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Don't let Pedroia go the way of Nomar

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 23, 2012 07:25 AM

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I don't know whether Dustin Pedroia honestly likes Bobby Valentine or loathes him, though it's probably a safe guess that the truth falls somewhere on the latter half of that wide spectrum in between.

I think we all know that he misses his boss/buddy Tito and resents how his departure went down, though apparently he at least is willing shoot the breeze in the dugout with Valentine for what looks like a barely disguised all-is-well, nothing-to-see-here photo op.

Also, I do know this for sure:

If you're taking Valentine's side over Pedroia's, I've got to question not only what you've been watching the previous five years, but whether you were watching at all.

Of all of the maddening story lines and plot twists surrounding this team's ongoing tribute to last September, the most frustrating has been the backlash against Pedroia. I recognize that he hasn't been perfect, that his "that's not the way we do things here'' comment after Valentine questioned Kevin Youkilis's commitment was a poorly-chosen string of words.

Beyond that, the perception that the inmates are running the asylum irks fans as much as when a player making an eight-figure salary cadillacs it on a ground ball, and so his image was dented further when he was fingered as a ringleader and featured speaker at the now-infamous "No Bobby V Allowed" meeting in New York.

It's fair to presume his contributions were somewhat harsher than suggesting that candle sticks would make a lovely parting gift for the passive-aggressive manager.

garciaparranomar823.jpg.jpgYes, Pedroia has made some missteps this season. But I'd argue that they're the first he's made since his rookie-of-the-year, championship-winning, introducing-Jeff-Francis-to-the-laser-show breakthrough in 2007, and doesn't that count for something? Shouldn't the reservoir of goodwill he has built up during his time here count for a lot? Pedroia's approach to the game -- the way he plays, the way he produces, the way he conducts himself as a teammate -- has been as close to a fan's ideal as any Red Sox player since ... well, since Nomar Garciaparra's heyday.

Obviously, the Nomar parallel is not a perfect one, but don't tell me it hasn't crossed your mind lately, especially since we've been reminded during the eulogies for and reminiscences of Johnny Pesky that the admiration was mutual among the pair of great Red Sox shortstops. If you were on board with this team in the late-'90s, when it felt like Pedro, Nomar and 23 role players against the Yankee juggernaut, you require no reminder of just how beloved he was.

It changed because he became injury-prone, the bitterness and paranoia that he often masked when the red light was on seeped into the public consciousness, and his shocking midseason departure in 2004 is remembered as a catalyst for the magic that would take place that October. It should have ended better for him here, and it was mostly his fault that it didn't.

If Pedroia is someday traded because, like Nomar before him, the Red Sox general manager doesn't believe he'll be durable going forward, well, that might be able to comprehend. He's had his share of serious injuries in recent years, and given that he knows no other way to play but all-out, all the time, a decline in his early 30s would not be a shock.

But wanting him traded because he's had some issues with a manager who should not be here beyond this year and probably should not have been here in the first place, that's just nuts. Pedroia is not Nomar. He's not going to pout during a crucial game in New York. That's not who he is, and maybe I spent too much time listening to sports radio -- I do spend too much time listening to sports radio -- but it's downright dumbfounding that a reminder is necessary. If anything, his frustration stems from the same place yours does -- he wants this franchise to knock off the nonsense and the losing and get back to how it used to be, when championships were the priority.

I'm curious whether Dan Shaughnessy's column Tuesday, where he essentially let Pedroia tell his side of things, improves his current public perception. Pedroia said the right things, and I have no doubt he was sincere when he said, "It’s been difficult. But our fans are smart. I’m sure they understand. They know what kind of guy I am. They should."

They should. But if any of them would choose Bobby V. over Pedroia for no other reason than that you're supposed to respect your boss, as wrong for this situation as he may be, they don't.

Even during this miserable season in which just about everyone of any previous status is complicit, it's ridiculous that a reminder is necessary regarding all that Pedroia has done right.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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