Big winnings, but no change
He says his life hasn't changed since he was named MVP.
Dustin Pedroia is still a workout warrior at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Arizona. He still lives in the same pad when he's in Boston. He still has that little chip on his shoulder. And he hasn't gotten any taller. Heidi Watney still towers over him when he's interviewed by NESN.
Pedroia was presented with the American League Most Valuable Player Award at the 70th annual Boston Baseball Writers dinner at the Westin Waterfront Hotel last night. He insisted he's the same guy we knew and loved before he was MVP.
"Nothing's changed," Pedroia said. "I'm a normal guy. I don't need anything. I signed that contract. It's not like I need anything. I still live in my same house. I still work out even harder because I'm motivated by winning, so nothing changes me."
Impressive. A lesser man would walk around throwing stuff back in the faces of those who doubted him. There's got to be a temptation to flip off the legion of critics who thought he'd never make the grade. Pedroia chooses to take the high road. From down low.
"I'll remember, obviously, who doubted me," he said with a smile. "But it's not like I'm out to whack them and then cross them off the list, you know what I mean? I let 'em know. That's what's good about our business. You guys get to write whatever you want and crush people, and then when we do good, we get to crush you for writing stupid [expletive]."
Pedroia was asked about Rocco Baldelli, John Smoltz, the Yankee spending spree, the Jason Varitek radio silence, the crushing Game 7 against the Rays, and the Red Sox' place in the AL East. He handled all the questions with grace and dignity.
"I think we had those blinders on before Game 7," he said. "We were down, three games to one, and made that big comeback and won that game, so when you get to Game 7, you kind of feel like you're in the same shoes. You've got to win; otherwise, they move on. It was just one of those things where we didn't hit that game. Matt Garza threw the ball great. You definitely think about it pretty much every day of the offseason."
And the Yankees' almost half-billion-dollar spending spree?
"They got better," Pedroia acknowledged. "They went out and got great, quality players. But the core guys that we had won a World Series and came one game away from a World Series with a ton of injuries. With the tweaks we did, we definitely made ourselves better, and hopefully, that will put us over the hump."
Finally, we asked him about himself. There are, after all, some new things in Pedroia's life. He is on the cover of MLB '09 The Show - the sports equivalent of making the cover of the Rolling Stone. He also was invited (with his wife) to a White House dinner last weekend, along with fellow baseball guys Lance Berkman, Aaron Boone, Ryan Dempster, Joe Maddon, and Buck Showalter.
"It was fun," Pedroia said. "It was awesome. You get a chance to see the president and he's just a normal guy. He loves baseball. Everybody enjoyed it. He showed us the Oval Office and gave us a speech. It was awesome. It was wild. He took his dogs out. He was a normal guy. We had shrimp cocktail, steak, vegetables. It was quite an experience meeting those guys and meeting the president."
And the video tribute?
"Hopefully, I'm better in the [video] game than I was before," he said, still sounding like your high school son's best friend. "It's going to be awesome. I play a lot of video games myself, and a lot of my friends are excited. It's pretty cool and an honor to be on the cover."
Truly. An honor. Almost Bradyesque. But not quite. The Patriots' Page Six QB went metrosexual/international after his Super Bowl wins. Tom Brady was featured at the State of the Union address. He dated starlets and supermodels. He did ads for ridiculously expensive watches and private jets. He had a papal audience.
"I don't need that," said Pedroia. "I'm all right with the pope."
That's our guy. Dustin Pedroia is all right with the pope. And he still does cheesy commercials for a local tire company.
"I'm going to continue the Sullivan Tire commercials for two years," he said. "So you guys get to watch me do terrible commercials for the next couple of years. That's about it."
That's the beauty of Boston's second baseman. The bigger he gets, the more he stays the same. He's forever 5 feet 6 inches. And that's a good thing.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.