Of course in Red Sox Nation we are not surprised that our Happy Scrappy Hero Pup has been named Rookie of the Year for the American League. From the moment his bat woke up in May to the revelation that he played the end of the season and postseason with a broken hamate bone, we've known Dustin was the real deal.
But it's always nice to see the rest of the league acknowledge that, too.
Dustin grew on me quickly this year. I'd heard his name mentioned last year and a little bit in 2005 as he made his way through the minors, but hardly knew anything about him until his callup last year. And it wasn't until this year--probably mid-year, to tell the truth--that I took my eyes off the Sox pitching staff long enough to think to myself, I need to know more about this firecracker at second base.
The moment that first really bonded me to Dustin was when he jumped between an umpire and a raging Jonathan Papelbon on June 28:
My admiration for him easily tripled in the moment when he put himself into the middle of that mess, when I saw the look on his face--concerned, maybe even alarmed, but ultimately calm. He stepped in and saved his teammate from himself, and in the process, probably saved the whole game. The ease with which he took that leadership was a great thing.
Then there was the classic piece posted at Hacks with Haggs that we all read on Aug. 26:
Here’s our first meeting: he walks in and I’m in this little cubby hole office that I have in the stadium and he’s just got this plain white cut-off undershirt on. He walks by and he’s this pale white kid who is about 5-foot-6 and 130-pounds and he’s this big hullabaloo recruit. People are coming up to me and going ‘this is your big recruit shortstop?’
I’m like okay and then Pedroia walks by, flexes and then says ‘Hey Murph check out these guns, man.’ The guy has the biceps of a six-year-old, he has no business wearing a shirt with cut-off sleeves and I’m getting blinded by the shine from the head of a college freshman that’s going bald; then he just proceeded to go out and make every play.
"Hey Murph, check out these guns, man.' It still makes me laugh out loud reading it. Because I can picture exactly how Pedroia said it, with wide-eyed mock seriousness--he has as pitch-perfect a sense of humor as any ballplayer I've ever seen:
The only way I can really describe it is that Dustin Pedroia is witty. Take, for example, the stories of palling around with Brady Quinn, bonking ping-pong balls off his forehead. Or famously telling his college coach, "check out these guns." Dustin Pedroia seems like the kind of person who knows all the assumptions you're going to make about him, and gives it right back to you in such an over-the-top way it becomes a joke.
The more I watch him in the field, the more I see that wit come across in other ways, ways that don't involve words. He's a comedic baseball player, but not in the Manny way--it's in a wry, audacious, winking kind of way. A gleeful, maniacal, crazy-like-a-fox kind of way.
Which of course leads me to the example of Dustin's charm I always come back to, possibly the most unforgettable regular-season episode for me this year, on Aug. 26 against the Devil Rays:
The best thing about this whole game, in my opinion, was Dustin Pedroia's trip around the bases in the seventh. He was aided mightily by the shoddy fielding of the Devil Rays, but also was carried in large part on wings of his own sheer audacity, rounding first after a little hit screaming something at Alicea on his way by, something which looked to me like "I'm going." He coasted in to second on his belly, just barely beating the throw.
A play later, he was coasting in to third in much the same position, although this time even more awkwardly, flopping and flailing and grinding along the ground on his sternum. While dusting himself off, the NESN cameras captured him clearly saying to DeMarlo Hale, almost in surprise, "That fuckin' hurt."
I know I've made reference to that particular story about 1,284 times on this blog since then, but really? I am still not over it.
I'm glad the Rookie of the Year voters aren't over it, either. And I really think Rookie of the Year is the best award for Dustin to win. Because it feels sometimes like we're still just getting to know him, but the Rookie award seals what we've suspected all along: he's only just getting started.