The Laser Show is Over: Boston Red Sox Star Dustin Pedroia Retires


Dustin Pedroia is my favorite baseball player.

I suppose, now though, I should say Dustin Pedroia was my favorite baseball player. Yesterday the man who dubbed himself “Laser Show” called it a career.

Pedey appeared in just nine games in the past three season as his failing knees wrecked comeback attempt after comeback attempt. It proved to be an ignominious end for one of the greatest and most-beloved Red Sox players of all-time. It is sad that Pedroia’s career end this way, but it is not surprising. As the line from Cocktail goes, “everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn’t end.” It is impossible to imagine Dustin Pedroia walking away from the game gracefully, leaving at the top of his powers like Ted Williams did. “Graceful” is not a word that comes to mind when thinking about the way Dustin Pedroia played. He played recklessly and with wild abandon. He played angry and defiant. He played with more swagger than his 5’7 frame could contain. He did not play gracefully.

He also played with joy. It isn’t easy find someone who can play with joy and anger at the same time. Michael Jordan did it and I think Steph Curry manages it at times. That rare combination is why writers of a certain generation lionized Pete Rose for so long. Pedro pitched with joy and anger, but anger was always dominant when he was on the hill. There was an angry edge to Big Papi’s game at times, but his joy overwhelmed that side of him. Mookie Betts plays with such grace and joy that it is almost impossible to see the scorching fire beneath it. In Pedroia, anger and joy lived in perfect harmony. He played like he wanted to destroy you and he played like a kid who just walked through the gates of Disney World.

Because he played that way and because he was small and white and looked like he should be teaching a gym class in an Ohio middle school, he was lionized for his hustle, for his grit, for his intangibles and leadership and heart. At Over the Monster, Matt Collins has a great explanation of how these qualities were both real and still probably a bit overwrought in the discussion.

Yes, the intangibles helped, but it feels like a disservice to him as an athlete to boil him down to that and that alone. He could do things physically at second base that I’ve never seen anyone do. He had a swing that could get power out of that small frame. That wasn’t intangibles. That was being bananas good at baseball. The dude could ball…

For a certain generation of fan, Dustin Pedroia was the Red Sox
A tribute to one of the all-time greats in the history of the franchise.
By Matt_Collins @MattRyCollins  Feb 1, 2021, 2:49pm EST

Pedroia won his 2008 MVP Award largely on the strength of “intangibles.” It was deserved- he led the American League in rWAR, hits, runs and doubles that season and was the best defensive second baseman in the league by a mile (only Chase Utley in the NL really compared to peak Pedey with the glove)- the argument for him always came back to his leadership, his hustle and how much his teammates looked to him. The Red Sox were defending champions that season and one of the best teams in the American League, winning 95 games and making to the ALCS, but they were also a team in crisis. Manny Ramirez sulked over his contract negotiations and completely quit on the team. David Oritz was at his absolute nadir coming off knee and wrist injuries and 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell was clearly entering the twilight of his career. Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis carried that team to within one game of the World Series. Youk was incredible at the plate and a stellar first baseman, but Pedroia was Red Sox that year. Youk earned just two first-place MVP votes despite a rWAR just 0.2 behind Pedroia. Pedey got sixteen first-place votes and the award. Such was the power of all the other things Pedroia brought to the table.

I doubt anyone ever wrote about Pedroia without mentioning his diminutive size or his hustle on the field, but for those who really loved watching him play, those were not the main attraction. Sure, I am a small guy and I love seeing small guys who can rake and gun down guys and first and dominate on the field. Pedroia gave you that. But this guy wasn’t David F-ing Eckstein. Pedey was a star. He had otherworldly talent. It was just not in the most obvious qualities, the ones that we are used to finding in exceptional ballplayers. His swing was a testament to that. Have you ever wondered why David Ortiz or Albert Pujols didn’t start their batting stance standing straight up then lunged forward with their entire body, launching themselves and the bat at the ball? Try imitating Pedey’s swing and it will be obvious. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You fell down didn’t you?

