He is the little engine that could. He is the little guy with the big swing.
Dustin Pedroia followed up his Rookie of the Year with a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger Award, and now an MVP.
Pedroia becomes only the third player in Major League history, joining Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryan Howard, to win the Rookie of the Year Award and follow it up with the MVP.
The Red Sox spark plug garnered 16 of the 28 first place votes to comfortably beat out Justin Morneau, who had seven first place votes for the 2008 A.L. MVP.
Pedroia led the A.L. in hits with 218, runs with 118, doubles with 54 (a Red Sox record), and multi-hit games with 61. He also hit 17 home runs from that compact frame and stole 20 bases. His OPS, the most telling of the stats was .915 after the All-Star break.
And with that huge swing of his he struck out only 52 times in 653 at-bats.
The numbers are good no doubt, and there were others with numbers that deserved recognition.
The numbers do not tell the entire story of this season for Pedroia. The fire that he plays with every day, every play, and every at-bat is inspirational to his teammates. In just his second year his personality and enthusiasm have even veterans like David Ortiz looking up to him as a leader on the Red Sox.
Pedroia is listed at 5'9" and 180 lbs, yet realistically is more like 5’6” or 5’7”.
After a grand slam versus the Yankees in late August this year Pedroia jokingly proclaimed to his teammates that he was “the strongest 165-pound man in baseball.”
Pedroia was drafted in the second round of the amateur draft in 2004 by the Red Sox and many thought it was a mistake. Although he had a great career at Arizona State, hitting .384 over his three years, most thought he was too small, too slow, and had too big of a swing to make it on the Major League level.
Pedroia came up late in 2006 for a cup of coffee at the end of the season, and when Red Sox GM let 2B Mark Loretta go after the season, the job was handed to Pedroia.
He started miserably at bat hitting only .172 on May 1, but never let it get to him. His confidence level is second to no one, and things started to click in early May. He finished hitting .317 with 39 doubles and an on base percentage of .380.
There will be critics who will say that Pedroia won because he is a great story more than he had the best numbers. This gets back to the age old argument about the MVP. What is the definition? Is it the best numbers, or is it the player who actually proved to be the most valuable to his team? Does the team have to contend? Make the Playoffs?
But let’s look at some of those numbers.
Morneau, faded in September like his Twins. He hit only .267 after the All-Star break, and .243 in Sept/Oct. Mauer led the league in hitting with his .328 avg. edging out Pedroia by two points. He hit .336 after the break with an OPS of .894 yet hit only nine homers and 31 doubles.
Youkilis hit .312 with career highs in homers (29) and RBI (115), and had an OPS of .988 after the break. Youkilis also had a stint on the DL and played in 145 games which hurt his cause.
Angels closer Frank Rodriguez had two first place votes and that leads to the question whether a pitcher should win an MVP.
Many thought Youkilis and Pedroia having played on the same team would divide the votes and therefore make it tougher for either to win.
It is all open to debate, but bottom line is the diminutive one has walked away with the award. And 2009 will be another test for Pedroia who has fought the doubters his entire baseball life.
I for one, wouldn’t bet against him.