At home at fenway

Keeping on eye on Dustin, Papi, Youk & a few good books

S.I.: Pedroia in the mold of Puckett & Morgan

Posted by athomeatfenway on August 12, 2011

Tom Verducci appeared on WEEI Wednesday morning to promote his cover story about Dustin Pedroia in the August 15 issue of Sports Illustrated.  4 hours later I was persuading a magazine vendor to find the cello bundle of SI’s on his dolly and sell me one of his new Pedroias.  I had to consume it.

He complied.  And I consumed.  So now I’m telling you straight up — You must go get it right now.  Go !

What else but excellence would you expect from Verducci ?  A baseball insider on MLB TV programming (MLB Tonight, Hot Stove and Front Burner), he is also SI’s Senior Baseball Writer.  He arrived at the magazine in 1993 after 10 years with Newsday.  A Penn State graduate and a New Jersey native, Verducci was an athlete himself.  He caught the winning TD pass for Seton Hall Prep for the N.J. High School Football Championship, 1978.

The perfect guy to write the Pedroia story has been stressing one thing about the Little Man since hitting the airwaves to promote it:  Pedroia is undersold.  Dustin is widely recognized as an overachieving midget but does not get the credit he deserves for having skills.

Which is what Red Sox scouts were telling Theo right up to the point at which they drafted him in 2004.  To paraphrase:  He’s a great player but he has no skills…he’s great..We just wish he had some skills.

The 29 other MLB teams also thought he had no skills and used 64 earlier picks on other kids, Justin Verlander arguably the best among them.

Suppressing their gut to choose someone else, the Sox took the Little Man, besting 29 teams, especially the Twins, who had 6 picks before Boston took Pedey.

Verducci paints a picture of Dustin as the antsy, fast talking nut-buster; if his team is a flock of sheep then he is a spunky corgi circling them, yammering away and keeping them together.

He gives everyone a hard time, including Tito.  A bar owner sent Pedey an expensive bottle (he doesn’t drink) and he offered it to Francona, yelling, “Hey, Tito!……I got something for you. Drink this before the game. We’re trying to win tonight and this might help you manage!”

A couple of golden nuggets:

“He is the patron saint of the vertically, muscularly and follicularly challenged.”

Verducci quotes Ozzie Guillen: “I love that little guy.  It looks like he escaped from Cirque Du Soleil and they put a uniform on him.”

Verducci holds up the unflattering comments, the funny ones, the rude ones, and reveals them as the tributes they are.

He says Pedroia is not an undersized and big hearted player in the way of a David Eckstein.  He is a small but singularly talented ballplayer as in the cases of Joe Morgan and Kirby Puckett.

And speaking of HOF’ers, when matching Pedroia’s career OPS to second baseman in the HOF, Dustin ranks only behind Jackie Robinson, Joe Gordon and Tony Lazzeri.

Among non-HOF’ers, his OPS ranks only behind Chase Utley and George Grantham.

So in the 135 seasons of major league baseball, Dustin ranks behind only 5 second basemen for getting on base and slugging combined.

I hear a Hall-bound train a coming.

*******

Do not miss the article.  Best thing on Pedroia in quite some time.

*******

George “Boots” Grantham (1900 – 1954) played from 1920 to 1934.  His career stats of .302 BA, 105 HR’s, 722 RBI are powered by 8 consecutive seasons in which he batted .300 or higher.  He played 3 seasons with the Cubs before being shipped to the Bucs in 1925 in the deal that brought Charlie Grimm and Rabbit Maranville to the Windy City.  Were he alive today, Boots could tell what it was like to play against Babe Ruth, who he watched up close in the 1927 Series.  Ruth batted .400 in that Series.  Boots wasn’t so bad himself, earning a .364 average in the Series.

*******

Tom Verducci arrested my attention in March 2005 with a Spring Training cover story about the Toronto Blue Jays.  He did the George Plimpton thing, suiting up and drilling with the Jays.  Here is how he describes his uniform in that 6-year-old article:

“I feel the fit and drape of my uniform, a major league uniform, my amazing technicolor dreamcoat. Gray pants, belted tightly, black-mesh jersey with TORONTO in metallic silver above the stylized Blue Jays logo on the left breast and a shimmering silver number 2 on my back. Never can I remember the sky bluer, the grass greener, the sun brighter.”

I love it.

They say Verducci really arrived when in 1995 his cover story on the Dead End Kids of Baseball tracked the trials and travels of Strawberry and Gooden.

He is the co-author of THE YANKEE YEARS with Joe Torre, which is also well worth your time.

The writer has skills.

Happy reading !

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