Dustin Pedroia Could Win the Batting Title

Dustin Pedroia is still the beating heart of this Red Sox team. Sure, Mookie Betts is now the defining star, and David Ortiz will always be the ultimate hero. But nobody embodies the spirit and fight of Boston baseball quite like the scrappy second baseman. And with just under three weeks remaining, Pedey has a legitimate shot at becoming the American League batting champion, a fitting tribute to his remarkable resurgence.

Dustin Pedroia

Nowadays, batting average is sneered at. Led by statisticians, many people consider it an inferior metric for gauging performance. It’s too one-dimensional, they say. It only takes into account one skill, rather than four or five. In this age of Statcast, where every aspect of baseball is calculated and scrutinized, I understand the concern. Yet batting average remains one of the most instantly recognizable measurements of talent, if not the most accurate.

We’re all supposed to worship at the altar of Wins Above Replacement, but few casual fans even know how it’s calculated. WAR offers no concise moment of greatness, such as when a hitter slugs his 500th career home run or notches his 3,000th hit. So, to me, batting average and other traditional numbers still have a pretty special place in the game, even if their utility has been surpassed by newer, sexier metrics.

The Resurgence of Dustin Pedroia

Therefore, what Dustin Pedroia is doing fascinates me. At 33, the ultimate grinder is having one of his best ever seasons. Pedroia has a .332/.391/.465 slash line with 13 home runs, 34 doubles and 66 RBI. Judging by OPS, a catch-all stat for offensive performance, this is his best campaign since 2011. In terms of WAR, it’s already his best since 2013, with eighteen games remaining. When all is said and done, Dustin Pedroia may not receive MVP consideration, but his importance to the Red Sox cannot be overstated.

Numbers simply don’t do the guy justice. However, one number, that .332 batting average, is particularly intriguing. Right now, only Jose Altuve, the Houston Astros’ hitting machine, has a higher average in the American League. Altuve presently sits at .340, making for a tight race and interesting subplot in the final weeks of an enthralling season.

In Pursuit of History

Bill Mueller was the last Red Sox player to win a batting title. The third baseman did so with a .326 mark in 2003. It may be difficult for Dustin Pedroia to haul back an eight-point disadvantage this late in the season and follow in Mueller’s footsteps, but stranger things have happened. All it takes is for one hot streak to coincide with a rare skid for Altuve, and one of the greatest players in Red Sox history would add another historic achievement to his resume.

While the batting title may have lost some of its prestige, there’s still a certain charm to its history. It’s one of the oldest awards in the game, one that Ty Cobb lusted after so violently in a different age. For that reason, that sense of tradition, we should root for Dustin Pedroia to win the batting crown. I can hardly think of a more deserving recipient.

A Belated Tribute to Kevin Youkilis

I miss Kevin Youkilis. As the pennant race comes alive, we’re all reminded of former glories, and Youk was integral to the Red Sox during my childhood. This modern team is fun to watch, with young stars like Mookie Betts, but that gritty soul of yore has largely been lost. Dustin Pedroia still embodies it, but there are few grinders like Kevin Youkilis across baseball anymore, and that’s incredibly sad.

Kevin Youkilis, The Greek God of Walks

Once upon a time, few teams wanted Youk. Before Moneyball was released, teams still coveted players for the wrong reasons. Appearance often outweighing performance in the decision-making process. Therefore, many scouts disregarded Kevin Youkilis. He was too fat, they said. Couldn’t run. Couldn’t field. Very little upside. Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, saw through that. He yearned to draft The Greek God of Walks, only for the Red Sox to snatch him with the 243rd pick in 2001. The rest is history.

Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis was a rookie on the historic 2004 Red Sox. He proceeded to play nine seasons in a Red Sox uniform. His rise was steady and inspiring. First he lost a little weight and took better care of himself. Then he transitioned to first base and pushed himself to progress every single day. He became a fierce competitor, guided by a fire within the stomach. His was an insatiable desire for constant improvement. In time, he became a force of nature.