Dustin Pedroia had the kind of balance you only see in skiers and X-Games athletes. It is the only way he could possibly swing like. Even if Mike Trout could take a hack with Pedey’s mechanics and manage not to fall over onto plate, I seriously doubt he could do it and get his hands inside quick enough to turn on a fastball. That is something only Pedey could do. I hope Trout tries though, because a guy bigger than 170 lbs managing that kind of swing might hit the ball 700 feet. Pedey needed that cut to get it to go 400.

More than anything else, though, Pedey had baseball instincts the likes of which we have only seen a few times in recent history. He once told David Ortiz had fix his swing. David. Ortiz. A guy who hit 541 home runs in the show. He listened to Pedey. And IT WORKED!. He once helped David Price, a Cy Young winner, with his mechanics and that was in October 2018, just before Price pitched his way into the World Series MVP conversation. Pedroia was as quick getting to the ball as one who ever played the keystone, not because he was the fastest, but because he reacted instantly to every batted ball that came his way. He stole twenty or more bases four times his career, and 138 bases overall, all because he could read pitchers perfectly. He was caught just 46 times. He knew when to run. He knew when a young pitcher was going to try to beat him inside (veterans knew better). He was the master of positioning himself in the field and got to balls he no business fielding. He understood the game the way other players have.

These gifts made him a star, but it was hard to ignore the signs that this was going to end badly. In 2010, he missed the end of the season after breaking his foot with a batted ball. He had a wrist issue that hampered his production at the plate in 2012, but he gutted out solid batting numbers anyway. It seemed like he was always hurt, but he played well through the pain and bounced back to superstar levels when he was fully healthy. Injuries hampered him again in 2014, but once again, he bounced back and at in 2016, at age 32, he hit .318/.376/.449 and led the Red Sox to 93 wins and the AL East title. He will have interesting Hall of Fame case, one that is merited by a high peak, multiple awards and championships but held back by his lack of longevity.

It is easy to brood on how things might have ended differently if Manny Machado had not spiked him in 2017. But that way lies madness. Pedroia played the way he played and he played the most dangerous position in the game (apart from catcher, of course) and that made the way his career ended something of an inevitability. Maybe if that slide doesn’t happen, Pedey is on the field for the Red Sox incredible 2018 World Series run, but I doubt it. Time wasn’t on his side by 2017 and as wonderful as a last ride into the sunset would have been, Dustin Pedroia was never going to know when to quit. It was going to end badly, otherwise, it wouldn’t end at all.

There is a poetic nature to Manny Machado being the one to end Dustin Pedroia’s career. Machado is so many things that Pedroia is not. He is gifted in all the obvious ways a superstar player is expected to be gifted. He makes insane plays in the field and he makes ordinary plays look like they take no effort at all. He crushes moonshot home runs with a sweet, easy swing- no diving at the ball needed. He doesn’t hustle though. It’s not his thing. He doesn’t have that fire that Pedroia had and he doesn’t look like he is having fun like Pedey did. He is an incredible player and he carries himself with swagger, to be sure, but not the swagger of a man who would tell a reporter to have kids so he could tell them he saw him play. He is not Dustin Pedroia in all the ways that make Dustin Pedroia my favorite player.

I will miss Pedey. I have already missed him. I missed him down the stretch in 2018 when they had to suffer through Eduardo Nunez and Ian Kinsler in his place. I missed him this past season, when there were too few reasons to watch the Red Sox. Pedroia was worth watching every time. He was the laser show. I will miss that show.

Thoughts on the Celtics Beating by the Warriors


On Friday, I looked at the possibility of an exciting battle between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. On Friday night, these two teams delivered the opposite; The Warriors beat the Celtics 104-88. Eve that lopsided score that even undersells just how badly Boston was dominated by Kevin Durant and company.

There is no point recapping the game two days and an exciting Celtics win later, but I do want to share a few observations from this game because I think they are informative about this Boston team.

