Dustin Pedroia’s name won’t appear on a Hall of Fame ballot until November 2024. Ichiro Suzuki will be the big addition that year, but it could be Pedroia who sparks the most discussion.
Pedroia’s trophy case includes a Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, four Gold Gloves, and three World Series rings (although he played only six games in 2018, all in April). That’s a lot of hardware. Toss in four All-Star selections, too.
He also was a career .299 hitter with an .805 OPS and appeared in 51 playoff games. That’s all very impressive, as was his reputation for doing anything it takes to win.
The problem for Pedroia is he played in only 1,512 games and had 1,805 hits. That puts him on the same stage as a group of Hall of Fame second basemen that includes Bobby Doerr, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazzeri, Johnny Evers, and Jackie Robinson.
But it’s not very comparable with Craig Biggio and Roberto Alomar, the two second basemen most recently elected by the BBWAA. Alomar finished his career with 2,379 games and 2,724 hits. He also won two World Series and was a 12-time All-Star with 10 Gold Gloves. Biggio played in 2,850 games and had 3,060 hits and was a seven-time All-Star with four Gold Gloves.
Alomar somehow needed two ballots to get in and Biggio three.
Pedroia’s case will come down to how much weight a voter will give the MVP and overlook the injuries that ended his career.
Voters who place a lot of emphasis on WAR, an all-encompassing statistic, will need a lot of convincing. As tabulated by Baseball-Reference.com, Pedroia finished his career with 51.6 WAR. Jeff Kent, a former MVP, had 55.4 WAR and he’s been on the ballot for eight years without getting more than 32.4 percent of the votes. Chase Utley, who retired after the 2018 season, had 64.4 WAR. Ian Kinsler, who transferred from Arizona State after losing his job to Pedroia, had 55.2 WAR.
Go back in history and notable second basemen Bobby Grich (71.1), Lou Whitaker (75.1), and Willie Randolph (65.9) all had relatively high WAR numbers and lasted one year on the ballot.
Hall of Fame expert Jay Jaffe lists Pedroia as the 20th-best second baseman in history based on his JAWS formula. That sounds good, but it’s behind Grich, Utley, Whitaker, Randolph, and Kinsler.
That MVP in 2008 sets Pedroia apart. But does it outweigh all those games he missed? He only had two other years in which he received MVP votes. Alomar had seven and Biggio five.
As a voter, comparisons with players from the same era who played the same position are meaningful. Pedroia’s best hope would be to stay on the ballot and build over time as Edgar Martinez did. It should help him that the first ballot he will be on won’t be particularly crowded.
Outside of Ichiro, the top newcomer that year will be CC Sabathia and, to a far lesser degree, Kinsler. Jaffe predicts the holdovers will include Utley, Joe Mauer, Todd Helton, Carlos Beltran, Omar Vizquel, and Alex Rodriguez.
I suspect Helton could get in before that and Vizquel (domestic abuse charges) and Rodriguez (PED use) have issues. But if a voter goes five or six players deep, Pedroia should have a decent debut.
The other factor will be to what degree the Red Sox campaign for Pedroia. The late Dick Bresciani, the team’s vice president of public relations, played a role in persuading voters to pick Jim Rice.
It took Rice 15 years before he gained induction in 2009 with 76.4 percent. The rules have since changed and players get only 10 years on the ballot now if they remain above 5 percent.
The evidence points to Pedroia not getting in, and obviously the injuries are to blame. He averaged 130 games, 160 hits, and 3.95 WAR from 2016-17. Tack on three more years of similar production and he’s over 2,000 hits and has a career WAR well above 60.
Pedroia’s legacy is fine, even without Cooperstown. For now, Sam Kennedy said the Sox will have a day to honor Pedroia at Fenway Park once full capacity is allowed.
The Sox retired No. 34 for David Ortiz after he retired, and doing the same for Pedroia would make sense.
Dodgers all in with Bauer
Trevor Bauer joined a Dodgers rotation that already had Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, David Price, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin.
They’re protected against injuries and overuse, and if a need arises, they could trade May or Gonsolin to fill it.
