averages and should compete for another Gold Glove (would be his 5th). If we conservatively assume that Dustin will be 70% as productive for the next five years as his per-season career average, then when compared to the last four infielders elected to the Hall by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA – a horrible organization name by the way), Pedey deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.
Thanks to baseball-reference.com we know that, conservatively speaking, Scrappy Doo will have a significantly stronger Hall resume than Barry Larkin (in two fewer season), plus a Rookie of the Year, League MVP, and at least four Gold Gloves to his credit. Barry Larkin was a hell of a player – also a league MVP, three-time Gold Glover, and a World Series winner in 1990 – but Pedroia is clearly better in all aspects of the game.
We could put Bill James on retainer to analyze the second and third order stats to compare Pedroia to Jeter, Biggio, Alomar, and anyone else. The result will be the same. Pedey’s problem is longevity and staying in the line-up. His career-per-season productivity is almost identical to Jeter’s – and unlike “the Captain”, Pedroia actually earned his Gold Gloves. If he stays reasonably healthy and averages about 450 ABs a season for the next five years, they’ll hang his plaque in Cooperstown.
I can’t wait for the speech. You know it’s going to be hilarious.