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Why the Red Sox made an exception, and why Dustin Pedroia’s decision was ‘a no-brainer’

07.24.13 at 9:08 pm ET
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Thought that long-term deals were a thing of the past for the Red Sox? Thought that, once the team had liberated itself from the weight of the seven-year deals for Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, it was going to remain focused on shorter-term deals?

That is clearly the team’s preference — for most players. But the team nonetheless found itself celebrating an eight-year contract on Wednesday as a franchise watershed. And that is because the team added a player whom it knows, whom it trusts completely with that sort of length of commitment in the form of second baseman Dustin Pedroia, a player whose constancy of effort and commitment is literally worn on his uniform every night in the form of the dirt without which he is never seen.

Pedroia signed an eight-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox on Wednesday, accepting a contract that was considerably less than what the open market might have borne (indeed, it is considerably less than the $15 million a year that Ian Kinsler received from the Rangers while he was still under team control) in order to give him an excellent chance of finishing his career with the Red Sox.

The second baseman is a four-time All-Star, a former Rookie of the Year and MVP winner and a two-time Gold Glove winner. Still, he’s 29, and the deal covers not just the remainder of his prime years but also what is likely a considerable amount of the decline phase of his career, through his age 38 season.

And so, even with that below-market price point, the Sox would have been leery of giving such a long-term deal to most players. Pedroia is not most players.

“This contract is a culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people but the most important work was by Dustin,” said Sox GM Ben Cherington. “Since July 21, 2004, which is the date he signed his first contract with the Red Sox, he’s represented everything that we’d want a player to represent. He helps us win in all sorts of ways, as we know, with his bat, his glove, his baserunning. But he also impacts the organization in a lot of other ways. In the offseason, through his work, he’s an inspiration to others, to his teammates, to other players, and he sets an example for how he prepares and comes to spring training.

“From 2 o’clock to 7 o’clock every day, he prepares better than anyone in baseball and that makes a difference in our clubhouse. It’s noticed throughout the league and it’s obviously mixed in with quite a bit of humor throughout the day which helps over a 162-game season. He’s always accountable after the game, no matter what’s happened, which is not always easy in a place that’s as great, but also as demanding as Boston. And of course he’s made a huge impact on the community also. His generosity is felt throughout Boston and is an inspiration to many.

“This contract does represent an exception for us and as we told Dustin in spring training, he’s absolutely the right person to make an exception for. We’re thrilled that we’re sitting here today. This contract gives dustin a very good chance to finish his career in Boston and more importantly, for all of us, and I think Dustin also, it’s a another very important step for us towards building a great team year in and year out with him and that’s a goal we both share.”

For his part, Pedroia said that he did not hesitate at the prospect of limiting his financial windfall in order to cement his place with the Red Sox. He was not as interested in being recognized as the best-paid second baseman of all time as he was in being paid what he considered a fair amount in a place that he considers his baseball home.

“It was a no-brainer to me,” said Pedroia. “This was the place where they gave me the opportunity to play professional baseball. I want to make sure I do all I can to prove to those people that took a chance on me right. I’m not here to set markets or do anything like that. I want to make sure that the team I’m on wins more games than the other teams’ second basemen. That’s the way I look at it. Our job is to win games and that’s what I play for.

“This place is the only place I’ve known since I started playing professional baseball. It’s my home and I love every single part of being a Red Sox and I’ll do all I can for the remainder of my time here to try to help us any way I can to do the right things on and off the field and bring an attitude that the Red Sox are going to try to win every single year and win our last game,” said Pedroia. “I can’t wait to be here and put on that uniform every day. It means the world to me to be with my teammates and try to represent this city the right way.”

That heartfelt proclamation helps to explain why the Sox felt like Pedroia was the right kind of risk. Unlike free agents or those brought in from outside the organization, Pedroia knows the landscape of playing in Boston and has embraced its sometimes rocky contours.

“It’s not always the easiest place to play. We’ve seen over the years a lot of players come in with great track records but just not be able to do it here for whatever reason,” said Sox principal owner John Henry. “He’s done it here. This was the right deal.

“Almost from, at least by the beginning of the second year, it was clear that he’s the kind of player that every Red Sox fan wants to see in the field and at the plate and he embodies everything that we want to see from an ownership standpoint, from a GM, manager standpoint,” Henry added. “You heard what [former Red Sox manager Terry] Francona said about him. I think Tito used to say, if I had nine Dustins we’d win every game. He just embodies everything that we want in a player coming out here every day.”

 

Read More: ben cherington, Dustin Pedroia, John Henry,
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