Struggles of 2011-12 increased second baseman's desire to win again with Sox
BOSTON -- There was the collapse of 2011, which led to the departure of the only Major League manager Dustin Pedroia had ever played for. There was the season-long malaise of '12 -- the likes of which no Red Sox team had seen since 1965.
That was Pedroia's opportunity to lose faith in the direction of the organization that drafted him in June 2004.
Instead, the hard times only strengthened Pedroia's resolve and increased his desire to not just win again -- but to do so with the Boston Red Sox.
So when Pedroia runs out to the baseline on Wednesday night during introductions for Game 1 of the World Series (7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8:07 first pitch on FOX), the faith he showed in pushing for a contract extension with Boston (the one he signed three months ago) will be rewarded in the best way possible.
"It's extremely difficult to get to the World Series," said Pedroia, who is signed with Boston through 2021. "A lot of great players and great pitchers never get there. And sometimes the ball doesn't roll your way. This year, it's been fun."
Aside from his loyalty, another Pedroia trait is his strong desire to win.
That little speed bump at the end of '11 under manager Terry Francona, and the pothole that surrounded the Red Sox in all of '12 under Bobby Valentine? To Pedroia, that was just an annoyance -- and not a reason to lose his belief in the Red Sox.
"Yeah, dude, I always knew," said Pedroia. "You know that pretty much every year the Red Sox were going to compete. We had some tough times. Every organization goes through it. Ours was just one year, and a little bit at the end of the year before that. But we're headed in the right direction. Guys love coming here [to the ballpark]. It's been fun."
For all the talk about the new faces who have influenced the Red Sox, from Jonny Gomes to Shane Victorino to Mike Napoli to David Ross, Pedroia had that same mindset from the moment he arrived in Boston.
Now he has a clubhouse full of kindred spirits to go to work with.
And, in many ways, this is his team.
"If you're in the big leagues, if you're a World Series champ, if you're decorated, you're a good player," said Gomes. "I don't look at talent. You just want to see those intangibles. You want to see someone who loves the game. For someone like me who's a grinder and who has to get here early and work out and hit and study and all that stuff, you want that to be for the superstar, too. And very rarely is it. So to see the work he puts into it is awesome."
Ross had a short stint with the Red Sox in 2008, when Pedroia was in the final stages of a brilliant personal run that would land him the American League's Most Valuable Player Award. In the ensuing four years, Ross would rave to teammates and friends about the impact Pedroia made on him during that short time.
But this year, Ross has seen it up close for a full season and hasn't been disappointed.
"I would tell guys I played with on other teams since then that he was one of my favorite teammates of all time," Ross said. "Not because of how he acted -- it's more what he brings on a daily basis. He has a no-fear attitude. He makes you better. He plays hard every day. He wants to win every day. He doesn't give away one at-bat. His attitude has made a better person and player for sure."
At least so far, this hasn't been one of Pedroia's better postseasons at the plate. Through 10 games, he is hitting .256 with two doubles, no homers and six RBIs, with a .619 OPS.
If Pedroia's slump has seemingly gone under the radar, there are two reasons: He has found plenty of other ways to influence the game, and the Red Sox are winning.
Those two things seem to go hand in hand.
And it probably also makes the Cardinals wary that Pedroia is probably due to break out. But if the season ends with a parade, Pedroia won't care what he hits.
"I'm just trying to impact the game," Pedroia said. "We're trying to win, man. Nobody cares about what they do personally. It's about the team. Nobody remembers what David [Ortiz] hit in 2007 when we won the World Series. They just know we won the World Series."
And six years later, Pedroia is at last back in the World Series. He was a rookie last time around, and it didn't show. In Pedroia's first at-bat of that '07 World Series, he clocked a home run against Rockies lefty Jeff Francis to lead off the bottom of the first inning for Boston.
His second most-chronicled moment of that first Fall Classic came when he showed up to Coors Field and wanted to get into the clubhouse.
The security guard wanted his ID.
Pedroia's response was classic Pedroia. It went something like this: "Go ask Jeff Francis who I am."
Did Pedroia ever think it would take six years to get back?
"I never really thought about it," Pedroia said. "You just keep playing until they tell you to stop. You don't want to lose. You just keep showing up and trying to win that day. That's our mindset -- even this year. It's been that in previous years but we didn't win."
This year, it has all come together again, and Pedroia will try to enjoy his second trip to the World Series in ways he just couldn't the first time.
"Yeah, 2007, it happened so fast," Pedroia said. "I didn't even know what was going on. Now, I'm trying to enjoy every step and just take it all in."