Wednesday, November 19, 2008
at 12:01 PM Posted by SmartyBarrett
I have been a Red Sox fan since the age of four.
At least that's the first time I remember being a fan. When I moved out of my parents' house three years ago I went through a bunch of old stuff they had saved and found lineup cards, box scores, and score books that I made when I was three. Even though I couldn't technically read, I would cut out photos of players and paste them in their respective lineup order. If you think Dennis Lamp can't look any more rugged, check a picture of him smeared with 20-year old glue. But the first thing I actually remember was when I was four. It was 1986. The Red Sox fans reading just groaned. The non-Red Sox fans are calculating my current age. Anyway, I wish I could say I remembered Dave Henderson's homer or the Game 6 fiasco but I mean, come on. I was four. What I do remember was going downtown with my dad every Saturday morning and getting a pack of baseball cards. One morning in particular I remember sitting at the counter of a diner and ripping open a pack, sliding the stale chewing gum off the top and into my mouth. As the hard, jagged bubble gum shards sliced the inside of my mouth, I noticed the back of the top card was stained. Ruined. The gum had did it in. I flipped the card over and checked it. A Red Sox player! And one who would eventually become my favorite of all time - Martin Glenn Barrett.
Marty Barrett wasn't exactly the best 2B of his era. But as a kid growing up, I didn't notice things like that. He had a solid 1986 season, an absolute out-of-his-mind 1986 post-season, and was overall a serviceable Red Sox player for me to look up to and admire as I grew up. When I played Little League, I played second base. I wanted to wear number 17. I dove and slid and threw myself all over the infield so I could get my uniform dirty like he did. Every kid has a story like this about a player like this. And when he fades into retirement and/or you get a little too old to be imitating every move of another human being, you get over it. But the memories stay with you. And there's always something or someone that can trigger them and have them all rushing back at once. And you remember why you loved baseball in the first place.
I didn't really take much notice of Dustin Pedroia when he came up to the bigs in 2006. Except for the fact that he was supposedly the "second baseman of the future," I didn't know much about him. I remember I was at Fenway when he hit his first career big league homer. And as the 2007 campaign wore on, I learned more and more about Pedroia. And the more I learned, the more he reminded me of one Marty Barrett. I mean, think about it. Barrett played 2B for the Sox, Pedroia plays 2B for the Sox. Barrett went to Arizona State, Pedroia went to Arizona State. Barrett's 5'10", Pedroia's 5'9" (OK, he's probably more like 5'7", but still). It's like I was watching my favorite player all over again. But as 2007 wore on and turned into 2008, I started to realize something. Pedroia is better. Like, a lot better.
The thing is, I didn't want to admit this fact about my new favorite player. I was stubborn, I refused to let the comparisons end. They reminded me too much of each other, they're so similar! The Rookie of the Year last year still didn't change my thinking. I wouldn't budge. But now, as Dustin Pedroia is your 2008 American League MVP, it has finally sunk in. Now don't get me wrong, I wanted Pedroia to win it. In fact, I've been calling him the favorite since like June. He was clearly the best candidate for several reasons. First being that there was no real clear-cut MVP this year. There was no A-Rod or Pujols or some guy who just tore it up for a playoff team. If there was one of those, rest assured Pedroia's name wouldn't have come up. Second, he is short and white, and if there's anything baseball writers love, it's a good story. So if you think like a writer, he's the MVP. If you think like a stat geek, he's right up there. And if you look at "traditional" stats, he has to be the guy. Simply put, he's the worst candidate except for all the others. Carlos Quentin? Francisco Rodriguez? Give me a break. Only guy that really gave Petey a run for his money was Youkilis, but I think the fact that Pedroia absolutely carried the Sox for like two months really put him over the top.
So there it is. I guess it took an MVP award for me to finally realize that maybe Pedroia isn't Marty Barrett Part II. I'll stay an absolute die-hard Pedroia fan, but he won't be reminding me of Barrett as much anymore. But I'll still have RBI Baseball, I'll still have my memories, and I'll still have that baseball card.