BOSTON — Perhaps Dustin Pedroia has a new nickname: “The Exception.”
It’s a phrase that’s been tossed around frequently in the wake of Pedroia’s new eight-year contract extension with the Red Sox. While the Red Sox understand the dangers of signing players to long-term contracts, having been burned by them in recent years, they also understand that Pedroia represents a special case.
“[Players like Pedroia] are loosely referred to as ‘franchise players,’” Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino said shortly after the team announced Pedroia’s new deal. “Some of those have been longer-term deals in advance of their free agency years. There are several out there that are longer than this. … There are players who are exceptions. As far as us [and] the aversion we had in terms of long-term deals, it’s like [Red Sox general manager] Ben [Cherington] said so well, there’s an exception to every rule, a caveat to every policy. Dustin is the exception. He’s the caveat.”
Pedroia has given the Red Sox plenty of reasons to believe that he’ll continue to be an integral part of the organization for the duration of his long-term contract, which continues through the 2021 season. His mix of on-field production, intangibles, leadership and work ethic is extremely unique, and it made locking him up a no-brainer, regardless of the club’s recent reluctance to dole out lengthy contracts.
“This contract does represent an exception for us and, as we told Dustin in spring training, he’s absolutely the right person to make an exception for,” Cherington said. “We’re thrilled that we’re sitting here today. This contract gives Dustin a very good chance to finish his career in Boston, and more importantly, for all of us and I think Dustin also, it’s another very important step for us toward building a great team year in and year out with him. And that’s a goal we both share.”
If there was ever any doubt about Pedroia’s commitment to winning or loyalty to the Red Sox — which there definitely shouldn’t have been — the four-time All-Star silenced it by signing his new contract. Pedroia will reportedly earn $110 million over the eight years, but in all likelihood, he probably could have earned more if he hit the open market in two years.
“It was a no-brainer to me. This is the place where they gave me the opportunity to play professional baseball so I want to make sure I do all I can to prove those people who took a chance on me right,” Pedroia said. “I’m not here to set markets or do anything like that. I want to make sure the team I’m on wins more games than the other team’s second baseman — that’s the way I look at it. Our job is to win games. That’s what I play for.”
The Red Sox have certainly won plenty of games since Pedroia arrived on the scene in 2006, and he has played a huge role in the team’s success. The 29-year-old joins the likes of Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Thurman Munson, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Albert Pujols as the only players ever to have won a World Series and Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Gold Glove awards.
Some long-term deals — most notably, Carl Crawford’s and Adrian Gonzalez’s — haven’t worked out for the Sox in recent years. Pedroia has been the epitome of a “dirt dog” since the Red Sox drafted him in the second round in 2004, though, and the organization wanted to make sure that he’ll continue to provide that gritty style of play in Boston.
“It’s not always the easiest place to play,” Red Sox owner John Henry said. “We’ve seen over the years a lot of players come in who have great track records but just not be able to do it here for whatever reason. He’s done it here. This was the right deal.
“He came to me a year and a half ago about this — about wanting to spend his career here,” Henry continued. “It’s just something we’ve been discussing now for a year and a half. It’s difficult — I think you’ll understand –with any player whose under contract for an extended period of time to re-up that far in advance, but it’s something we’ve been talking about, sort of preparing for for the last year and a half. I think it’s a great deal for both sides.”
Pedroia has put his body on the line for Boston for parts of eight seasons, and the Red Sox now have the luxury of knowing that he’ll continue to do so for another eight. Pedroia will be 38 years old when his new contract expires, and while that’s typically an age where certain players break down, the Red Sox were more than willing to roll the dice.
“With Dustin, yeah, you have to look at what’s happened before and sort of what the history [is], and we do projections and we do the objective look at it because that’s part of our job, but sometimes there comes along someone who’s a little bit different and Dustin’s different,” Cherington said. “If you are betting on someone to still be good and stay good deeper into his contract, you bet on someone like Dustin.”
Sure, gambling is dangerous — as we’ve seen. But there are exceptions, and No. 15 is one of them.