Pedroia named AL MVP
Teammate Youkilis gets two first-place votes, finishes third
BOSTON -- Where was Dustin Pedroia when he learned that he was the Most Valuable Player of the American League? Most fittingly, the second baseman of the Boston Red Sox was on his way to the gym.
A player whose talent had been largely influenced by his desire, Pedroia doesn't like to miss a workout, whether it is November or any other month of the year. But at the urging of his wife, Kelli, Pedroia finally gave himself a day off.
Past Red Sox MVPs
|Dustin Pedroia is the ninth Red Sox player to be named the American League's Most Valuable Player.|
Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier -- Pedroia's winter workout partner in Arizona -- had to go solo this time around.
"I called Andre and said, 'I won the MVP, dude. I've got to go home.' It was one of those things," said Pedroia in a conference call. "Me and my wife, we're so excited. We never would have thought this would happen, especially this young into my career. We're thrilled."
It was the latest accomplishment in what has been a rapid burst into the national spotlight for Pedroia.
Though most pundits expected the race for MVP to be agonizingly close, Pedroia won in comfortable fashion, garnering 16 of 28 first-place votes. He also received six second-place votes, four third-place votes and one fourth-place vote for 317 total points. And Pedroia was surprisingly left off the ballot of Evan Grant, the veteran writer from The Dallas Morning News who posted a blog entry on Tuesday night saying, "In retrospect, it was a mistake."
Runner-up Justin Morneau of the Twins received seven first-place votes and finished with 257 points. Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis finished third, tallying two first-place votes and 201 points.
"I really didn't know what to expect," said Pedroia. "I was just excited to be named with all those players. There's a ton of great players. When you hear your name come up in that category, you definitely get excited and nervous. I wasn't nervous or overly excited. For me, just to be in that category is an extreme honor."
Following a 2007 season in which Pedroia helped fuel the Red Sox to a World Series championship and won the AL Rookie of the Year Award, the right-handed-hitting machine staged quite an encore.
"It's unbelievable," said Pedroia. "When I first got called up to the Major Leagues in 2006, I really didn't know what to expect. I really didn't set any expectations or goals on myself. My biggest thing was, if I'm in the lineup that day, I'm going to play as hard as I can and try to help our team. That's been my mentality ever since I got called up to the big leagues. That's how I'm going to be successful. I have to keep that mind-set every season. This year, I was very successful. Hopefully, I can continue that."
|2008 AL MVP Award Voting|
|Dustin Pedroia, BOS||16||6||4||1||317|
|Justin Morneau, MIN||7||7||6||3||3||1||1||257|
|Kevin Youkilis, BOS||2||4||4||9||2||4||1||2||201|
|Joe Mauer, MIN||2||8||1||3||4||3||3||2||1||188|
|Carlos Quentin, CWS||1||4||8||4||4||4||1||1||160|
|Francisco Rodriguez, LAA||1||2||6||1||6||3||2||2||143|
|Josh Hamilton, TEX||2||2||3||7||3||2||4||3||112|
|Alex Rodriguez, NYY||1||1||4||1||4||7||45|
|Carlos Pena, TB||1||2||2||3||2||3||44|
|Grady Sizemore, CLE||2||1||5||6||1||42|
|Evan Longoria, TB||2||2||5||2||1||38|
|Cliff Lee, CLE||1||1||1||1||1||24|
|Miguel Cabrera, DET||1||1||4||1||17|
|Vladimir Guerrero, LAA||2||2||1||16|
|Jermaine Dye, CWS||1||2||2||14|
|Aubrey Huff, BAL||1||2||3||12|
|Milton Bradley, TEX||1||1||9|
|Jason Bartlett, TB||1||6|
|Mike Mussina, NYY||1||3|
|Raul Ibanez, SEA||1||1|
|Ian Kinsler, TEX||1||1|
|Ichiro Suzuki, SEA||1||1|
|Mark Teixeira, LAA||1||1|
Pedroia joins Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryan Howard as the only players to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive years. He is the first second baseman to win the AL MVP since Nellie Fox of the White Sox in 1959.
"We're enormously proud of Dustin and Youk, and we're glad they were recognized by the voters today," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein wrote in an e-mail. "Both players were signed by this organization, both learned in our farm system, and now both are models for how we want Red Sox players to approach the game."
The club also released a statement congratulating both Pedroia and Youkilis.
"The Boston Red Sox congratulate Dustin Pedroia on winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award in just his sophomore season in the Major Leagues," the statement read. "It is a well-deserved honor, and we are delighted that his outstanding season has been recognized in this way. The .326 batting average, 213 hits, 118 runs, 54 doubles, 17 home runs, 20 stolen bases do not tell the whole story of how valuable Dustin was to the team in 2008. He also played gritty Gold Glove defense, and served as the igniting spark plug in our clubhouse all year.
"We would also like to congratulate Kevin Youkilis on his third-place finish in the MVP voting. Truly, both Dustin and Kevin played integral roles in our 2008 season. Finally, we take great pride in the fact that both Dustin and Kevin were drafted and developed by the Red Sox. It is a great tribute to our baseball operations, scouting and player development staff."
