BOSTON – Dustin Pedroia and the Red Sox have crossed T’s and dotted I’s, but a “C” never factored into the equation.
The Red Sox announced Wednesday that they have signed Pedroia to an eight-year contract extension that will take the second baseman through the 2021 season. But despite a deal that all but ensures Pedroia will spend his entire career in Boston, there will be no captain’s “C” placed on his jersey at this time.
And you know what? It’s not a big deal.
“I really don’t think about it,” Pedroia said of donning the “C” that was last worn by Jason Varitek from 2005 to 2011. “Every day I get here, I’m focused and I believe we have a ton of leaders on our team. It’s not just me. Every guy that I’ve learned from since my first year, ya know, David [Ortiz]. There’s tons of guys that are leaders and impact our team in a huge way, so I don’t feel like there’s one guy that should have a voice on this team or anything like that. It should be everybody to hold each other accountable.”
There’s no denying that Pedroia has exceptional leadership qualities. Whether it’s leading by example or being a vocal leader in the clubhouse, the 29-year-old demonstrates all of the traits associated with being a captain. That understandably led to some speculation about whether or not the Red Sox would slap a “C” on Pedroia’s jersey following the signing of his new deal, but both sides seem to think that it’s a rather unnecessary step right now, especially given that Pedroia is already accepted as a leader.
“I think every moment in time is different and in this moment in time it never came up,” general manager Ben Cherington said, “but I think [it was] because there was a shared belief that, as Dustin said, the leadership goes throughout the clubhouse. Everyone knows how important Dustin is to the team and he is clearly a leader on the team, but it was not an issue that was discussed — at least at this time.”
A “C” — while deserved — would be a formality more than anything. And given the Red Sox’ team-first mentality and focus on working as a cohesive unit, there’s really no need to rush into things. Perhaps the two sides will discuss such a symbolic gesture in the future, but at this point, Pedroia and the Red Sox are just focused on making sure that the next eight-plus seasons are as successful as his first eight-plus years in Boston.
“Since July 21, 2004 — which is the day he signed his first contract with the Red Sox — he’s represented everything that we would want a player to represent,” Cherington said. “He helps us win in all sorts of ways — as we know – with his bat, his glove, his baserunning. But he also impacts the organization a lot of other ways. In the offseason through his work, he’s an inspiration to others, to his teammates, other players and he sets an example by how he prepares and comes to spring training.
“From 2 o’clock to 7 o’clock every day, he prepares better than anyone in baseball and that makes a difference in our clubhouse. It’s noticed throughout the league and obviously it’s mixed in with quite a bit of humor throughout the day, which helps over a 162-game season.”
Pedroia’s on-field resume is impressive. He’s a four-time All-Star, he won a World Series and Rookie of the Year honors in 2007, he won an MVP award in 2008, and he’s currently considered one of the game’s best second basemen. But Pedroia’s impact goes beyond the numbers, and, in reality, no patch would do his importance any justice.
“I don’t know that I can manage him the way he goes about his work. I would say this, from a coaching staff, and myself in particular, whether it’s every day here [in] preparation for a game tonight or whether it’s in spring training preparing for a full season, he sets the tone for our work day,” manager John Farrell said. “There’s a pretty strong sentiment that if you practice at full speed, you’re gonna become a better player and the pace that our work is, the pace that we set spring training at has started with him, and that is a high intensity pace. I think it’s the reason we’ve come out of spring as prepared as we have and he’s the straw that stirs the drink, so to speak, for that.”
In other words, Pedroia is the heart and soul of the Red Sox, and he has been since Day 1. Between his hustle, his production in every facet of the game and his win-at-all-costs attitude, it’s hard to find a comparable player throughout the league. With so many young players — particularly young infielders — coming up through the Red Sox system, Pedroia is the perfect player to have around for the foreseeable future.
“It was clear he’s the type of player every Red Sox fan wants to see in the field and at the plate,” Red Sox owner John Henry said. “He embodies everything we want to see from an ownership standpoint, from a GM [or] manager standpoint.
“You heard what Tito Francona said about him,” Henry continued. “I think Tito used to say, ‘If I had nine Dustin’s, we’d win every game.’ He just embodies everything we want in a player coming out here every day.”
The only letter important to Pedroia is “W” — as in wins — and the Red Sox took a huge step toward racking up plenty more of those by signing him to a long-term contract – captain’s patch or not.