"I wish I could have been there."
So says Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia in regards to Johnny Pesky's funeral. Pedroia would go on to say: "Obviously, everyone knows how we all feel about Johnny. We all love him. We’re all here for his family and everybody."
Apparently, Pedroia was unable to attend the funeral for Pesky, a beloved Red Sox icon, due to a previously scheduled doctors appointment with his wife, who is with child.
With so many days off during the course of the season, one can understand the dilemma Pedroia faced. It also sparked a thought process that involved looking long and hard at his role on this team, both presently and previously.
His relationship with Terry Francona aside, Pedroia has been nothing but the epitome of a player indicative of Red Sox baseball: tough, gritty, nose to the grindstone, scrappy play that doesn't make excuses.
Every day, Pedroia shows up to the park early.
Every day. That means, today, even as the Red Sox sit at 13.5 games out of the division race and 8.5 games out of the wild card race, with a 0.8 percent chance of making the playoffs this season, Pedroia will still show up as the gates open and begin fielding ground balls, etc.
Somewhere along the line, the mood of Red Sox Nation has turned angry and directed anger towards players like Pedroia, who truly are undeserving of such blame.
That is not to say he has always been right in his actions this season. Specifically, upon the infamous criticism of Kevin Youkilis by manager Bobby Valentine that led to the "that's not the way we go about stuff around here" comment.
In previous years, fans reveled in Pedroia quotes. He's been known as the Lazer Show, the Muddy Chicken and has told everyone to "just relax."
Pedroia the Destroyer has been the sullen leader of a sinking ship this year. Is he having an MVP caliber season? No, not at all. In fact he's having an off year by his standards, batting .281, .20 points below his .301 career average.
Beyond that, he has seen dips in his hit total, extra base hits, stolen base totals as well as OBP, SLG and OPS.
That can be chalked up to many things, injury, stress, etc. Whatever you want to call it. However, if you look at the Red Sox's team stats, only Adrian Gonzalez has a better batting average out of players who have appeared in over 100 games this season for the Sox.
Is that indicative of leading by example? Considering that the 2012 team batting average is .267 and the 2011 squad's was .280, that certainly could be an indication of leading a team that has seen a dip in performance as a whole.
Pedroia has given his heart and soul to the Red Sox for seven years. He has been a three-time All-Star, the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, the 2008 AL MVP, a two-time Gold Glove winner with a Silver Slugger award on his shelf.
To discount his dedication to this team is to ignore the heart of the man.
As the season lingers on (and boy, it sure is a slow death) you can see the mounting frustration on the face of the unadorned captain. It is killing him that this team is not where they need to be.
This Red Sox team may very well undergo a tremendous transition in the next year and beyond. It will need to put a lot of weight on the shoulders of someone. At 5'8" tall, Pedroia can shoulder a lot. He's done it throughout his entire career.
For Red Sox Nation, it is difficult to find faith in these difficult times. There sure are very few things to believe in when the team has done nothing but disappoint.
As a whole, the 'Nation has been through much more difficult times. There's 86 years worth of evidence of that. When a pendulum swings forward, it must swing just as far back.
Dustin Pedroia must be the man to stop the momentum. He must unify this team. Behind the scenes he very well could be trying to do so already.
If you need something to find faith in, have faith in Pedroia; for he is the man that will help to bring the Boston Red Sox back to their former glory.
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