Pedroia shows heart of a champion
Red Sox second baseman named AL Rookie of the Year
BOSTON -- Back on May 1, when Dustin Pedroia was hitting .182, it would have been hard to imagine that just a few months later that he'd be taking home an award for his excellence.
But Pedroia never lost confidence in himself, and neither did Red Sox manager Terry Francona.
The diminutive second baseman just kept swinging, and his determined approach culminated in the American League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday. Pedroia became the first Red Sox player to win the trophy since Nomar Garciaparra did so in 1997.
"I'm not too big on personal accomplishments; I just want to help my team win," Pedroia said. "There have been some great players to get this award, and it's definitely been such a fun and exciting year for me and my teammates. I'm so happy for the people that have stuck with me through this whole thing. You know -- Terry Francona, [general manager] Theo [Epstein], everybody in the front office. That first month was definitely tough on me. But I bounced through it, and it's definitely a huge accomplishment."
In the end, the voting wasn't even close.
Pedroia was listed first on 24 of the 28 ballots submitted by two writers in each league city and second on the other four to total 132 points. The Rays' Delmon Young finished second behind Pedroia with 56 points, and the Royals' Brian Bannister tallied 36 to place third in the vote. Pedroia's fellow teammates Daisuke Matsuzaka (12 points) and Hideki Okajima (3) came in fourth and sixth place, respectively.
For much of his baseball life, Pedroia has been told that he was too small and that his swing was too big. But Pedroia -- who is generously listed at 5-foot-9 -- knew he wasn't going to grow anymore, and he continually pointed out that his big swing led to success at every level he played at.
So Pedroia just kept doing what he was doing, even when things were at their bleakest earlier this season, and he wound up being a key member for a team that won the 2007 World Series.
"We're very proud of Dustin for what he has accomplished and how he has conducted himself in a Red Sox uniform. So it's especially gratifying to see him recognized today with such a prestigious honor," Epstein wrote in an e-mail. "From his first day in the organization, he's been a great example for all with his work ethic, fearlessness and respect for his teammates and the game. He gets the most out of his considerable abilities and does so with one thought in mind: winning championships for the Boston Red Sox."
When things got tough for Pedroia early in the year, he took stock in the success he had at every level and didn't lose faith that he could duplicate it at the Major League level.
"I had a great career in college, and my Minor League numbers were good. I don't think a player is made in one month," said Pedroia. "I think, over the course of 162 games, you find out what a player is made of."
Pedroia -- who became the sixth Red Sox player to win the Rookie of the Year Award -- finished 10th in the AL this season with a .317 average. That batting average was the all-time best for rookie second basemen, as Pedroia beat out Jim Viox of the 1913 Pirates by two percentage points. Pedroia joined Walt Dropo (1950), Don Schwall ('61), Carlton Fisk ('72), Fred Lynn ('75) and Garciaparra in the exclusive club of Red Sox players to win the award.
"Everyone has doubted me at every level I've been at, saying I'm too small, I'm not fast enough, my arm is not strong enough," Pedroia said. "But there's a lot of people that have stuck by me and knew deep down that there's something about me that makes me a winning baseball player."
The 24-year-old Pedroia -- who was drafted by the Red Sox with the 65th overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft -- led all Major League rookies in doubles with 39 and was second in on-base percentage (.380) and third in runs (86).
"From an organizational standpoint, the award is a nice tribute to all the people -- the scouts, the player development personnel and the Major League staff -- who believed in Dustin and played a small part in helping him along the way," said Epstein.
|2007 AL Rookie of the Year Voting|
|Dustin Pedroia, BOS||24||4||132|
|Delmon Young, TB||3||12||5||56|
|Brian Bannister, KC||1||8||7||36|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS||2||6||12|
|Reggie Willits, LAA||2||5||11|
|Hideki Okajima, BOS||3||3|
|Josh Fields, CWS||1||1|
|Joakim Soria, KC||1||1|
After the rough April, Pedroia hit .415 in May, .333 in June, .299 in July, .346 in August and .302 in September.
Pedroia also went out of his way to thank a couple of teammates for the role they had in his resurgence.
"Shoot, everyone was saying Alex Cora should be the starting second baseman, and Alex Cora was the one telling me every day, 'Hey, this is yours. We're going to break you in to the big leagues.' Him and Mike Lowell were two of the guys that helped me with everything. I can only thank them enough for what they've done for me and what kind of year it's been for me."
Following a tough AL Division Series against the Angels in which Pedroia hit .154, he bounced back to hit .345 in the AL Championship Series against the Indians. And Pedroia got off to a most dramatic start in the World Series vs. the Rockies, leading off the bottom of the first inning with a home run over the Green Monster.
"The only thing I cared about was trying to help the team win," Pedroia said. "That was our ultimate goal. We set out to try to win the American League East and try to win the World Series. We accomplished both of those things. I think that if you're dedicated into team goals, individual goals will come later."
Making Pedroia's postseason heroics even more impressive is the fact he recently confided that he was playing with a cracked hamate bone in his left hand, an injury that was diagnosed on Sept. 10.
"I don't really know when it happened," said Pedroia. "I just remember flying out to right field a lot and my hand was killing me, so I just went in and got an MRI or a bone scan or whatever the heck it was, and they said there was a crack in it. So that was pretty much it. The hand specialist in Boston who I went and saw said, 'It's going to be painful, but it's not like you can't play through it.' That was the only thing. After the year, we'd just go in and take it out."
Pedroia had surgery last week, and he said that his offseason program won't be impacted at all.
Though he's known for his offense, Pedroia played excellent defense for the Red Sox all season, making just six errors and producing a .990 fielding percentage.
What was the key to Pedroia's 2007 season?
"I think just believing in yourself," Pedroia said. "This game is tough. If you fail seven out of 10 times, you're a pretty good player. I think it's just believing in yourself and having the confidence to know you can go out there and perform well. I started doing that after the first month of the season and kind of took off from there."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.