The Boston Red Sox need a leader.
This isn't breaking news. This isn't going to change your day. Heck, it definitely didn't even phase you to read that.
That doesn't change the fact that if it doesn't happen now, the Red Sox will be headed toward a colossal meltdown that stretches beyond missing the postseason three seasons in a row. If things don't turn around, they could be looking at a snowballing stretch of misery that spans at least a decade or more.
Dustin Pedroia, it's time to step up.
After being dubbed the "de facto captain" following the 2011 departure of catcher Jason Varitek, 'C'-sporter since 2005, Pedroia failed to initiate the kind of order in the clubhouse that was necessary after the chaotic way last season ended.
Needless to say, the tall order shouldn't fall on one man's diminutive shoulders and Bobby Valentine was expected to be the broom to Pedroia's dustpan, but the second baseman never seemed to gracefully accept his faux position and ended up spending the whole season with a chip on his shoulder for some mostly unknown reason.
(Things didn't get off to a good start when Valentine called out Kevin Youkilis early in the season, but still. Give it a rest.)
Moving forward and assuming Valentine gets canned, Pedroia, under team control through 2015, stands as the alpha dog in the clubhouse.
It's not out of the realm of possibility that where he and former manager Terry Francona were so close, management will take some input from Pedroia during the upcoming managerial search.
After all, the next manager hired isn't likely to be a one-and-done in the vein of Valentine. It'll be someone who Boston hopes will be in the dugout for the next decade, along with the 29-year-old Pedroia.
The second-baseman needs to team with the next manager to reset the tone of the clubhouse and issue the precedents of how things should be, how they'd like things to be, and how things will be.
When a report came out on Tuesday that Pedroia, earlier reported to be sitting out the rest of the season due to a broken finger, would be in the lineup against the New York Yankees that night, he responded to questions like this, according to the Boston Herald:
“I get to compete two more games and then I've got to sit around six months until I get to do it again. Why not?”
That right there is precisely the Pedroia that the Red Sox need.
Granted, it's Game 161 and the Sox are nowhere within sniffing distance of either Wild Card spot, but this attitude is coming at the right time, as half of the farm system is in the clubhouse (and in that sorry, sorry lineup card).
He later added:
“I mean, you saw last year, the Orioles played all their guys and played hard and ended up beating us and gave Tampa a chance to get in. We’re playing to win. Nobody’s packing it in.”
With that type of leadership and gusto this late in the season, it's a damn-near fact that heading into the offseason it'll give the rest of the guys a reason to really examine themselves and the putridity that they contributed to this season and how to avoid it in 2013.
With Pedroia setting the right example, others will follow and eventually get the ball rolling again towards a clubhouse with its head on straight.
With so much turnover destined to come over the course of the next few months, it's important for him to really dig his roots into the minds of all of those around him, so when the new additions come in, be it a new manager, free agents, players acquired through trade, or crops from the farm, they already know how things run around here.
They need to run by Pedroia's rules.