ANAHEIM -- Dustin Pedroia may be heading toward the first losing season of his life. He has certainly been peppered with more criticism than ever before. And now within the chaos that has accompanied one of baseball's most memorable trades, some are wondering if the second baseman might be the next building block to be pulled out from the Red Sox' foundation.
It all hasn't been lost on Pedroia. That's why he felt a message needed to be sent.
"I want to be a Red Sox my whole career," Pedroia said. "I want to be here during the World Series times, during the September collapse, the biggest trade, and I want to be here when we're world champs again. I want that. I've been through times when not a writer said a bad thing about me, or the talk show hadn't said a bad thing about me, and I want to be here when they say a bad thing about me. I look in the mirror every day and at the end of the season I'm going to look back and say I did everything I could to help us win. Were there parts I regret? Yeah, without question. There were a lot more than in the past, but I learned from those things. It's going to make me better, I believe that. Yeah, I have to believe that. It's going to."
Pedroia has found himself as one of the remaining cornerstones of the Red Sox' lineup, having watched three key elements of the team's projected batting order -- Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford -- all shipped to other organizations.
After going 1-for-3 with an RBI in the Red Sox' 10-3 loss the Angels Wednesday night, Pedroia is now hitting .282. His team is seven games under .500 (62-69), residing 10 games out of a playoff spot. There are only 31 games remaining, and the Sox' lineup included a majority of players who started the year in the minor leagues.
But while the Red Sox find themselves in their latest pit of despair, Pedroia is taking the moment to start laying the foundation for what he hopes are those better times. And, according to the second baseman, a big part of that construction includes wiping out whatever questions still linger from a sometimes controversial '12.
Before diving into the future, Pedroia wants to set the record straight regarding the past. Four issues. Four attempts at accepting responsibility. It's the path the 29-year-old hopes will help all involve taking one much-needed step forward:
Issue: On the morning of Patriots' Day, Pedroia sent a perceived shot across the bow of his new manager, Bobby Valentine. After learning of comments made by Valentine on Channel 7 the night before regarding Kevin Youkilis' "emotional" state, the second baseman came to the defense of his teammate. Standing in front of his locker Pedroia said, "I don't really understand what Bobby's trying to do, but that's really not the way we go about our business here."
Explanation: "Basically there are some things I regret saying. Obviously we're playing a 10 o'clock game in the morning, you get to the field and getting ready to play. I think me personally, I need to know what's going on. It seems like you get surprised when things are said or what's really going on. You kind of have blinders on. You're showing up that day to play the game. I didn't really know what was going on. All the media comes in and asks me if I had a second and start answering questions, start firing away. I didn't really have time to think about what was really going on. I think the stuff that came out of my mouth was not intended to cause a feud. I had no intention of doing that.
"Basically I was trying to get Youk's back and just say, basically, if someone had a problem with somebody just come to them and talk to them about it. It came out wrong. I messed that up. No question about it. Obviously I don't want to call out our manager by any means. I've never been put in that situation before and I didn't know how to respond. I regret that all that happened. I probably should have looked and saw what was going on and tried to check the pulse of how the fans and everyone was reacting to our team. I had no idea."
Issue: Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez are singled out by a Yahoo! Sports report for spearheading a July 26 meeting between the Red Sox players and the team's ownership. It was reported that both Pedroia and Gonzalez were among the most vocal in the get-together, which the report said was organized largely due to complaints about Valentine.
Explanation: "We've had those a ton of times. This is my sixth year and I've been in meetings like that a lot. One of the things we got, we got hot and cold plunges. It was kind of funny, Larry Lucchino gets all over me all the time because every meeting -- and we have two or three a year -- I would kind of poke my head a little bit and say, 'Is there anyway we can get hot and cold plunges for the everyday players,' because we have these two silver two tubs and Ells would be in them all the time. Because, you know, speed guys, his legs gets beat to the death so nobody could get in them. It took four or five years and we got them now, so eight players can get in each and get ready to play. Stuff like that.
"Obviously we weren't playing very good and this meeting was of bigger magnitude because we're all trying to figure out why we're not playing well. Why are we losing ballgames, and how come we're not like we were last year before September? Basically everybody spoke, everybody gave their opinions on why we weren't winning. My intentions when I spoke was to talk about how we can improve and be better. It had nothing to do with Bobby. How many pitches has Bobby thrown this year? How many hits has he got? When that thing came out … Obviously I understand two of the bigger players, it's a bigger story if you name the two. I get it. My intentions in speaking in that meeting was to try and help everybody get on the same page because you can't win if everybody is not pulling together. It doesn't matter if it's the No. 1 guy on the roster, the 25th guy on the roster, Billy [Broadbent] our video guy. Everybody needs to be pulling in the right direction to help us go where we want to go and that's to compete for a World Series every single year. I had no idea that that nonsense would come out and it was like a big deal to try and get Bobby fired. That's not the case."
