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He was coming off a 5-5 night complete with three home runs against the Rockies. Then it all came tumbling down. Dustin Predoia may now miss weeks, if not months with a broken foot.
This could not have happened as a worse time. The Red Sox have been on a tear lately, going 7-3 in their last ten games to climb within two games of the AL East Lead and are now a game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card. All the success has come on the shoulders of Pedroia.
Over the team’s last ten games, Dustin has 18 hits on 36 at bats, good for A .500 AVERAGE! He also has four home runs, albeit three of them came in one game against the Rockies, and ten RBI. Simply put, at a crucial point in the Sox season, Dustin has been putting up MVP numbers to keep his team alive in the most competitive division in baseball.
Everyone knew he was a leader on the team. He got his teammates fired up before games and his play during games took pressure off other players. It has been said by numerous baseball analysts, “go figure that the smallest guy on the field, has the biggest heart.” It sounds cheesy, but it cannot be said enough. Pedroia wants to play every inning of every game. When you see him at second, he genuinely loves this game and plays with his heart on his sleeves every play. He is the only person who can turn a simple ground ball into a webgem highlight.
Since coming into the league, he was a leader for the Red Sox. In his rookie year, his defensive plays were crucial to securing Clay Buchholz’s no-hitter. His play earned him the 2007 Rookie of the Year award. His 2008 numbers were stacked, which is why he became only the second AL second baseman in 49 years to win the MVP award. Don’t forget that in 2008 he also won a Golden Glove and Silver Slugger award. His play on the field can not be replaced, or his presence in the dugout. So what can the Red Sox do?
The Red Sox have had their fair share of injuries. Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett are just some of the players have have spent time on the DL. The Red Sox are supported by deep farm system and veteran players, who can be shipped at any minute (ala Mike Lowell). Boston has been lucky with the instant success of Darnell McDonald and a surprise game-winning hit from Tug Hulett, yeah that Tug Hulett! So naturally the Sox will just pick their best product from the farm system.
That lucky person will be Angel Sanchez, who will share second base duties with Bill Hall and Eric Patterson, who Boston recently acquired from Oakland. Sanchez is originally a short stop, but will get an opportunity at second to make an impact. The Puerto Rico native already had one appearance this season, an 0-3 outing against Minnesota in May. Hopefully he can make the most of the at bats he is going to see.
All you can hope for a Pedroia replacement in the field is to not make many errors, but at the plats and in the dugout, it’s a different story. There, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis need to emerge as team leaders. A couple weeks back, David Ortiz went crazy at the plate, but lately he has returned to a minimal factor for Boston. With only three home runs and seven RBI in his past ten games, Big Papi will need to reconnect with his slugger instincts to help replace Pedroia’s recently hot bat. With five of the next nine games coming against Tampa, Boston needs guys like Ortiz to carry more than their own weight, or else they could fall behind in the AL East.
That also means guys like Youkilis. Alphabetically, his names comes last on the Sox roster, but now he needs to be first out of the locker. He might have a .304 average on the season, but he’s only batting .237 in the last ten games, and that included ten strikeouts. If he ever needed to turn his bat around, it’s now, but there is something more important. Youkilis has reached a point where he can step up his game to be the man on the Red Sox. It is Youk that needs to get players pumped up, play out of his mind at first and keep this team’s belief that they can win alive. Who would ever had thought that a man with a mug like Youkilis could become the face of the Red Sox.
Lets assume that Pedroia is out until August. That is actually positive thinking, since it is hard to come back from a broken foot, but if anyone can do it Pedroia can. Boston actually has a favorable schedule. In their next 26 games, their hardest competition is the Rays (who have been reeling lately and were no-hit for the second time this season on Friday) and Texas (but the games are played in Boston). With the other games being played against Baltimore and the other AL West teams, Boston should not lose a step with their recent success. In all likelihood, Dustin will not be playing in the next Yankee showdown in the first weekend in August. Still, I am sure Boston fans would much rather see Dustin at second should the Red Sox meet up with Yankees in October.
Boston has a fine tradition of giving it’s greatest players nicknames: Paul “The Turth” Pierce, Larry “Basketball Jesus” Bird, Ted “Teddy Ballgame” Williams, Cedric “Corn Bread” Maxwell, David “Big Papi” Ortiz, John “Hondo” Havilcek, Mo “Big Dawg” Vaughn, etc.
So why have we not as a sports mecca given Pedroia his own nickname? Is he not deserving of a moniker such as “The General”, or “El Capitano”? I believe that it is time that we the fans of Boston rise up and properly include Dustin in the Boston sports nickname history. My personal favorite would be “PEDROIA THE DESTROYA”, but that’s just me.