By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
The Red Sox game four loss to Houston that closed out the ALDS three games to one in favor of the Astros by the score of 5-4, was in many ways a microcosm of the 2017 season. Playing in front of a seemingly half-filled Fenway Park early in the game, starter Rick Porcello gave up the prerequisite first inning run that this series ostensibly demanded from the start, and yet they found a way to fight back as they did during the regular season, coming within only six outs away from forcing a deciding game five in the Lone Star State.
However, as has happened all year in differing ways, they were their own worst enemy at crucial times during the game. They once again ran into silly outs (sending Mitch Moreland home on a single to short left field led to the 29th time Sox runners were gunned down at the plate this season, the most in MLB) they failed to hit with men in scoring position (see Jackie Bradley Jr. and Dustin Pedroia taking close pitches for strike three with the base loaded in the bottom of the second), and their starting pitching let them down when they needed it most (only three innings and two runs allowed by Porcello).
Mitch Moreland was thrown out at home to end the 3rd. The Red Sox had 29 runners thrown out at the plate in the regular season, most in MLB.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 9, 2017
Add to this formula for failure, manager John Farrell’s Grady Little moment when he allowed an obviously tired Chris Sale – who relieved Pretty Ricky in the 4th, and gave him four superb innings in relief – to start the 8th, only to give up a missile to tie the game at three to the first hitter he faced, Alex Bregman.
While the lack of a move to Addison Reed to start the inning – especially, in hindsight, since closer Craig Kimbrel had nothing, and surrendered a run in each of his innings of relief – may have cost Manager John his job, no won lost more this season than the guy everyone thought would be the clubhouse leader in spring training – Pedroia.
Pedey, the Laser Show, Dusty Two Sacks, the Muddy Chicken; Pedroia has gone by many different names during his 12 years in Boston. However, there is one that has seemingly never fit until this season, Petulant Punk.
Whether it was the incident in early April in Baltimore, when he yelled to Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado “It’s not me, that’s them,” after Sox reliever Matt Barnes buzzed a fastball behind Machado’s head in retaliation for a questionable slide that aggravated his surgically repaired right knee earlier in the series. Or the peevish “Can I go home?” response he offered, when pressed with questions about the fallout surrounding the incident; and Mookie Betts getting hit due to the bad blood between the clubs, at his locker when the O’s came to Boston in early May.
There were the reports of him being one of the teammates who cheered pitcher David Price’s tirade on the team charter, when he accosted NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley in June. And then, the silly Al Haig moment when he stepped in front of reporters when the story wouldn’t die in late July and said, “For whatever people say from the outside: ‘we don’t have a leader.’ I’m standing right here. I’ve been here for a long time. We’re in first place. That’s it. Write what you guys want. Here I am. See anybody else standing here doing this? Do you? Nope. That’s a fact. There’s your source. From the mouth.”
It is safe to assume that he meant to say, “horse’s mouth,” but either way, he came off looking like a horse’s ass in doing so.
Dubbed so aptly as the “Little Leader,” by 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Adam Jones, Pedroia looks as if time in Boston is being tainted by his actions – and lack thereof, in the Eckersley affair – now that he no longer has David Ortiz to be the Batman to his Robin. And at the age of 34, and having a chronically injured knee, the Laser Show that was once highly regarded almost universally by Red Sox fans, may just be seeing the curtain come down in a most inauspicious way.
Pedroia had his last chance to pout this season, when he chose to take a borderline pitch with two strikes, and the bases loaded in the second inning of an elimination game. When asked about why he didn’t swing at a pitch so close to the plate – like you are taught to beginning in Little League with two strikes – the pint-sized pivot man chose to pass the buck.
“Honestly, go look at it,” he said, as if expecting sympathy. “I just know my first at-bat; he gave (Astros starter Charlie Morton) a fastball off the plate away, a lot off, so I was under the assumption that you’re not going to give in off the plate. But it’s a part of the game. Obviously, you’re trying to compete and the guy’s got good stuff, so it makes it difficult to compete when you’re trying to cover that much.”
Such comments shouldn’t be surprising coming from a guy who was supposed to be a leader on a team, that all too often this season, has offered excuses instead of taking ownership of their errors. That is one of the biggest reasons that Manager John will be looking for work shortly, and why Pedroia dropped down to his actual height in the eyes of many who once held him in a lofty status.
This off season will be a challenging one for president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski. Not only will he likely be looking for a new manager for his ball club; he will need to find a power bat they so desperately need, and a leader to take control of a clubhouse that is currently void of one.
Pedroia was supposed to help fill the leadership role that Ortiz carried for so many years for three World Series Championship winners. However, instead of stepping up and taking his field generalship on the diamond into the clubhouse, the only title Pedroia earned this season was Captain Chaos.