Dustin Pedroia is right — he’s always had to prove himself.
And that won’t stop now.
Whether it was as a kid, as a college player, or as a pro, he was always too this, or not enough that.
The only thing he never had to prove was the size of his heart — and now the size of his wallet. When Pedroia punches in those digits of his ATM card he’s going to be impressed with the balance. He will have the last laugh on everyone.
A senior Red Sox official Tuesday said that the second baseman is close to agreeing on a seven-year, $100 million contract extension through 2021.
Maybe that year he can tell us, “So you didn’t think I could play when I was 38, huh?”
Pedroia is 29 now. Age is often a factor with most players from their mid-30s on, although it was never an issue for Derek Jeter, who plays shortstop. The Red Sox feel Pedroia is their Jeter and he very well may be. But 2021 is a long way off.
Pedroia plays the game hard, 100 miles per hour. Can he continue to do that into his mid-to-late 30s? Or is this simply a “thank-you-Dustin” contract that evens out because he’s playing for below-market money now?
As content as Pedroia was when he signed his last contract and agreed to a deal that would pay him $10 million a season through 2014 and a club option for 2015, he sounded pretty grateful again. He told his agents, the Levinson Brothers, he wanted to stay in a Red Sox uniform for the remainder of his career.
He didn’t need to wait for Yankee Robinson Cano’s free agent deal. He heard the right numbers and the right number of years and he pounced, just as he did the first time.
So much for the Red Sox showing restraint in future contracts. They decided to go seven years on Pedroia, and now we’ll see how long they are willing to go with Jacoby Ellsbury, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
This is not to say the Red Sox aren’t a little apprehensive about giving that many years to a middle infielder who plays so hard and could break down along the line. They just feel this is the player they would like to be the symbol of their team, their poster child, their “living proof” that he is to be their leader.
Don’t be surprised that after David Ortiz retires Pedroia ends up wearing the captain’s “C” that Jason Varitek wore.
What will Pedroia look like at 38?
Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg played until he was 38. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan made it to 41.
Future Hall of Famer Jeff Kent played until he was 40, and from age 38 to 40, while certainly not as productive as his early years with San Francisco, he hit 14, 20, and 12 homers, and had averages of .292, .302, and .280.
There’s no doubt there will be a decrease in offensive and defensive skills late in Pedroia’s career, but this is something the Red Sox feel they can live with.
“It’s not official or anything,” Pedroia said. “The club will announce that. But it’s not going to change who I am or my role with this team.
“My job is to go out there and try to help us win a game every day and try to do all I can to make that happen.”
The Red Sox had Pedroia under control through 2015 with that team option, worth $11 million.
With this new agreement, starting in 2015 he will receive an average of $14.28 million a season with a full no-trade clause.
For now, it’s the first $100 million deal for a second baseman in history.
Pedroia wants to be in the same uniform as — and perhaps someday be enshrined in Cooperstown with — Bobby Doerr and go down as one of the greatest Red Sox second basemen ever. Doerr spent all of his 14 seasons with the Sox. He was 33 when he retired following the 1951 season.
“It’s really important,” said Pedroia of remaining in Boston. “The Red Sox drafted me and a lot of teams passed on me because of my size and stuff like that. It’s pretty important. That’s why I want to work as hard as I can to make sure that they made the right choice in drafting me and me being here my whole career.
“I’m a pretty loyal guy. I love being here. I live and die by this team. It’s important to me to be here my whole time. I want to be in a place that’s special to me and this place has been that.”
The Red Sox got a bargain when they signed Pedroia to his last contract, for six years and $40.5 million, which took effect in 2009.
And they probably feel this is a bargain as well because Cano could get double the money if a team such as the Dodgers gets involved.
The Red Sox made an exception to their recent statements that they don’t want to exceed five years with a player.
Pedroia is the exception because they believe he’s an exceptional player and the face of the Boston Red Sox.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.