Issue: In the same Aug. 14 Yahoo! Sports report, there was the description of a photo showing, according to the story, "Pedroia, notorious among teammates for his wit and humor ... in the foreground with a giddy smile, his tongue wagging and both thumbs up. Next to him is allegedly Valentine, face down on a table, apparently asleep. A caption accompanies the picture: 'Our manager contemplating his lineup at 3:30 p.m.' "
Explanation: "We were in Oakland and Bobby passed out, he was sleeping, taking a nap. We were all tired. We were grinding. David was right there and I took a picture, put two thumbs up, smiled and took a picture. I was trying to keep the guys … We weren't playing very well, trying to keep a loose atmosphere. That was it. You have to enjoy your life. It was funny. I'm not trying to be disrespectful. I had no idea … First off, I don't know how, maybe somebody was just joking around with somebody and told them, 'Hey man, this was hilarious,' and this guy thought it was a story I was disrespecting the manager. That was basically it. I was just trying to keep the guys loose, having fun, playing the game right. That's it.
"Listen, when you have a different manager, it's a different environment. I was basically thinking, 'This is fine.' Me and Bobby have built a relationship that's pretty darn good. The other night I led off the inning, struck out, and we ended up four or five, and Bobby looked at me and said, 'Hey, way to start it.' I'm laughing. It's normal as a team and normal when you have a good relationship to do things like that, because we're around each every day. We're in the fight together. When times are tough people would view that, 'Oh, can you believe he said this, or did this.' All of our intentions are good. We all want to win the game. Everybody wants to have fun doing it. It's not to disrespect anybody. I've never disrespected anybody."
Issue: A Boston Herald report stated that only four members of the Red Sox attended Johnny Pesky's morning funeral on Aug. 20, with the majority of the team managing to make it to the Beckett Bowl charity event later that night. Despite having a relationship with Pesky, Pedroia was not one of the players to make the ceremony.
Explanation: "We got in at 3:45 or 4 a.m. and we had a note on our chair. I didn't even get my luggage that day because my wife is nine months pregnant and I wanted to get home. I was under the impression when I got up -- her mom had left town the day before to go back to Chicago, so I've got to make sure I take care of Dylan, who's 3-years-old and flat-out wild. She can't handle him one-on-one right now. When I found out I didn't have any help to have somebody to help with him. We did that night because we knew about Josh's event for so long. So when Dylan woke up I took care of him.
"Johnny meant the world to me, just like he did to everybody. That's something I'm going to have to live with, not being at his funeral. It was just a tough situation. Then I got my wife out for a couple of hours at Josh's thing, she was starving and we went out to dinner real quick and went back to the event. When you look back, yeah, it looks bad, but I had no intentions of disrespecting anybody. That's all I can say. I wish everybody handled it differently. I wish we would have known earlier. Don't get me wrong, if we had known earlier then a lot of guys … It was tough on the timing. It was hard."
The mea culpas, explanations and lessons are what Pedroia is banking on helping steer perception back to what he's used to. But the infielder's evolution doesn't stop there.
Two different thumb injuries have tested Pedroia, with his first ailment -- tearing an adductor muscle on May 3 -- serving as the biggest obstacle. His batting average dropped to a season-low .260 on June 22, in large part to the continuing discomfort with his hands. He hit .194 in June, and kept going down an uncomfortable road when put on the disabled list for a good chunk of July.
It was a step away from what had become the norm for Pedroia, who bounced back from foot surgery the year before to play in 159 games in '11. That was the year he totaled his second-best OPS (.861) while managing career highs in home runs (21) and stolen bases (26).
Now, with the aforementioned issues in the rear-view, the new-and-improved Pedroia is eagerly anticipating his return to normalcy.
"I learned a lot from that," said Pedroia of his initial injury. "I learned sometimes you've got to be smart waiting a few extra days could mean a lot more to your team than sacrificing a whole month. I learned a ton about that. I learned a lot about trying to be a leader the right way. I watched [Jason Varitek] for so long, and he led by example so well you had to follow him. He never had to say anything to anybody because we were always demanded to play a certain way. There were some parts where I was vocal, but I think leading by example is the most important thing. I've always played as hard as I can, and people know that. I think just putting your head down and just grinding through it means more than mentioning things to guys and they see that.
"I understand now if you don't win in this environment … I basically understand you have to win in this environment. That's going to push me more as a player. I learned a lot. If you look at my season, personally, I do all I can to help us. The one month I played when I tore that muscle in my thumb, looking back I kind of talked Bobby and [GM Ben Cherington] into it with Ells being hurt, and Carl being hurt. It was just a freak deal. My hand slipped off the bat and I ended up getting jammed and tore that muscle. I felt like I could find a way to play through it. Bobby hit the nail on the head. He goes, 'Yeah, you could probably find a way to get out there and play, but you're not going to be you and you're not going to be one of the elite players and hit .300. You're probably going to go down to .250.' Right when he said that it was like a challenge. I kept telling him, 'I can find a way. I can find a way to help us win.' Whether it's one game, that could be the difference, like last year. I was supposed to miss six weeks, and I think I missed six days. Looking back, if I would have waited another week, I think I would have been a lot better off. If you look at that month I think I hit like .190, and even the first couple of weeks in July I didn't do that great."
Now comes the next challenge for Pedroia: No longer looking back.