Red Sox news: Dustin Pedroia retires; is he a Hall of Famer?

Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

We’ve known this piece of Boston Red Sox news was coming for awhile and on Monday, Dustin Pedroia made it official by announcing his retirement after a 14-year career with the club.

Pedroia, 37, spent his entire career with the Red Sox from the time he was a second-round pick from Arizona State University in 2004 to his big-league debut in 2006 and through his Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards to his recent difficulty recovering from an injured left knee.

Red Sox news: Dustin Pedroia certainly a Boston legend

Pedroia hadn’t played a full season since 2016, hadn’t topped 100 games since 2017 and over the last three years played in a total of just nine games — none in 2020.

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He did little to show how he would blast onto the scene in 2007 in his brief callup at the end of a lost 2006 season in Boston, when he hit .191 with a .561 OPS in 98 plate appearances.

But in his official rookie season, he started slowly, hitting .182 with a .544 OPS in April, before catching fire in May with a .415 average and 1.072 OPS. He finished at .317 with an .823 OPS, 39 doubles, eight homers and 50 RBI to go with 86 runs scored, walking more often (47) than he struck out (42).

He easily outdistanced runner-up Delmon Young of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the Rookie of the Year voting and hit .345 in Boston’s seven-game victory over the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS before going 5-for-18 with a homer in a sweep of the Colorado Rockies for the club’s second World Series title in four seasons.

Pedroia did not fall victim to a sophomore jinx, hitting .326 with an .869 OPS in 2008, earning AL MVP honors after leading the majors with 213 hits and 54 doubles, scoring an AL-high 118 runs and finishing with 17 home runs, 83 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 21 attempts. He added a Gold Glove and his only Silver Slugger to the collection of hardware.

He received four All-Star nods in all (2008-10 and 2013), won four Gold Gloves (2008, 2011, 2013-14), but never was able to fully recover from an injury to his left knee sustained in April 2017 when he was hit by Baltimore Orioles baserunner Manny Machado on a play that was heavily scrutinized for its proximity to the fine line between aggressive and dirty.

Pedroia played hurt the rest of the season before undergoing surgery at season’s end, but he only managed nine games and 34 plate appearances for the remainder of his career, going 3-for-31 with no extra-base hits and one RBI.

He finishes his career with a .299 average and an .805 OPS in 1,512 games, racking up 1,805 hits, 394 doubles, 140 homers, 725 RBI, 138 steals and scoring 922 runs. His career OPS+ is an above-average 113 with a peak of 131 in 2011, when he posted career-bests with 21 home runs and 91 RBI.

Owner John Henry released an effusive statement thanking Pedroia for his contributions to the Red Sox franchise over the years.

He was the prototype of the undersized middle infielder, 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, and was a player as beloved by the Boston fans as he was detested in many other locales around the American League — in short, the player you love to play with and hate to play against.

In 51 postseason games for the Red Sox, Pedroia hit .233 with a .687 OPS in 234 plate appearances. He had 14 doubles, five homers, 25 RBI and scored 32 runs, while playing with Boston’s World Series championship clubs in both 2007 and 2013.

His best playoff series may well have been one the Red Sox lost. Pedroia cracked three homers in the 2008 ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays while hitting .346 with a 1.200 OPS in 32 plate appearances. He scored nine runs and drove in five, but Boston fell in seven games to the upstart Rays.

That leads to the big question: Is Dustin Pedroia a Hall of Famer? Given his stature in Boston and its rabid media market, it seems likely he will get in at some point, even if his numbers are borderline at best.

According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system), Pedroia ranks 20th among second basemen, with a career Wins Above Replacement total of 51.6, a seven-year peak WAR of 41.0 and a JAWS of 46.3.

For some perspective, Pedroia trails Bobby Grich (eighth, 58.7 JAWS), Lou Whitaker (13th, 56.5) and Willie Randolph (16th, 51.1), none of whom is in the Hall of Fame.

He is, however, ahead of Hall of Famers Bobby Doerr (22nd), Nellie Fox (23rd), Bid McPhee (27th), Johnny Evers (28th), Tony Lazzeri (29th), Red Schoendienst (35th) and Bill Mazeroski (50th … with one very famous home run).

He also trails Robinson Cano (seventh with 59.3 and still active) and recently retired Chase Utley (11th, 56.8) and Ian Kinsler (18th, 46.6) to look at some of his contemporaries.

The average JAWS score of the 20 second basemen in the Hall of Fame is 57.0, a figure Pedroia falls well short of. But given his transcendence from an undersized guts-and-grit player to a legitimate star might make the difference to voters.

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He’s not a slam-dunk case for me, but I won’t be surprised or bothered should Pedroia get a plaque in Cooperstown in the future.