As an avid fantasy baseball player I have been the owner of a keeper league for several years now. We are allowed to keep nine players from season to season and then a draft is held to fill the other roster spots for the upcoming year.
To me, trading is the best part of a fantasy league. We can trade throughout the season and also during the offseason, and there's plenty of dealing of draft picks as well before the springtime draft. Now you may be asking yourself, "Who cares? Why are you telling me this?"
Well, I am telling you this because for years I have been offering up several high draft picks, players such as Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler and Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, and many other combinations all to acquire one single player that would anchor my infield more so than any other.
I want Dustin Pedroia manning second base on my fantasy baseball team. I thought for sure that I would get him last year while he was injured. There was no way that they would keep Pedroia sitting on their disabled list for the rest of the season, but they did. They refused every trade offer I made because they must know what I know:
Dustin Pedroia will be smack in the middle of this season’s MVP race. Here is why.
He is the scrappiest player in the league. Pedroia shows more hustle on every play than any other player in baseball. He wasn’t blessed with a high school baseball player’s body let alone a professionals and because of this he relies completely on himself to be conditioned and at his peak every single time he steps on the field. The kid doesn’t take a play off.
Pedroia plays with the attitude that he has to prove himself every time he is at the plate and he plays with a large chip on his shoulder. A chip that was created by all of the people throughout his life who told him that he could not do it. I have used this quote before but it belongs here as well. "Everyone has doubted me at every level I've been at, saying I'm too small, I'm not fast enough, my arm is not strong enough," said Pedroia.
You can have all of the ability in the world but without the drive you have nothing. Pedroia has the drive and it’s not going anywhere. It’s the only way he knows how to play.
Helping Pedroia in his quest for a second MVP award will be the much-improved Red Sox defense. With the addition of Adrian Gonzalez forcing Youkilis to his old third base position, Pedroia will be surrounded by gold gloves.
Not to mention that if Jed Lowrie proves in Spring Training that he is worthy of the starting role come opening day, the entire infield will be much improved from last year. With Lowrie being healthy, he and Pedroia will have more time this spring to get in sync resulting in better all around infield play. If Lowrie continues where he left off then every cylinder in the infield will be firing and that will no doubt help Pedroia in pursuit of his second MVP trophy.
But one of the greatest parts of Pedroia’s game, and it is a direct reflection of who he is as a person, is the fact that he won’t be pursuing his second MVP trophy. He won’t be pursuing anything except a win for his team, one game at a time. It is the little things that add up to the big thing.
How many times have we heard our coaches growing up tell us that if we take care of the little things than the accolades will come? It’s a line repeated in every great sports movie ever made. I have never been in a locker room before a Superbowl but I would venture a guess that every coach says something like it to his team before they take the field.
As an aside, Mike Tomlin feel free to use this on Sunday but Mike McCarthy you are on your own. I've got money on the Steelers.
They say it because it works and it works because it is true. Worry about the fundamentals, worry about the footwork, the next pitch, watching the ball hit the bat or watching it into your glove. Do that and you win the game.
Pedroia doesn’t think about winning the MVP when he dives across the dirt to snag a line drive that most second baseman would have let the outfielder handle. He thinks about getting the out and winning the game. When he received the Rookie of the Year award Pedroia showed us all that he is not big on personal accomplishments, he just wants to help his team win when he said "I'm not too big on personal accomplishments; I just want to help my team win,"
We have already touched on Pedroia’s need to prove himself every day because of his height, his size and his humongous swing. All of those things have worked against him his entire life. But this season he is adding another reason to prove himself, another chip on his shoulder if you will. Pedroia is coming back from a season ending injury. One that was bad enough that it required surgery.
If people questioned the kid’s ability to play at a high level based solely on his size they surely would question whether or not he could be the same productive player that he was when he was healthy.
Well, being a productive player is not going to be good enough for Pedroia. He is hungry to get on the field again, restless because he wasn’t able to play much of last season. He will have extra motivation every at bat to show that his foot is 100% and that he’s once again ready to be the best second baseman out there.
Now this reason may or may not shake out how I see it. This is entirely up to Manager Terry Francona but numbers wise I foresee Pedroia having a career season. Hitting highs in RBIs and runs. With the additions of Carl Crawford and Gonzalez, Pedroia will be better protected in the line-up and surrounded by huge bats providing him with the opportunity to bring them across the plate.
