By Terry Cushman – @AVIDBOS_PODCAST
When Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury were young rookies leaving their imprints that will be forever etched in post season history in 2007, it was a breath of fresh air. Pedroia came roaring back in 2008 by winning an improbable 2008 AL MVP award. Red Sox Nation fell in love with his tenacity and hard work on the diamond.
While everyone else became deeply infatuated with Pedroia, I felt a little more indifferent, though thankful for his presence and performance. I couldn’t figure out why I felt differently, but it didn’t matter. The Red Sox were performing very well, and Theo Epstein had been masterfully drafting and developing young talent.
(This article will be wildly unpopular from this point on).
By 2012, my confidence in Dustin Pedroia’s leadership began to have serious concerns. The Red Sox were coming off an epic 2011 collapse which cost legendary manager,Terry Francona, his job. Even more troubling was the lack of accountability between the players and staff as to why they failed to perform. The clubhouse was filled with a group of self entitled sissies who weren’t living up to their contracts. Red Sox Ownership responded by hiring Bobby Valentine to replace Terry Francona. This move exploded in their face and resulted in being one of the most tumultuous seasons in Red Sox history.
As the team rejected Valentine’s leadership, we Red Sox fans witnessed a war of words between him and the players through the press. While it’s unfair to consider Pedroia the “leader” of the team at time (it was actually Ortiz), his presence was very negative. The players whined and cried about having to play too many late Sunday Night games, to partaking in juvenile acts, like posing for pictures next to an unconscious Valentine. No wonder they were in last place! Looking back through recent history, how many teams have won a World Series or even threatened to win one with such a toxic clubhouse? I definitely can’t think of any.
While the “Anti-Pedroia” crowd (for lack of a better term) of which I resided was pretty small coming into this previous season, the biggest controversy of his career lead to many in Red Sox nation abruptly turning against him. On April 23, 2017 Matt Barnes controversially threw at Manny Machado, the ball happened to buzz by his head, struck the barrell of the bat, and ricocheted off Machado’s back. What happened next changed the perception of Pedroia from his fan base forever (seen below).
Pedroia sided with Machado, and visciously stabbed his entire bullpen in the back. This is the only time I can ever recall a Red Sox player failing to back up his own team, especially against a longstanding heated rivalry. Pedroia broke every code of being a leader by not standing firmly behind them. What makes this infuriating is that Buck Showalter regularly trashes the Red Sox through the media, which ends up being a rallying point for his players. So the last thing you would expect is one of your team leaders becoming a sympathetic voice for Showalter despite all the abuse and drama they inflict on us. A huge faction of Red Sox fans felt betrayed by Pedroia’s actions.
A little more than two months later, another controversy involving David Price was leaked to the media after he verbally attacked a defenseless Dennis Eckersley on a team charter during a road trip. Pedroia was reported to have been highly supportive of Price during this incident. Other reports refuted Pedroia’s involvement, but upon returning home to an intense media session, Pedroia steadfastly described Price as “One of the best teammates he’s ever had.” As usual, no appologies were given, and no accountability was taken.
Pedroia is under contract for another four years. He just underwent an operation on his troublesome knee this morning, and will be 35 years old next year. He only played 105 games in 2017. The likelihood of him having a full productive season at his age as a full time second baseman defies common sense. Regardless of what type of injury Pedroia is nursing, his power numbers drop off dramatically when not healthy. Brock Holt nor Devin Marrero are adequate replacements when he does get injured. It’s time for Pedroia to either retire, or for the Red Sox to move on. He is too big of a physical liability.
As an ardent (albeit critical) supporter of this team, it horrifies me that young players such as Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez are all subjected to the drama and unprofessionalism which David Price and Dustin Pedroia expose them to. Regardless of how those young players actually perceive it. Price and Pedroia are teaching them exactly what NOT to do. Both of whom are well into their 30’s. So it’s not like this is a case of a young Manny Machado or Bryce Harper acting up. They’re two grown ass team leaders who think they are bigger than the actual game.
With the hiring of Alex Cora, and what will likely be a new coaching staff all around, the Pedroia era needs to end just as the Farrell era did. His body is failing him, and he has failed as a leader. Pedroia should not be given the opportunity to destroy or misguide another clubhouse. The Red Sox should embrace a new era with players who conduct themselves gracefully, and can play the game the right way with the right focus.
EPISODE 21 OF THE AVIDBOSTON PODCAST!
Also on iTunes!