As other teams fight for a playoff spot, the Dodgers should have the luxury of a rested rotation lined up for the postseason with the ability to drop three quality pitchers into the bullpen.
No team has repeated as World Series champs in 20 years, but the Dodgers are in position to win two or three in a row.
▪ The Mets were prepared to spend big on Bauer. One Plan B they have discussed is putting Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field as a way of making all their pitchers better.
▪ With the trade of Alex Cobb, the Orioles have one player on their roster (Chris Davis) making more than $4.75 million. Davis is on the books for $17 million. Beyond that, only Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander, Pedro Severino, Freddy Galvis, and Yolmer Sanchez are making $1 million or more.
▪ When the Brewers signed Kolten Wong for two years and $18 million on Wednesday, it matched what the entire National League Central had spent on free agency to that point.
▪ Heath Hembree landed with the Indians on a minor league deal. His adjusted ERA in seven seasons for the Red Sox was 122. Hembree was a lot better in Boston than he got credit for.
Red Sox give Thomas chance to shine
The Red Sox naming University of Michigan volunteer assistant coach Ako Thomas to the staff at Double A Portland was one sentence on a long news release issued earlier this month.
It may have been one of their best moves of the winter.
“Ako fielded a lot of calls from major league teams this offseason,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “The Sox were very thorough with him. This is somebody with a tremendous work ethic and energy and a positive life force. He has so many intangible qualities. They picked the right guy.”
Thomas, 24, played four seasons at Michigan, starting 204 games. The 5-foot-7-inch infielder joined the coaching staff in 2020 while he finished his degree.
Michigan is one of the nation’s top programs on the field and in its use of technology and data as coaching tools. Thomas joins the Red Sox well versed in how to transmit that knowledge to players. He’s also studied the mental skills aspect of coaching.
“Ako played with and coached players who were high-level prospects, which is what they’ll have at Double A,” Bakich said. “He’ll be able to relate to them and make them better.
“He has the ability to communicate advanced principles in a way that players can understand them. He has a bright future in the game.”
A few other observations about the Red Sox:
▪ New utility player Kiké Hernandez grew up around baseball. His father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., was a part-time scout for the Pirates and his godfather, Jorge Posada Sr., was a longtime scout, primarily with the Rockies and Blue Jays.
When Kiké was in grade school, his father spent a season coaching with Caguas in Puerto Rico’s winter league. Kiké was a batboy and idolized the players, including shortstop Alex Cora.
“I was obviously in awe being around big leaguers,” said Hernandez, who also has known quality control coach Ramon Vazquez for most of his life.
For Hernandez, signing with the Red Sox was more than seeking an opportunity to become an everyday player. It was personal, too.
“It’s going to be a little more comfortable when you have some sense of family in there,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez flourished under Dave Roberts during his time with the Dodgers, but getting to play for a fellow Puerto Rican has meaning.
“Coming over and playing for Alex, I don’t know if I can say it’s a dream come true because when I was a kid I was just imagining myself playing in the big leagues,” Hernandez said. “I never really thought about who the manager was going to be. But it’s pretty close.
“Alex and I have a long relationship. I’m really looking forward to getting to know Alex as a manager. I know him as a dude and I want to get to know him as a manager.”
▪ There’s really no such thing as a bad one-year contract. But the Sox are placing a pretty healthy bet on Garrett Richards.
The 32-year-old righthander is guaranteed a minimum of $10 million, not bad for a pitcher who has averaged 7.8 starts from 2016-19 because of injuries and started 10 games for the Padres last season before being sent to the bullpen in September.
The Sox are banking on data that shows Richards is in the top 3 percent of fastball spin rate and top 1 percent on curveball spin rate. Richards had a 3.15 ERA from 2014-18, so the potential is there.
Amusingly, Richards is not an adherent of analytics.
“To be honest with you, I’ve really not paid attention to it,” he said. “I don’t focus on it at all.”
Richards said he’s open to learning how the data can make him better. That’s sure to be a topic the Sox will broach.
▪ The Red Sox held a virtual town hall event Thursday with Cora, Sam Kennedy, and Chaim Bloom. The biggest news that emerged was Kennedy saying the team had a “sincere hope” of having fans at Fenway for the April 1 home opener.
