Growing up, Dustin Pedroia was one of my favorite players. At 5’9″ he made me believe I too could be a baseball star (time would end those hopes). He always seemed to get a hit, always put in maximum effort, and was one of the best players at his position for many years. To put things into perspective about how much Dustin was ingrained in my mind, one day in 4th grade we had the CEO or something come to our school from Pandora. He asked us what his company was called as he started.
I said “Pedroia” (my classmates got a good kick out of that, as embarrassed as I was)
I’m more of a Spotify guy anyway, so who cares.
Now that we are in 2018, times have changed. Although he is under contract through 2021, Pedroia has only played 3 games this season, and it was announced a few days ago he would not play for the rest of the season due to injury. Dustin is 34 and has a history of injuries; including this season, Pedroia has missed 320 out of a possible 810 games.
The Red Sox acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler last week for the stretch run. Kinsler is 36 and in the last year of his contract, but he presents an alternative at second base (especially if he produces in October). Age is an issue on his end as well, but new (and former) teammate David Price speaks very fondly of Kinsler; Kinsler is a former Detroit TIger, meaning he has a relationship to GM Dave Dombrowski… would Dombrowski keep someone he is more familiar with instead of Dustin going into 2019?
Well, I think you need to remember what Dustin means to this franchise, and what this team means to Dustin. In 2007, Pedroia was the AL Rookie of the Year, as well as a key part of the World Series team from that season. In 2008, Pedroia only got better, winning the AL MVP (.326/.376/.493; 213 hits). He and David Oritz were the soul of this team for the 10 years they were teammates (even if Ortiz did not know his name until 2015). Pedroia won a second title with the club in 2013, but something else important happened during the season.
During the 2013 season, Pedroia (who was approaching free agency) gave Boston a hometown discount, signing an extension worth $110 million over 8 years. Pedroia absolutely could have gotten more on the open market (during that offseason, rival second baseman Robinson Cano signed a 10-year/$240 million contract with Seattle), but he clearly thought very highly of Boston, and the feeling was mutual.
Since Dustin signed that contract, he has only had one season up to the par of his standards (2016), but he is more than the numbers he puts up. Since Ortiz has retired, Dustin is the only member of the 2007 Red Sox still on the team, and one of a handful of guys still on the team from the 2013 championship team (JBJ, Brandon Workman, Xander Bogaerts). His place in Red Sox history is already set, and I would be surprised if his number was NOT retired once his playing days are over.
But how far can loyalty go?
Well, as you read in my Tom Brady piece, franchises can be loyal to those that have had an important impact on their teams. Pedroia is under a reasonable contract for 3 more seasons (worth just over $40 million), and could realistically finish it. The current ownership group in Boston was loyal to David Ortiz as his career ended, and I expect the same for Pedroia. He has meant too much to Boston since he came up in 2006 to let him go, and unless there is a mutual agreement on both sides (may it be Dustin retiring or an agreement on a release), I do not expect Dustin to ever play in another uniform.
At 5’9″ it took defying the odds to ever make it to the pros, and it took even more resilience to become an MVP. Dustin is the embodiment of the perfect teammate and player, and has already shown loyalty to the franchise once by taking less than his worth in order to finish his career in Boston. If Boston can pay Pablo Sandoval 5-years/$85 million with open eyes, I think they’ll be just fine paying Pedroia LESS per season for an actual contribution to this team (even if it is not on the field).
Sports are tricky, loyalty is fickle, but in Dustin’s case, his price tag warrants loyalty, and a shot at coming back in 2019, and ultimately a chance to finish his career here.
He’s not done yet.