By Ted Gay – @TedG63
In 2007, two young players, one, Dustin Pedroia, who is about to be the MVP, and the other, Jacoby Ellsbury, who came up in September, took the centerfield job, and never relinquished it, were the centerpieces of a world championship team. Long, illustrious careers lay ahead of them both. Now, eleven years later, as their respective teams prepare for a five-game playoff war, neither is a factor.
Both players have succumbed to injuries through different circumstances. Pedroia played every game like it was his last. Instead of resting to heal wounds Pedroia played through them, causing his performance to suffer. Ellsbury pampered himself.He managed to play only 18 games at age 26 in 2010 and then, two years later, was limited to 74. Pedroia played 124 more games in the three-year stretch. Despite vastly different views on maintaining their health, both players found themselves on the sidelines.
Pedroia and Ellsbury should be cautionary tales for general managers who sign position players to a contract that runs past their 35th birthday. Only designated hitters such as Nelson Cruz are producing post 35. Pitchers are a different animal. They participate in a minimal amount of innings a week which gives them the edge in durability.
In the American League, looking back at the last ten MVPs, nine of whom were position players, five of them, Pedroia, Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton, and Miguel Cabrera (2) have seen their skills significantly decline, and John Donaldson’s may join them because of injuries. In the National League Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen have seen their production drop off after winning the MVP while Buster Posey tilts on edge.
Five years ago Cabrera won the MVP, and perpetual candidate Mike Trout finished second. The rest of the AL top 20 won’t be getting a vote this year because they are out of the game (Josh Hamilton, Derek Jeter, Prince Fielder) in the twilight of their careers (Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Adam Jones and Edwin Encarnacion) or with their futures hanging in the balance (David Price and Yoenis Cespedes.) . The top players in the AL have become obsolete over five seasons.
Eleven years ago, as Boston celebrated their second championship of the decade, exuberant fans pictured the young Ellsbury and Pedroia being Boston mainstays for 15 years. Six years later, when the organization won their third title, it seemed that Ellsbury and Pedroia had years of league-leading production ahead of them, as proven by Brian Cashman who gave Ellsbury a seven-year contract. While Pedroia’s numbers, after winning his second ring, gradually received, Ellsbury was a Bronx bust from day one. While both men hope to be in the opening day lineup next year history shows their days of being a top, or even everyday player, is over.
The 2018 Red Sox are the best team in baseball with a dynamic young group of players who could provide the team with a vibrant nucleus for years to come. But those years pass quickly. A ten-year contract to any player over the age of 25 is destined to be a burden for the team at the end of the deal. And today’s MVP candidates could very well be also-rans in five years.
It seems like yesterday that Pedroia and Ellsbury were the future, now they are the past. Enjoy the young Red Sox players now, because in ten years they will be the past too.
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