In the space of only one year, Dustin Pedroia has gone from being one of the most popular Sox players to an enigma. But on this young and rebuilding team, he should provide leadership by performance and attitude. Right now, unfortunately, that is questionable.
Pedroia’s first five seasons with the Sox showed Hall of Fame credentials. Rookie of the Year in 07 on a World Championship team. Even better the following year, becoming only the third player in major league history to capture the ROY and MVP in successive seasons. Leading the AL with 118 runs scored, 213 hits and 54 doubles. The stats go on. Second in the league in hitting, fourth in total bases and seventh in extra base hits. His numbers dropped a bit in 09, but he still led the league with 115 runs scored. An excellent fielder, he captured a Gold Glove in 08, and was an all-star game starter in both 08 and 09. Though his postseason batting was erratic, he hit .345 in the ALCS versus Cleveland in 07 with 5 rbi’s and .346 with 3 homers in the championship series with Tampa Bay in 08. He also signed a six-year contract extension worth about $40 million.
2010 was an injury-plagued season for both Pedroia and the Sox. The day after hitting three homers in a game against Colorado ,he fouled a ball of his foot, breaking a bone. He played in only 75 games, but still finished with a respectable .288. Dustin rebounded in 2011, however, scoring 102 runs and batting .307 with a career-high 91 rbi’s while fashioning a 25-game hitting streak. Pedroia was also becoming the team’s unofficial captain following the retirement of Jason Varitek.
The disastrous 2012 campaign did not spare Pedey. Though avoiding the serious injuries that plagued many of his teammates, his performance fell. The most glaring stats were in hits (a drop from 195 to 163) and rbi’s (from 91 to 65). His statements were often controversial. At times he seemed angry and apologetic for the team’s performance. But there were also rumors that as perhaps the man closest to former skipper Terry Francona, he expressed strong criticism of Bobby Valentine in the infamous “player-owner meetings.”
There is lots of pressure on Pedroia as the 2013 season approaches. The 2012 squad appeared to be totally lacking in leadership, and with Big Papi’s return questionable, fans and writers will look to him to provide it.
Pedroia’s relationship to John Farrell may be the most important of any on the Sox. It may help that the two men were together on the team for four seasons. At age 29, Dustin should know that his career is hanging in the balance. As is often said, will he be part of the solution or part of the problem?