A Dimming of the Laser Show?

Photo Credit: Keith Allison | Flickr

by: Rich Daniels

In ancient Rome, while a victorious general was celebrated by the populace with a parade through the streets, it was mandated that a slave would stand next to him and continuously whisper, "Remember you are mortal." 

A reminder that glory only lasts as long as it is earned. True in life, and true in Major League Baseball as well. 

Many players come and go with little notice by fans, their careers short-lived and ordinary by MLB standards. And then there are the few remarkable players fans come to know and appreciate. The kind of players that set standards we use to measure others by for numerous years. Those careers burn brighter and for longer.

Unfortunately, however, those careers also wane and then fade like all the others. And watching it happen is difficult for fans to do.

One such player that has set standards for the past decade is Boston's Dustin Pedroia

His is the kind of career that could easily be underappreciated because he never really produced the glamour numbers of home runs. To measure this man that way would be to ignore everything he has offered his team, the city he plays in and baseball as a whole.

Pedroia's career shows us all what a great equalizer the game of baseball can be. 

Generously listed at 5' 9", the cocky second-round pick out of Arizona State strode onto an MLB field for the first time in 2006 and never looked back. Utilizing every tool and talent he had on an everyday basis, Pedroia became a driving force toward success for a Red Sox team that changed history.

Fans tend to compare players by position. Truly great players break down those positional barriers and compel fans to concede stereotypes. Pedroia was that type of player almost immediately.

He took just under a hundred plate appearances in 2006 to get his bearings then set the American League on fire. He won the Rookie of the Year in 2007 batting .317 with an .823 OPS and helping the Red Sox win their second World Series in four years.

Then the magical 2008 season saw "The Laser Show", as he called himself due to the plentiful hard line drives his bat produced, bat .326 with an .869 OPS and led the league in runs scored (118), hits (213) and doubles (54). That performance led to the first of his four All-Star Game appearances and being selected as the American League Most Valuable Player. 

With some, success changes them. They sit back on their achievements and live on reputation. Not Pedroia. Not for a minute. 

Over the next nine seasons, Pedroia continued to lead the Red Sox in the right directions both on and off the field. He led the American League in runs scored again in 2009 with 115. He also led the league in stolen base percentage (95.2% in 2008), singles (149 in 2016), fielding percentage for second basemen three times (2011,2012 and 2014), still leads all active second basemen in fielding percentage and is third all-time. Pedroia has earned four Gold Gloves in his 1506 career games as well as compiling a career batting average of an even .300.

Basically, he has been driven to play every part of the game the right way and that has kept the Red Sox relevant and successful which can be seen in his second World Series win in 2013. 

However, as Roman generals knew all too well, glory has its cost and an expiration date. 

Pedroia missed large parts of the 2010, 2015 and 2017 seasons due to injury. Playing hard every day has taken its toll on the man and it now presents the greatest challenge of his stellar career. Cartilage restoration surgery on his left knee has had Pedroia on the disabled list for all but three games this season.

An abbreviated return to the roster ended quickly and he had to re-engage rehabbing the knee. Pedroia isn't even in Boston having returned to his home in Arizona to focus on the process. The Red Sox have no timetable for his return just yet.

This injury puts the second baseman and the Red Sox in a difficult predicament. 

Pedroia turns 35 next month and is under contract through 2021 to the tune of $40 million over those three seasons. The team has had to make plans for another World Series run, possibly without him, signing free agent Brandon Phillips for depth behind a platoon of Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt. And the team is eyeing the trade market prior to the July 31st deadline.

One would think Pedroia is a player that just couldn't be considered for trade. After all, too many of us remember watching Wade Boggs get his 3,000th hit in a Devil Rays uniform. But can the team expect him back in September? Can they count on him next year and beyond? Will he be able to return to something close to his all-out hustling style of play?

Long rehabs, especially on knees, make for serious concerns.

Have we seen the last brilliance of The Laser Show? Will what Dustin Pedroia has to offer the next time we see him on the field pale in comparison to what we've come to know and expect?

Personally, this baseball fan isn't betting against him having witnessed his entire career and the way he played it. No position shift. No trade to a team at the bottom of the standings looking to sell a few more tickets.

The Red Sox know all too well what Pedroia has meant to their organization and that he very well could have more to offer. That's what they were banking on when they made him the first second baseman ever to sign a $100 million contract.

For now, however, the question still looms. The same question those Roman generals faced even in the midst of their greatest glory. Will someone else decide his fate or will he get to make that decision for himself?

In the case of  Dustin Pedroia let's all hope we have him around doing his thing for a while longer. Baseball is better with him as a part of it.

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