His career bests as of right now are 118 runs, 213 hits, 83 RBIs, 17 home runs and a .326 batting average. All of these records were set in 2008. The year he won his MVP hardware. Before his injury last season Pedroia was on pace to equal his hits and runs numbers, crush his home run number and best his RBIs. He will accomplish all of that this coming season.
Who will stand in Pedroia’s way? Who will block the path to his second Most Valuable Player award? Let’s take a look at the contenders shall we. Certainly we must through another second baseman in the mix. One who is argued by many as the best second baseman in the league and he certainly was last season finishing third overall in the AL MVP voting. Robinson Cano of the NY Yankees might very well present the best case for Pedroia not winning in 2011. He had a career high in home runs, RBIs, and runs last year. It seems that Cano is peaking.
Another contender would be Joseph Patrick Mauer, catcher for the Minnesota Twins. Four out of his six full seasons in the majors he has been in the top eight in MVP voting, winning the award himself in 2009. He is the best catcher in the league and carries a batting average well over .300.
Of course let’s not count out Miguel Cabrera and Pedroia’s own teammates Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Kevin Youkilis all of whom have had their fair share of MVP votes.
Last years winner was the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton but for whatever reason I just can see him repeating the monster year that he had in 2010. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. There are a lot of worthy recipients in the AL and Pedroia will be right in the thick of things.
The 2011 Boston Red Sox are a much improved baseball team. The firepower that they acquired this off-season makes them the most potent offense in the American League. This will translate into more regular season wins for the Sox and will not only get them to the playoffs but also propel them further along than in years past.
But what does this all have to do with the MVP award? The better your team performs the better chance you have at taking home the hardware. It really is that simple. This shouldn’t always be the case especially in a sport like baseball where it is not as team oriented as football or basketball however the success of the team as a whole still plays a big part in the minds of the voters.
More success equals more exposure, which equals more chances to shine and more consideration for MVP. Plus the Red Sox could knock a few of Pedroia’s competitors out of the MVP race if they can dominate the Yankees this year. It would be tough to consider Mark Teixeira or Cano over Pedroia if they couldn’t get it done against Boston, their biggest rival, during the season.
I heard Michael Wilbon say just the other day when talking about BYU’s phenom point guard Jimmer Fredette that he is no longer the best player in the nation because his team is no longer undefeated and there still remains an undefeated team. Argue this point all you want folks because frankly I am not a fan of this mindset but it exists and it is reflected in the voting. Fortunately for Pedroia it will help him in 2011.
In examining Pedroia’s career and comparing it to the career of the only other second baseman in the league comparable to Pedroia, Cano, some interesting conclusions can be reached.
Cano has been in the league slightly longer than Pedroia and is a year older but in comparing the first four years of Cano’s career with that of Pedey’s we find that Pedroia is destined to have his best year in 2011.
Cano’s numbers spiked in his fifth year and as I pointed out earlier Pedroia’s were looking to be a career best until he was injured. Barring any unforeseen lingering effect from his surgery, Pedroia should continue where he left off last season.
Because you can't win the league MVP if you aren't even the best at your own position.
Dustin Pedroia, no matter how much he proves that he belongs, tends to figuratively and literally fly under the radar. He has to re-prove himself every year and this year will be no different especially with the screw in his foot. But, if asked, I think we would all prefer to be the underdog. This is where Pedey thrives.
And finally, who doesn’t want to see more of those “MLB: The Show” Dustin vs. Playstation commercials? Love ‘em.
Simply put Pedroia’s adjusted stats averaged over the first four years of his career read like this:
Dustin Pedroia (2007-2010) – .307 AVG, 16 HR, 76 RBI
And his trophy case holds the following:
2007 World Series Champion
2007 Rookie of the Year
2008 AL MVP
2008 Golden Glove
2008 Silver Slugger
2008 League Leader in runs (118), hits (213), & doubles (54)
2009 League Leader in runs (115)
Tough to argue with that.
Instead of trivia this column presents an interesting Red Sox fact. At least one Boston player has won AL MVP hardware in every full decade since the 1930s. This season begins a new decade.