By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
For many Dustin Pedroia huggers across Red Sox Nation, the expectation is that he will serve out the life of his contract (thru 2021) while maintaining the ability to play at an elite level. For many of us realists, we understand that the long time Boston second baseman has lacked durability for much of his career, and that he won’t suddenly find it at 34 years of age.
Pedroia was limited to just 93 games in 2015 due to a pulled hamstring. 105 games last season due to his ailing pre-surgically repaired knee. And will play no more than 112 games this current season due to his recovery that injury, but probably much less considering the days off he will require throughout the remainder of the year in order to protect his health. His body seems to be on the same schedule as Kevin Youkilis, and Normar Garciaparra’s. Both of whom retired at ages 34, and 35 respectively.
One question posed very often lately: Where will the former 2008 AL MVP slot into the lineup? Though not technically against Geneva Convention rules, it would take an act of congress to remove Mookie Betts from the lead off spot. Could anyone in their right mind believe that Pedroia at his age has an impactful enough bat to move Andrew Benintendi out of the two hole? We can all certainly rule out the three through five spots since he’s not a “middle of the order bat,” and quite frankly never really was to begin with.
Question number two: What kind of a relationship will Pedroia and manager Alex Cora have once he is officially activated? Will they interact as ex-teammates? Or will it simply be the conventional manager/player relationship? My hope is obviously the latter.
If Pedroia is treated more like an ex-teammate, he will likely have extra influence on team decisions, which most players should be kept out of. This could cause conflict from within the clubhouse, and ultimately become a hindrance in many ways. Remember how Joe Girardi stubbornly kept Derek Jeter near the top of the order when he was clearly a diminished player in comparison to his prime?
If all things are equal, and their relationship is conventional, I fully anticipate Pedroia will bat somewhere six through eighth in the order. In all likelihood, Christian Vazquez and Jackie Bradley will prove to be less effective at the plate as the returning 34 year old. However, I would preferably bat Pedroia ninth in the lineup. This would increase the chances of a base runner when Betts comes up to the plate, and in turn possibly lead to more runs batted in.
Question number three: What will the roster move be? It makes more sense for it to be a position player. Blake Swihart is on the trade block with on going dialogue between the Red Sox front office and several others, but according to Evan Drellich of NBCsports the asking price set by Dave Dombrowski for the out of options catcher is said to be unrealistically high. Jackie Bradley being optioned would be a long shot since it would seriously hurt Boston’s outfield depth. Brock Holt probably makes the most sense. He too has an option remaining, and gets most of his starts at second base when Eduardo Nunez needs a day off. A long shot scenario could be to option Rafael Devers. This would give the young super-prospect some time to polish up his defensive skills and find some consistency at the plate. Not to mention preserve the options for Holt and Bradley. Nonetheless, I still believe Holt makes the most sense.
Question number four: Can Pedroia still effectively lead? 2017 was undoubtedly one of the most controversial years of all time, certainly rivaling “beer and chicken.” His own pants on the ground moment was caught on live TV when he threw his entire Red Sox bullpen under the bus in Baltimore during the Manny Machado incident. Conflicting reports surfaced on Pedroia’s enthusiastic support of David Price when he trapped and verbally ambushed hall of famer Dennis Eckersley on a charter plane. And then of course during the first inning of game four during the 2017 ALDS, the career .233 October hitter had a complete meltdown in the batter’s box with the home plate umpire when he should have been composed during the critical “go or go home” clincher in the series. That particular incident led to John Farrell getting tossed from the game, which mercifully was his final act as Red Sox manager. Many will intensely dispute the level of culpability placed on Pedroia, but one thing that can’t be disputed is that all of these incidents took place on his watch.
As stated above, many Red Sox fans will celebrate the return of Pedroia. There will be hundreds, if not thousands of number 15 shirts in the crowd when he does. As for myself, I am looking forward to his retirement. The Red Sox are in first place without him playing a single game. It’s hilarious to watch his fans struggle with that harsh dose of reality. Is Pedey an upgrade over Nunez? Probably. Would it be the difference between winning or not winning a championship? Not likely.
After all, the Red Sox reversed the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004 with Mark Bellhorn at second base didn’t they?
They most certainly did.
ICYMI: EPISODE 47 OF THE AVIDBOSTON PODCAST!!!
SOX/ORIOLES SERIES REACTION! LEON VS. VAZQUEZ! POMERANZ VS. WRIGHT! BULLPEN ISSUES! RAYS PREVIEW! AND MUCH MUCH MORE!!
Also available on iTunes!