Dustin Pedroia feels like the first professional athlete I’ve ever personally chased out of Major League Baseball using mental energy, and it feels good, Yankees fans.
Because, for as long as his balky knees allowed me to, I have fervently despised this man.
If Pedroia’s your enemy, you hate him. But if he’s on your team, you love him — presuming your team is from Boston, where every fan is also a monster.
Pedroia retired after three consecutive empty seasons, and will be taking his full final year’s salary and going home. What a kind gesture on the way out from someone who the media assured me embodied baseball as a “team” game.
In the next 48 hours (year? decade?), you’re going to repeatedly hear some variation of, “Pedroia gave kids of all sizes hope. He showed it wasn’t about size; it was about heart.”
Nope! FYI, it’s still very much about size! Pedroia was the most shockingly athletically gifted small man of all time. If anything, he gave a generation of wrong-sized athletes false hope, because no one could ever hope to replicate his one-in-a-trillion journey.
Which, of course, stood to further benefit the luckiest city in America. A city which I’m confident could draft a stork or ostrich and eventually get 150 innings of 2.00-ERA baseball out of them.
Hell, even Jacoby Ellsbury was good in Boston.
Yes, Pedroia’s grit factor was impressive. And yes, he was an exceptionally good ball player in an unexpected package. But the baseball media at large certainly tolerated and glorified his mood swings, on-field temper tantrums, and never-ending strike zone complaints in a way they certainly wouldn’t have if they’d come from, say, Robinson Cano.
I’ve tried not to appear petty or spoiled throughout this obviously-biased piece, but even the most ardent Red Sox fan must admit the package Pedroia came in helped escalate his legacy quickly, while papering over the portions of his game that evoked the most entitled try-hard on your high school baseball team.
We should’ve traded Phil Mushnick to Boston at the height of Pedroia’s powers just to watch him excoriate his whininess.
Speaking of that glistening cobblestoned relic of the 18th century, there will never be a more perfect embodiment of the city of Boston in a baseball uniform for as long as I live than Pedroia. If he perceived a slight — which was every time he stepped on the diamond, despite the overwhelming praise for his exploits from all corners of the world — he was ready to fight, nostrils steaming.
I once watched him smack a single in Houston and turn around midway to first base to jaw at an umpire, which is exactly the kind of thing my annoying ass would’ve done playing intramural baseball in college. Watch this tirade that follows an actually extremely clear strike three to wrap Game 1 of the ALDS. On the national broadcast, the booth gave him the benefit of the doubt immediately.
There’s a 100% chance a backwards-hatted Pedroia once snapped, “What did you say about my mother?” in a crowded Charlestown bar.
Pedroia smugly calling himself a “frickin’ laser show” wasn’t endearing because he wasn’t kidding. He wasn’t being self-deprecating. He thought he was God’s gift to baseball, and we chose that decade to celebrate Boston bravado and exceptionalism in the mainstream.
The 14-year veteran would’ve been baseball’s most annoying gnat in any era. He didn’t really use social media. His legacy as a chirper wasn’t enhanced by new platforms. He was simply an elite bat, excellent fielder, and all-time irritant who didn’t get nearly enough guff for the third point — and would’ve been viewed as an historic villain if he’d played in any city other than the media’s darling.
I will be rooting against Pedroia long after his baseball career has ended. I hope he gets denied a mortgage.