Five years from now, baseball savants will be talking about Dustin Pedroia the way they honor Derek Jeter today. It is not just about hitting or fielding or hustling on the bases, Pedroia plays with the passion and savvy you can’t learn. He is a role model for the Red Sox.
Pitchers talk about “staying within” themselves, because concentration matters when you pitch, but Pedroia is “within himself” for an entire season. This is a rare gift in a sport that carries over 162 games and then the post-season. He performed that way when he made a brilliant play at second base in the seventh inning against Oakland on Friday night and then drove in both winning runs with a timely single in the eighth. Big Papi then struck out.
Without Pedroia the game goes to Oakland or, at best, into extra innings where the bullpen would be exhausted trying to match 0’s with the A’s. This is the kind of game in which the A’s have always showed their dominance of the Red Sox–low-scoring with attrition of the bullpen. The difference on Friday night was Pedroia. O.K., the bullpen did their job, too.
The bards of baseball would praise Jeter in this manner in his healthy days, and he deserved it. He led the Yankees by example in every dimension of the game. He didn’t moan or make excuses when he wasn’t up to the task. He just did his job as if he was trying to make the team. If the Yankees miss any of their wounded brothers this year, it is Jeter. He is their pacesetter, and no one can take his place.
Pedroia has been that pacesetter for the Red Sox in good times and bad. He has better and spirited comrades this year, but he was the same Pedroia in 2012. If Pedroia is healthy, it is hard to imagine the Red Sox not going deep into the post-season. If he is not, he will make more noise on the bench than anyone else, because he is always into the game and always swinging from the heels, whether he is at the plate or not.
Everyone in Boston knows this. They notice when he has a critical role in a victory, but they know he is critical in every game. Pedroia–the pacesetter.
[I know I called Ellsbury “the pacesetter” previously. I think he needs a better name.]