Dustin Pedroia winces in pain after being taken out by Manny Machado Friday night. (Evan Habeeb/USA Today Sports)
Dustin Pedroia wasn’t a mystery before Friday night. But what the Red Sox’ 2-0 loss to the Orioles did was offer a pretty powerful reminder of the second baseman’s reality. (For a complete recap of the game, click here.)
The minute that play — where Manny Machado slid into Pedroia in the eighth inning, leaving the second baseman on the ground in agony — was over, the importance of the player to the team came into light.
The pitcher, Joe Kelly, started yelling towards Machado. The player who threw the ball to Pedroia not quick enough to avoid Machado’s questionable slide, Xander Bogaerts, raced over, immediately showing his concern. The manager, John Farrell, sought retribution via some sort of umpire ruling. The infield coach, Brian Butterfield, continued his displeasure with the umpiring crew to the point of being ejected before the next half inning could get going.
And then there was the team, the Red Sox.
The Red Sox and Orioles don’t like each other. The managers don’t like each other. Machado is a ultra-talented, sometimes misguided player who, while seemingly sorry after his cleats had embedded themselves in the side of Pedroia’s surgically-repaired knee, was clearly the identified villain.
This happens in baseball. But this was Pedroia, and the visitors knew why that made it different. That’s why when the final out was made you had almost an entire Red Sox team (including manager and coaches) not immediately adjourn to their clubhouse, but instead stay parked in their positions, staring daggers out at the Orioles.
The symbolism of the guy who is often times all that is wrong with baseball (Machado) damaging the guy who is mostly all that is right is baseball (Pedroia) was not lost at this moment, or immediately after.
There was the fired up manager.
“He’s sore right now,” Farrell told reporters. “Had a chance to talk to him briefly after we came in. We’ll certainly re-evaluate him tomorrow for his availability but that probably could have been a whole lot worse from what we’re seeing right now in the training room. So extremely late slide and the argument at the time was that if the rule is in place to protect the middle infielder, then it didn’t work tonight. I know there’s a component to the rule that says he’s got to deliberately and willfully attempt a double play. When you’re cleaned out, beyond second base, and the runner never held second base completely, to me the rule failed tonight. … It was a late slide.”
There was the admiring young shortstop.
“It’s probably the main play I regret in my life right now,” an emotional Bogaerts told reporters. “Should have probably gone to first base right there or charged the ball. I probably had to do something different than I did so that had never happened.”
And, finally, came Pedroia.
You want a blueprint of how you might want the player to react to such a situation, you got it with what the hobbled second baseman offered the assembled media.
“Listen, man, I’ve turned double plays in the big leagues for 11 years. That’s my job. That’s not the first time I’ve been hit. It won’t be the last. It’s baseball, man.”
“I can’t speak for them. I just know what my job is. I signed up for that. That’s the way I look at it.”
“I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the major leagues for 11 years. I don’t need the [expletive] rule, let’s be honest. The rule is irrelevant. The rule is for people with bad footwork, and that’s it.”
“I’m pissed we lost the game. My job is to get taken out and hang in there and turn double plays. That’s how you win games. I’m not mad. I’m mad we lost the game. We didn’t score any runs. That’s what I’m mad about.”
This story is hardly finished. Machado will most likely ultimately be retaliated against, and the the teams will continue their bad blood. But Chapter 1 was pretty important.
If anybody was looking for the face of this franchise, it could be found on the trainers table immediately after his team stared down the club that put him there.
“It was a hard slide. I saw he passed the base, if you’re asking me,” Bogaerts said. “He injured the leader on our team. It was tough seeing him walk off the field right there and obviously it was because of me.”