11/06/08 6:20 PM EST
Pedroia snags first Gold Glove Award
In sophomore season, second baseman shined on defense
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
But that changed in dramatic fashion on Thursday, when Pedroia, the sparkplug of the Boston Red Sox, was officially awarded a Rawlings Gold Glove for his defensive excellence.
Pedroia nabbed the honor for the first time in just his second Major League season. He is just the second Red Sox second baseman to earn a Gold Glove and first since Doug Griffin in 1972.
"It's unbelievable," said Pedroia. "I didn't really set expectations on myself when I got up to the Major Leagues. The first two years have gone by so fast. I just kind of put my head down and work as hard as I can. When it's 7 o'clock, or 1 o'clock, whenever we play, I just go out there and play as hard as I can. That's the kind of attitude I'm going to take every single day of my whole career. I put the blinders on and just work as hard as I can, and hopefully, I'll just continue to be a better player."
A shortstop for most of his life, Pedroia wasted little time transitioning himself into a superb second baseman once he got to the Major Leagues.
Pedroia credits much of his success to his infield coach of the last two seasons, Luis Alicea, as well as veteran utility infielder Alex Cora.
"I know a lot of guys have helped me out since I made the transition to second base," Pedroia said. "Luis Alicea helped me out a ton, and Alex Cora, just preparing me for moving me from shortstop to second base. We took a ton of ground balls and tried to get better, and I think the last couple of years I've definitely proven myself that I could be a great defender in this league. Today, I'm definitely excited about it, because all the hard work paid off."
In 157 games, Pedroia made just six errors in 733 chances, the fewest for a Boston second baseman with at least 700 chances since Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr had six errors in 802 chances in 1948.
Pedroia's .992 fielding percentage was second in the American League among second baseman to Mark Ellis of Oakland. In fact, that percentage is the third best in club history, trailing only Mark Loretta (.994 in 2006) and Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr (.993 in 1948).
His strengths on defense are numerous, from his agility to his sure hands to the way he hangs in there on double plays.
"My rookie year, we studied film on guys that turned the double play real well in the Major Leagues," said Pedroia. "I tried to emulate their footwork and just practiced. The more I practiced, the better I got at it. Obviously, I hang in there all the time. I'm not afraid to get taken out. I think that's the biggest thing to do -- is to just stay in there on the double play."
As the pressure of the pennant race intensified, Pedroia's defense only got better. He made just one error over the final 91 games, including a span of 61 consecutive errorless contests from June 12-Aug. 24, 12 shy of Doerr's club record of 73 games in 1948.
The numbers across the board displayed Pedroia's dominance. He was third in assists (448), fourth in total chances (733), fifth in double plays (101) and sixth in putouts (279).
It marked the third time in the past four years the Red Sox have had a winner.
Jason Varitek received the honor at catcher in 2005 and Kevin Youkilis was a Gold Glove first baseman last year. Youkilis was again a front-runner for the award this season, but he lost out to Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena.
Perhaps Youkilis was hurt by his own versatility, as he was limited to 109 starts at first base because of the 32 games he played at third in place of the injured Mike Lowell.
"I was a little bit upset about that," Pedroia said of Youkilis not repeating. "Youk makes my job a thousand times easier. He goes to his right so well, [so] I can try to move over a little. He definitely deserves it. Youk is awesome to play with out there and we mesh real well together."
This is the first time the Red Sox have had Gold Glovers in back-to-back seasons since 1990 (Mike Boddicker and Ellis Burks) and 1991 (Tony Pena).
The winners were selected by managers and coaches from each American League team who can't vote for their own players.
The 2008 season marked the 52nd year of the Gold Glove Award. The first were awarded in 1957 to one player at each position from both leagues, then expanded the next year to include a lineup of nine players, one from each league.
One of the best all-around players in the game, Pedroia had a season so prolific offensively that he's a leading candidate for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, which will be announced on Nov. 18.
"Obviously it was a great season, but personal goals, I'm not big into those," Pedroia said. "I'd rather have the feeling after '07 [when we won the World Series] then after '08 [when we lost in the AL Championship Series]. The biggest thing for me right now is to focus on 2009 and get my body back together and ready for that long season."
Pedroia is quickly establishing a reputation as a player who is never satisfied with his accomplishments.
After winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007, Pedroia took his game to a higher level in '08. He hit .326, second in the AL. Pedroia's 118 runs led the league, as did his 54 doubles. His 213 hits were tied with Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki for first in the league.
For a player known as a tablesetter, Pedroia clubbed 18 homers and had 83 RBIs. He was also a factor on the bases, with 18 stolen bases.
When it came to defense, Pedroia made just about all of the routine plays and plenty of spectacular ones. The Gold Glove served as a reward for a lot of the work Pedroia did behind the scenes, as he took countless ground balls several hours before just about every game.
There were also the film studies, which included second baseman of the present (Ellis) and past (Fernando Vina, Roberto Alomar).
"I've pretty much watched everybody," said Pedroia. "I watched Mark Ellis a lot. We had film on Fernando Vina, Robbie Alomar, just a lot of guys. Robbie Alomar's feet were awesome, [and] Fernando Vina's hands were great. Mark Ellis was always controlling the ball. [It's] just stuff like that I would just watch and see how their footwork was and see how they would react to certain throws. ... You get better as you get more experienced."
Another ingredient to Pedroia's success is the intensive work he does in the winter at the Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona.
"One of my biggest things in the offseason was to try to get faster and quicker so I could get to more balls and just make my range better and get my arm stronger, so on that relay to the plate, I'm always accurate," Pedroia said. "That was one of my biggest things I wanted to work on last offseason. I think honestly I can still get better. That's what I'm going to work on this offseason, too."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.