I will be the first to admit that I didn't believe Dustin Pedroia could be a major league starter. I saw a guy who was good at a lot of things, but not great at anything. He didn't hit for power. He ran with a piano on his back. And, he was average defensively.
Through his first month of the 2007 season with the Red Sox, Pedroia was batting .182 with 5 runs scored. During his slump, I heard Pedroia interviewed on sports radio. When asked about his struggles, Pedroia matter-of-factly said that he wasn't worried about it because he knew he'd be hitting .300 by the end of the season. It wasn't cockiness. It was confidence. And Pedroia has played with that swagger ever since. In April 2007, fans were calling for Alex Cora to take over 2nd base duties. In 2008, the fans are holding signs that say "The Laser Show--Brought to You By Dustin Pedroia," and "Pedroia For President."
So how does this seemingly average 2nd baseman put himself in the conversation for American League MVP (and, he is in the conversation)? He consistently makes the routine plays and sometimes the spectacular ones. His aggressiveness at the plate has translated into 190 hits and 43 doubles. According to baseballreference.com, his 'late and close' average is .375 this year. Somehow, he has newfound power (17 homeruns) and speed (17 stolen bases) in 2008. And, he does all the little things (advancing runners, creative slides to avoid tags, taking the extra base, etc.).
With the injuries the Sox have battled this season and the loss of Manny Ramirez in the middle of their order, It's hard to believe the Sox would be where they are right now without Pedroia this season. He has done everything asked of him, including hitting both 1st and 4th in the batting order. The MVP chants are echoing through Fenway Park, and they should be.