Pearce rides midseason trade to Series MVP

October 29th, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- One more phone call came with the news of one more pending move for Steve Pearce, whose unsettled existence in the course of a meandering Major League path had become par for his convoluted course.

Pearce had just returned to the Blue Jays after six weeks spent rehabbing an oblique injury, and he had just welcomed his wife and daughter to Toronto for some long-awaited family time during a long homestand. So Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins' call informing him that he had been dealt to the Red Sox was politely but perhaps not altogether warmly received.

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Atkins, though, put that early scheduling inconvenience into proper perspective for the man who had just been traded for the fourth time.

"Go win a World Series," he said.

The 35-year-old Pearce did just that on Sunday night, and his two-homer heroics in the Red Sox's 5-1 victory in the Game 5 clincher cemented his status not just as a World Series champion but as the Willie Mays World Series Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet.

"You know, baseball is a funny game," said Pearce, who finished the Fall Classic with three homers and eight RBIs. "You never know where the game will take you. And I've gone through a lot in my life or in my career to be here, and I couldn't be more thankful."

Pearce grew up a Red Sox fan in Lakeland, Fla. ("brainwashed," as he once put it, by his Rehoboth, Mass.-born father, also named Steve), but that early rooting interest was not enough to compel him to join the club when he was drafted by Boston in the 10th round in 2004. He opted to go back for another season at the University of South Carolina before signing with the Pirates a year later after they plucked him in the eighth round.

Thus began a professional odyssey that would lead to a World Series oddity.

Before the Red Sox acquired him in a late-June trade that barely made a ripple in MLB headlines, Pearce played in the big leagues for the Pirates, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees and Astros. His arrival to Boston made him just the second player (joining Kelly Johnson) to play for every team in the American League East, and just the sixth to play for every team in any division.

Sunday's ceremony made Pearce just the second midseason acquisition (joining Donn Clendenon of the 1969 Mets) to win the Series MVP. In fact, Pearce is the first Series MVP, per the Elias Sports Bureau, with 50 or fewer career regular-season games played for his team at the time of the Fall Classic in question.

When the Red Sox acquired Pearce from the Blue Jays this summer, manager Alex Cora described him as "one more weapon," and nobody knew then how weighty that weapon would be in the games that mattered most.

On a Red Sox team led by a duo of AL MVP Award candidates in and J.D. Martinez, it was Pearce who came up with some of the biggest hits of the World Series. His homer off gave Boston a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Sunday.

"You've got to strike early on that guy," Pearce said of Kershaw. "You saw how he settled in in the middle innings. And just to be able to get my pitch and not miss it and give us an early lead, that was big for our club."

Pearce struck again with a solo shot off Pedro Baez to make it 5-1 in the eighth.

Those homers came just a day after Pearce crushed a game-tying solo shot off Dodgers closer in the eighth inning of Game 4, followed by a three-run double off that broke the game open in the ninth.

All told, Pearce hit .333 (4-for-12), slugged 1.167 and scored five runs in this Series.

"He's a gamer, he's a grinder, he lives for moments like this," teammate Chris Sale said. "It's a special moment for me and him, because we grew up a quarter of a mile from each other. I grew up playing Little League with his youngest brother. Two guys from Lakeland, sitting here in the World Series, I get to hold this thing [Commissioner's Trophy], probably a Corvette, too. Shotgun, Pearce."

It is further testament to the dynamic depth of this Boston team that the World Series MVP was no easy choice. had an ample argument for the honor, having outpitched in Game 2 and been masterful for seven-plus innings in the clincher. might have been been an interesting choice, considering the value of his scoreless eighth innings in Games 1 and 2 and his bullpen-saving six-plus innings (regardless of end result) in Game 3.

But for what it's worth, Pearce led all Red Sox players in Win Probability Added for the Series, with a 0.6 mark (Price finished second at 0.4), per the Baseball Gauge.

"What he did was incredible, and we needed it," Sale said.

Pearce joined Babe Ruth and Ted Kluszewski as the only players 35 or older to log a multihomer game in the World Series. He became one of just seven players -- and the first since Eddie Murray in 1983 -- to hit two homers in a World Series clincher on the road.

For the guy who has spent a career bouncing around to land in the World Series record books made for an overwhelming evening. Pearce's call had come, and he answered it.

"This has been a lifelong journey," he said. "And to be here right now is a dream come true."