Pedroia: AL Rookie of the Year

Also official: Dustin Pedroia is your American League Rookie of the Year.

Pedroia became the first Red Sox player to win the trophy since Nomar Garciaparra did so in 1997.

Pedroia was listed first on 24 of the 28 ballots submitted by two writers in each league city and second on the other four, bring his total score to 132 points (in a 5-3-1 format; i.e. 24*5 + 4*3 = 120+12 = 132 points). The Rays’ (note: no longer the Devil Rays) Delmon Young finished second behind Pedroia with 56 points, while the Royals’ Brian Bannister finished third with 36 points. Pedroia’s teammates, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, finished with 12 and 3 points, for a fourth and sixth place finish, respectively. Reggie Willits, of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, finished in 5th place with 11 points.

Pedroia started the season very roughly. On May 1 he was batting only 0.182. However, Pedroia kept pushing and it paid off.
After the rough April, Pedroia hit .415 in May, .333 in June, .299 in July, .346 in August and .302 in September. Although he became known for his offense, Pedroia was spectacular on defense as well: he committed only six errors during the season and had a 0.990 fielding percentage.

Said Pedroia: “I’m not too big on personal accomplishments; I just want to help my team win. There have been some great players to get this award, and it’s definitely been such a fun and exciting year for me and my teammates. I’m so happy for the people that have stuck with me through this whole thing. You know — Terry Francona, [general manager] Theo [Epstein], everybody in the front office. That first month was definitely tough on me. But I bounced through it, and it’s definitely a huge accomplishment.”

Pedroia continued: “I had a great career in college, and my Minor League numbers were good. I don’t think a player is made in one month,” said Pedroia. “I think, over the course of 162 games, you find out what a player is made of.” He had the right attitude, and just kept swinging the bat. It paid off soon enough.

Pedroia was a key factor of the Boston Red Sox during the postseason. Making Pedroia’s postseason heroics even more impressive is the fact he recently confided that he was playing with a cracked hamate bone in his left hand, an injury that was diagnosed on Sept. 10.

Epstein, GM of the Red Sox, had this to say about Pedroia: “We’re very proud of Dustin for what he has accomplished and how he has conducted himself in a Red Sox uniform. So it’s especially gratifying to see him recognized today with such a prestigious honr. From his first day in the organization, he’s been a great example for all with his work ethic, fearlessness and respect for his teammates and the game. He gets the most out of his considerable abilities and does so with one thought in mind: winning championships for the Boston Red Sox.”

Pedroia — who became the sixth Red Sox player to win the Rookie of the Year Award — finished 10th in the AL this season with a .317 average. That batting average was the all-time best for rookie second basemen, as Pedroia beat out Jim Viox of the 1913 Pirates by two percentage points. Pedroia joined Walt Dropo (1950), Don Schwall (’61), Carlton Fisk (’72), Fred Lynn (’75) and Garciaparra in the exclusive club of Red Sox players to win the award.

“Everyone has doubted me at every level I’ve been at, saying I’m too small, I’m not fast enough, my arm is not strong enough,” Pedroia said. “But there’s a lot of people that have stuck by me and knew deep down that there’s something about me that makes me a winning baseball player.”

The 24-year-old Pedroia — who was drafted by the Red Sox with the 65th overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft — led all Major League rookies in doubles with 39 and was second in on-base percentage (.380) and third in runs (86).

During the playoffs, Pedroia had a tough start in the ALDS against the Angels; during that series he batted only .154. However, in the ALCS against the Cleveland Indians, he bounced back and hit .345. And we all remember what he did to start Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway Park: lead-off home run over the Green Monster.

Pedroia also has the right attitude about team dynamics. Said he, “The only thing I cared about was trying to help the team win. That was our ultimate goal. We set out to try to win the American League East and try to win the World Series. We accomplished both of those things. I think that if you’re dedicated into team goals, individual goals will come later.”

What does Pedroia attribute his success to? “I think just believing in yourself,” Pedroia said. “This game is tough. If you fail seven out of 10 times, you’re a pretty good player. I think it’s just believing in yourself and having the confidence to know you can go out there and perform well. I started doing that after the first month of the season and kind of took off from there.”

Unlike the National League Rookie of the Year Award, Pedroia was the only contender in the American League to win Rookie of the Year. And he sure as heck deserves it.

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~ by mlb2007playoffs on November 14, 2007.

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