The Sox have a plan in place for hosting a limited number of fans but need permission from the city and state to move forward. That the Sox play outdoors plays in their favor, as opposed to the Bruins and Celtics.
Rocky times in Colorado
The Colorado Rockies often seem to exist only in theory. They’ve never won a division title and haven’t won a playoff game since 2009.
That’s not going to change any time soon given the embarrassing trade of Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals.
Colorado sent the All-Star third baseman to St. Louis for lefthanded swingman Austin Gomber and four middling prospects. The Rockies also included $51 million in the deal.
Arenado has the right to opt-out of his contract after the 2021 and ’22 seasons. But the Cardinals believe, much as they did with Paul Goldschmidt, that he’ll want to stay.
“That’s my goal. I plan on staying here for a long time,” the 29-year-old Arenado said after the trade.
The Rockies are no longer committed to paying Arenado, a savings of roughly $121 million over time. But what evidence is there that general manager Jeff Bridich will use that money wisely?
Bridich invested in free agents Ian Desmond and Daniel Murphy and an assortment of veteran relievers in recent years. None worked out. He also let DJ LeMahieu get out of town as a free agent. All LeMahieu has done since is give the Yankees a .922 OPS.
In theory, the Rockies could use the money to sign 28-year-old shortstop Trevor Story to a long-term deal. But why would Story want to stay with such a dysfunctional organization?
Arenado agreed to his latest deal in February 2019. A year later, he was feuding with Bridich over the direction of the team and wanted out.
“Over time, sometimes relationships change. This is not an easy industry to be in. People are competitive,” said Bridich, a former Harvard player. “Human beings change over time, our feelings and what’s important to us. Sometimes there are complications.”
Owner Dick Monfort lamented the trade but said his fear was Arenado would opt out of his contract after the season and the Rockies would be left with nothing.
Monfort tried to spin it like Arenado made the decision for the team by wanting a trade. But Plan B could have been to fire Bridich and hire somebody as GM who Arenado would learn to trust. Then take the risk that Arenado wouldn’t walk away from a guaranteed $132 million over five years.
In the end, Monfort picked Bridich over Arenado. Monfort suggested he could fire himself as CEO, which wouldn’t be a bad idea.
He also circled back several times to say how good he thinks the Rockies are. Never mind that they are 28 games under .500 the last two seasons and just traded their best player.
There go the Rockies, a mile high and out of sight.
The Players Association is opposed to expanded playoffs because it believes teams would be less inclined to invest in their rosters if there were more opportunities to advance. And maybe that would be true. But isn’t it possible that it would inspire mid-level teams to add payroll knowing they had a better chance at the postseason? As one GM mentioned, it can’t be a good feeling for the Diamondbacks looking up at the Dodgers and Padres in the National League West. But knowing there was still a chance even if you finish third could motivate a cautious owner. MLB also could change the format to give a greater advantage to teams that win their division or finish with the best record. Another executive suggested that an expanded field would prod rebuilding teams to flip the switch to being competitive — and increase payroll — more quickly than do now . . . MLB hired longtime major leaguer Rajai Davis as a senior director of on-field operations, which will get him involved with rules changes, along with mentoring Black players at the amateur and minor league levels. Davis, who is from New London., Conn., was a 38th-round draft pick who played 14 seasons for eight teams, including the Red Sox in 2017. The widely respected Davis, 40, could have a future as manager, coach, or executive if he wants. MLB also hired former Boston College righthander Joe Martinez as senior director of on-field strategy. He brings an interesting background to the job, having played professionally for 10 years before spending five years with PricewaterhouseCoopers in mergers and acquisitions . . . Happy birthday to Carney Lansford, who is 64. He was with the Red Sox from 1981-82 and hit .317 with an .814 OPS. The Sox traded him to the Athletics for Tony Armas as part of a five-player deal. Lansford gave Oakland 27.3 WAR over 10 years. Armas had a huge year for the Sox in 1984 (43 homers, 123 RBIs) then left as a free agent after the 1986 season.