  • The Celtics are wildly uneven: The biggest issue was Boston was the lack of Jae Crowder and Al Horford. Without two of their top five, Boston had to depend on, Terry Rozier, Tyler Zeller and rookie Jaylen Brown for more than 20 minutes each and also saw double-digit minutes from Kelly Olynick and Gerald Green. Even without Horford and Crowder, Boston kept pace with the Warriors for the first two quarters, then came a 31-9 third quarter that buried Boston. After the game Isiah Thomas was left saying the team, including the coaching staff, gave up in this one and citing his own lack of playing time (he played 27:35) as evidence. That dig at his coaches might be more plausible if he wasn’t -20 for the game. Boston either couldn’t score or couldn’t stop the warriors from scoring at will. The distinction between the best lineups the Celtics can put on the floor and their plan-B options is huge and they can’t hang with the NBA’s top teams until they can bridge that gap some.
  • Isiah Thomas has crazy good handles: It should seem obvious that a 5’8 guard would be an elite ball-handler, but Thomas doesn’t get enough credit for it, in my opinion. In terms of ball-handling the ball, he belongs in the conversation with Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul for the best in the game. He isn’t muscling his way to the basket, after all.
  • This was not the game for Klay Thompson to get his groove back: Thompson has been the Warrior struggling the most this season, but you won’t know it from the game against Boston. Klay lead the Warriors in points with 28 and was second to Durant, who utterly dominated Boston on the boards and in the paint in +/-. Stopping Durant was a lost cause without Horford and Crowder, but Boston did a solid job containing Curry (16 points) and might have hung around longer if Thompson hadn’t murdered them in that dismal third quarter. Boston needed Thompson to stay cold to have a chance without two starters and he heated up in a major way.
  • Jaylen Brown is lost: Brown is got so much obvious ability, but there are far too many times when he just looks lost out there. If the Celtics are going to give him twenty-plus minutes a game at this point, they are going suffer for it. Thomas may have been right about the coach staff surrendering in this game and if so, they probably did the right thing for the future by giving Brown so much time, but it wasn’t easy to watch. The rookie is a major liability on defense and doesn’t seem to have any idea what role he needs to play on offense for long stretches. If this game was meant to push him forward, that’s not the worst thing that could come out of this loss, but if he is going to be a contributor in the future, he needs to take lessons like this to heart.
  • The Warriors are just really, really good: I’m serious. I think these guys have a future in this game.
  • No, really, they are awesome: Really, for everything that you can read into this game about the Celtics, the only real moral of the story is that Golden State has too many weapons for almost any team to stop and far too many for a depleted Celts squad. They are obviously pacing themselves now and it will be tons of fun to see these guys when summer rolls around.

NBA: Celtics vs Warriors Something Like a Preview


Tonight, the Boston Celtics are playing the defending Western Conference champions and undisputed Super-team, the Golden State Warriors. For both Celtics fans and Warriors  fans, this has to be considered must-see TV.

I count myself in both camps, though I am first and foremost a Celtics fans. I like the Warriors as well, primarily for Steph Curry, who is far more the kind of superstar basketball player I enjoy than Lebron James or Kevin Durant. I also enjoy the Warriors for their much-hyped style of play. I’m not ready to declare it game-transforming just yet, but watching a team that prioritizes three-pointers, spreading the floor and moving the ball around the perimeter is fascinating to me. The warriors are the gold standard for this style, but the Celtics play something similar, especially when Isiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder are firing on all cylinders.

I say Curry is the kind of star player I prefer not out of some quality judgment about his merits over those other guys, but because of my own idiosyncratic tastes for basketball players. I like the short guys. I’m short and slight and so I like the short, slight guys, especially when they are also awesome. I like Dustin Pedrioa and Jose Altuve. I like Wes Welker and Julien Edelman. I loved Earnest Givens. I was mildly obsessed with Spud Webb as a kid. Curry is not that short, really. He’s listed at 6’3, but that is NBA short and it is a hell of a lot more relatable to me than a monstrous physical specimen like Lebron or KD. I like both them as players and as people, but I am only really fascinated by players who don’t make sense in some way and Curry doesn’t make sense as the best player in the league in just the right way for me.

