The 2007 season saw two rookies make a historic impact on the Boston Red Sox, but in 2019 their respective careers may be over.
On Monday, May 27th, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was transferred to the 60-Day IL. A mutual agreement between player and team to suspend all baseball activities was reached, and the prescription of “rest and rehab” was limited to simply “rest”. Pedroia, along with manager, Alex Cora, and team president, Dave Dombrowski, gathered at a press conference to address the media. It was the admission from Pedroia that he may never play again that sent shock-waves through Red Sox Nation.
Dustin Pedroia arrived on the scene as a regular player in 2007, after a dreadful start to the season, he rebounded to win the AL Rookie of the Year. He would follow up the Rookie of the Year season with an MVP award in 2008. His resume includes 4 All-Star selections, 4 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger award, and a World Champion on multiple occasions. He captured the hearts of Boston fans by always swinging from the heels, by playing much larger than 5’9″, 175lb frame, and by always hustling and putting his body on the line.
His play was rewarded with a 6 year / $85M deal prior to the 2016 season, and he immediately proved worthy with a 2016 campaign that saw him hit .318 with an .825 OPS, while grading out as one of the top defensive second baseman in the game. Multiple knee injuries limited him to 105 games in 2017, but when on the field he continued to grade out as a plus defender while producing a .293 batting average. The knee injuries and subsequent surgeries have limited Pedroia to 9 games and 34 plate appearances in two failed comeback attempts in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. With over $40M left on Pedroia’s contract running through the 2021 season, his near season-long stay on the IL the past two years has caused fans and media alike to call for retirement, as the franchise has been at or over the highest threshold of the luxury tax.
At the same time in 2007, another rookie captured the attention of Red Sox fans and the baseball world. Jacoby Ellsbury hit .353 over the final 30 games of the 2007 season. He showed a blend of all 5 tools (especially speed), and was the team’s starting center fielder by the time they entered the postseason. He would go on to hit .438 with 1.118 OPS in the World Series, with 4 of his 7 hits going for extra bases in a 4-game sweep of the Rockies.
Ellsbury continued a steady Red Sox career, while dealing with minor injuries, and capped off his tenure with the Sox with his second World Series championship. He’d hit .344 in the 2013 postseason, before signing a 7 year / $153M free agent deal with the rival New York Yankees. He put together several pedestrian seasons while fighting through injury, before missing all of the 2018 season. He’s missed all of 2019, and was transferred to the 60-day IL while recovering from hip surgery just a few weeks before Pedrioa made the same announcement.
It’s beginning to look like the severity of the injury for each player may signal the end of their respective careers. On one side, Dustin Pedroia will go down as a Red Sox legend for his playing style and reputation with the Boston fanbase. He may never be a Hall of Fame second baseman, or get his number retired, but will be well-received by all. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury’s career will be riddled with “what-if,” while spending the majority of his time in the Bronx on the Injured List. While one former Red Sox rookie will be loved forever, the other will go down as one of the biggest free agent “busts” in franchise history.