It was the first time the Red Sox have had two players in the top three of the MVP balloting since 1986, when Roger Clemens placed first and Jim Rice was third.
For his performance in 2008, Pedroia received a Gold Glove Award, a spot on the AL's Silver Slugger team and now the MVP.
Youkilis, who spoke at a charity event in Newton, Mass., was thrilled for his friend. By January, Youkilis will be at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz., working out with Pedroia every day.
"I already text messaged him and talked to him, and it's great," said Youkilis. "I couldn't believe it. He has all these awards now. He needs to build a trophy room to add on, because he has gold, silver and now the MVP. He has a lot of stuff to put on his mantle, so that will be great."
By prevailing in the Baseball Writers' Association of America voting, Pedroia became the 10th Red Sox MVP winner and the first to cart home the coveted award since Mo Vaughn in 1995. The previous winners from Boston were Jimmie Foxx ('38), Ted Williams ('46 and '49), Jackie Jensen ('58), Carl Yastrzemski ('67), Fred Lynn ('75), Jim Rice ('78) and Roger Clemens ('86).
Following Vaughn's victory 13 years ago, three Red Sox players finished second in the voting: shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in 1998, pitcher Pedro Martinez in '99 and designated hitter David Ortiz in 2005.
But unlike Vaughn, one of the most physically imposing figures in club history, Pedroia will go down as one of the slightest.
Officially listed at 5-foot-9 in the Boston media guide, Pedroia is probably two or three inches shorter than that.
"Obviously I'm motivated," Pedroia said. "I'm not the biggest guy in the world. I don't have that many tools. If you look at me and I'm walking down the street, you obviously wouldn't think I'm a baseball player. I think that's the biggest thing that drives me to be a good player. I've had to deal with that my whole life. I think that's just been instilled in my mind -- that I have to overcome everything to prove people wrong. So far I've done that."
After a grand slam at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 27, a revved-up Pedroia informed his teammates that he was "the strongest 165-pound man in baseball."
It was that type of infectious enthusiasm that earned Pedroia the rare ability to be considered a team leader at the age of 25.
But as much as Pedroia said in the clubhouse and dugout, his bat spoke the loudest.
With 213 hits, Pedroia tied Ichiro Suzuki for the Major League lead. His 54 doubles led the Majors. He led the AL in runs (118) and multihit games (61).
Backed by a .326 average, Pedroia lost the batting title by just four points to Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer. Pedroia finished fourth in total bases (322) and seventh in extra-base hits (73).
An elite tablesetter, Pedroia also chipped in with power (17 homers, 83 RBIs) and speed (20 stolen bases).
"He respects the game, his teammates and he plays the game hard, he plays the game right and there isn't a pitcher on the planet that he thinks can get him out," said free-agent right-hander Curt Schilling, a teammate of Pedroia's the last two seasons, in a blog entry at www.38pitches.com. "He earned this and we're proud as [heck] to call him a teammate and a friend."
Even with all of his success, Pedroia isn't about to go soft. Though the critics are now hard to find, Pedroia vows to find motivation from somewhere.
"I have to find a way to have that edge," Pedroia said. "It makes me a better player. That's never going to go away for me. Just like last year, when I came to Spring Training, everyone was talking about a sophomore slump. In 2009, they're going to think that last year was a fluke, so I have to go out there in the offseason and prepare myself to get ready for the long season and to try to be good again."
From a team standpoint, Pedroia and the Red Sox fell just one win shy of getting back to the World Series after a heartbreaking 3-1 loss to the Rays in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.
Considering the obstacles the Red Sox faced (Ortiz missed seven weeks with a left wrist injury, Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew missed considerable time, Jason Varitek had a sharp decline at the plate), it's doubtful they could have gotten to the postseason without the performances of Pedroia and Youkilis.
Before Pedroia's final red-hot surge of late August and early September, Youkilis was the Boston player getting a lot of mention in MVP discussions.
"Youk had an unbelievable season," said Pedroia. "He's as deserving as anybody. I get firsthand to see him every single day and how much he helps our team. He had an incredible year. ... I already talked to Youk today. He's excited. He can't wait to get out to Arizona and start working out."
And the first baseman, who also played third base when Lowell was injured, had a big year in his own right. Youkilis established career highs in batting average (.312), home runs (29), RBIs (115) and slugging percentage (.569).
As for Pedroia, he became the fifth second baseman in Major League history to have 200 hits, 50 doubles, 100 runs and 15 homers in the same season, joining Charlie Gehringer (1936), Craig Biggio ('98), Jose Vidro (2000) and Alfonso Soriano ('02).
Aside from skipping his workout, what else went through Pedroia's mind when he found out he was the MVP?
"I was driving and I just kind of smiled," Pedroia said. "I kind of couldn't believe this was happening. It kind of happened really fast. I didn't know what to say."
The trophy -- whenever it arrives -- will say plenty.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.