One of the more difficult things to watch with the 2018 Boston Red Sox was the struggle of Dustin Pedroia to fight through knee issues and get on the field. In October 2017, Pedroia underwent a cartilage restoration procedure on his left knee after being bothered by the issue during the entire 2017 season. The expectation when he had surgery was that Pedroia would spend 7 months recovering, and given the timeline, would miss the first 2 months of the 2018 season. Most hoped, and expected, Pedroia would be back to throwing his body around the infield at Fenway Park at some point during the season. To much excitement, Pedroia did return to the Red Sox lineup on May 26th, but unfortunately, he played in just 3 games before undergoing another arthoscopic procedure in July and then being shut down for the remainder of the 2018 campaign officially in September.
Pedroia’s value to the Red Sox organization since his first full year in 2007 is almost immeasurable. His attitude, grit, and leadership helped lead the team to 3 World Series Championships (2007, 2013, and 2018), even when dealing with injuries and sitting on the bench. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind and challenge teammates, but most of his leadership has come by example. When on the field, he gives 100% effort at all times, which is admirable, but also some of the reason he is currently struggling to return from his knee injury. His face is synonymous with the Red Sox brand over the past decade.
There are still a lot of questions around whether Pedroia will be ready for opening day in 2019, and personally, I question whether he returns to the field again at all. If the Peddy era isn’t over yet, then it’s pretty damn close to the end. We are not likely to see the everyday player we once did, even if he does return, and any contributions on the field at this point are a bonus. It’s the end of an era, even if the word retirement isn’t in his vocabulary.
When looking at Pedroia’s place in Red Sox history, it’s a fascinating and challenging one. For those statheads who like the WAR metric, Pedroia has the 10th highest WAR of any player in Red Sox history (52.1), just behind his friend and teammate, David Ortiz (52.7). That puts him in an elite category or former Red Sox greats, ahead of Bobby Doerr, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, and Luis Tiant (among dozens of others). I know WAR isn’t the end-all, be-all stat, but there is no such thing as one stat that tells an entire story.
For those who don’t believe in WAR, or at least question it’s importance in the game, here are a few other interesting Pedroia numbers. Pedroia’s 1,803 hits rank 8th and his 921 runs scored rank 10th all time in franchise history. He ranks 9th in at-bats (6,011), 9th in plate appearances (6,756) and 8th in total bases (2,647). Amazingly, Pedroia ranks 6th in doubles (394) and 6th in stolen bases (138) in franchise history (although Mookie Betts is just 28 stolen bases behind Peddy). If he was to retire today, Pedroia’s career batting average would be exactly .300, which means relatively little, but is a fun fact.
While Pedroia is not likely a National Baseball Hall of Famer, he should be a Red Sox Hall of Famer. When comparing his numbers to the greatest to put on the Red Sox uniform, his achievements are incredible and in some cases, surprising. We take for granted his impact because he played in the shadows of big power hitters like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez and with important figures like the Captain, Jason Varitek, but he can not be overlooked.
Let’s hope there is more to the Pedroia story and he builds on his legacy over the next few years, but I’m not holding my breath. If this is the end for Peddy, then he can walk away from the game with his head held high. Rookie of the Year, MVP, 4x Gold Glove Winner, 4x All-Star, Silver Slugger Award Winner, and 3x World Series Champion. That’s one hell of a career.
*All stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com.