You can probably guess that if I like 6’3-otherwordly-shooting Steph Curry for the freakish way he succeeds, I am an even bigger fan of Boston’s 5’8 Isiah Thomas. Thomas was an All-Star last season and he has been even better over the first nine games of this season. If you were to be extremely generous, you might even call him the poor-short-man’s Steph Curry. Like Curry, he plays the point and has the elite handles and drive-to-the-hoop ability you expect from a player at that position. No one is like Curry when it comes to shooting beyond the arc, but Thomas is a strong three-point shooter and that adds an extra dimension to his game at the one that is not entirely unlike what Curry’s shooting ability gives Golden State.

These players and similarity is the main reason I am extremely excited about this game. Boston is far from being a Golden State clone; even before the addition of Durant, the Warriors were not a team that could just be copied. However, like GS, Boston features a point guard (Thomas) who is also the team’s top scorer. IT is averaging 27.1 points per game and has carried the Celtics at times with Al Horford and Jae Crowder out of the lineup. Curry is averaging 27.9 PPG, even without having to the carry the offense as much as he has in the past. Both teams start with the point guard and their shooting ability, forcing teams to step up on them and open up the court for other players, and both guys can make their way to hoop when the defense over-commits to the perimeter.

Behind Curry there has been Klay Thompson, one the greatest outside shooters in the history of the game in his own right. This season, Boston seems to have found a legit second option  in Avery Bradley. Bradley has been a good three-point guy, but now he also has the ability to create off the dribble, making him a much more versatile player on offense.  With the addition of Al Horford, the Celtics have a forward who excels at passing and can help create space for these two. If both he and Jae Crowder return for tonight’s game, the Celtics should have the defense to match up with Golden State as much as that can be done with Curry, Durant, Green and Thompson all on the floor.

If the Celtics strategy last season was to somewhat harass and contain Curry while shutting down Green and Thompson, now that won’t be enough. If Jae Crowder doesn’t play or is limited, the Celtics have a very difficult time matching up against Durant. If Al Horford is also out and the rebounding stays as bad as it has been, the Celtics are in serious trouble. Boston was expected to be a strong defensive team and when healthy they have the talent to be just that, but they haven’t been healthy yet this season and their offense has had to carry them.

If Boston can do something close to what they did against the Warriors on defense last season  with Durant in the mix, it will be a crazy game. They will still struggle with Durant, but fortunately, on offense, they seemed to be a step above where they were last season. In his masslive piece on the game, Tom Wetherhold pointed out that Warriors are not playing up to their 2015-2016 level on defense either  and predicted a shoot-out. The Warriors probably win any shootout scenario, but the possibility of that kind of game is certainly not a reason to turn this one off. Boston is a top-ten offense so far and that is without Crowder and Horford for a number of games. If they return, the defense and rebounding should come with them. They can press this Warriors team on both ends of the court and they can make life hard, even for Durant, even if they can’t stop him.

Adding Kevin Durant made the Warriors into the heels for most NBA-non-warriors fans. It reminds me most of when the already-fearsome 2003 Yankees added Alex Rodriguez. It just seemed like a Bridge too far. Even more than Lebron’s decision, it has created the impression that the league has a parity problem and that will play out in the next CBA. The Celtics beat the pre-Durant Warriors. They probably couldn’t do it in a seven-game series, but they could pull it off here and there. With Durant, it doesn’t seem possible, but even at 9-2 this season, the Warriors haven’t dominated quite as expected. If this team is just pacing themselves, they could drop this one to a finally-healthy Celtics team. If they do, they should hear even more questions about whether this Superteam isn’t gelling right. It may all be just hype, but it will probably happen anyway.

On the other side. Boston overachieved last season and now have to deal with expectations. Those expectations don’t include hanging with the Warriors, but Boston needs to justify their place in the first division in the East with something more than wins over weak teams. The Celtics are 6-5 and in the middle of the Eastern conference pack, and a few of those losses have been pretty ugly. If they want to make a statement- maybe to some trade candidates or upcoming free agents- this is the game for it. The stakes aren’t as high for the Warriors, but they have last season’s loss to avenge and their newly found role as the bad guys to live up to. Either way, it’s a game that you have to watch.