Looking back, Kevin Youkilis doesn’t have the greatest lifetime stats. He hit 150 home runs, drove in 618 runs and collected just 1,053 hits in 1,061 Major League games. Nevertheless, his peak was astonishingly good, and Boston was the main beneficiary. In 2008, Youk had 29 home runs, 115 RBI and 43 doubles. He finished third in MVP voting and was the heart of a stacked Red Sox lineup. The following year, he reached base at a .413 clip, which contributed nicely to his career .382 OBP. Only 175 men have recorded a higher lifetime mark, out of more than 18,000 to play Major League Baseball.

Why Kevin Youkilis Was So Beloved

However, the true impact of Kevin Youkilis cannot be measured in numbers. He was incredibly popular with Red Sox fans, who saw him as an everyday guy living the dream. More importantly, they saw how hard he worked and admired his determination to succeed against massive odds. Youk looked like he should have been selling beer in the stands. Instead, he was a three-time All-Star and a two-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox. He also won a gold glove, proving his meticulous will to get better.

There was so much to like about Kevin Youkilis, and he was a fitting hero in the post-Manny Ramirez age. I’ll never forget that quirky batting stance. Youk looked like he was sitting on an invisible toilet at the plate. The swing was a thing of beauty, however, and he was a line drive machine. The Green Monster was assaulted constantly by Youkilis, who was the perfect player for the perfect team at the perfect time. I doubt we’ll ever see his like again.

Kevin last played for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan in 2014. He is currently a special assistant to Cubs baseball mastermind Theo Epstein, the executive who gave him an opportunity to shine in Boston. There’s no telling what the future may hold for Kevin Youkilis, be it scouting or front office work. But the past will always sparkle bright, and his place in the hearts of Red Sox fans all over the world will never be diminished.

Red Sox Mount Rushmore

Red Sox Mount Rushmore

Lately, everyone has talked about their Mount Rushmore in different sports. The one list I haven’t seen is who would be on the Boston Red Sox Mount Rushmore?

I believe every team should have their own Mount Rushmore list of players. So who are the four Red Sox players that have raised above all the others in the organization? Here’s my Red Sox Mount Rushmore

Ted Williams, LF (1939-42, 1946-60) A Mount Rushmore list has to start with Teddy Ballgame. Williams was a career .344 hitter and he is the last player to hit .400 in a season (.406 in 1941).Williams also led the American League in on-base-percentage 12 times.

In his last season at age 41, Williams’s batting average was .316 and he also hit 29 homeruns. Not only was he 19-time All-Star and a six-time American League batting champion, Williams was an American hero who fought in World War II.

Carl Yastrzemski, LF, 1B (1961-83) Yastrzemski entered the major leagues in 1961 as the successor to Williams and he proved him to be one of the greatest Red Sox players of all-time. Yastrzemski won three batting titles (1963, 1967, 1968), a triple crown, made 18 All-Star teams and earned seven Gold Gloves. He never won a World Series championship, but Yastrzemski batted .369 with 11 RBIs and 15 runs in 17 postseason games.

 David Ortiz, DH (2003- ) There’s no one that has embodied the spirit of the Red Sox more than Ortiz. Ever since Big Papi signed with the Red Sox in 2003, he has personified the word clutch.

In 14 World Series games, Ortiz has 17 postseason home runs and owns a .455 batting average with 14 RBIs. The three-time World Series champion has also made nine all-star appearances, won six Silver Slugger award and is arguably the greatest designated hitter in the history of baseball.

Pedro Martinez, RHP (1998-2004) For a three-year period (1998-2000), Martinez was arguably the best player in baseball. In 1999, he had one of the greatest pitching seasons of all time, as he finished with a record of 23–4 and led the majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts (achieving the pitching Triple Crown).

Martinez finished his Red Sox career with a record of 117-37 (.760), which is the highest winning percentage any pitcher has had with any team in baseball history. He also won two Cy Young Awards, and led the American League in ERA four times (1999, 2000, 2002, and 2003).