Joe Morgan’s peak came just as I was learning baseball and as I have said many times in this space, none of your first-person source material deserves any weight (or respect) until you are at LEAST ten years old. Having said that, as a competent witness for his entire career, Roberto Alomar was the best second baseman I ever SAW and I congratulate him on his entry today into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As Alomar receives baseball’s highest honor, the spotlight for the day is on second-base and given that, I would like to point something out …. The Muddy Chicken is quietly putting together a hall of fame resume. Granted, his bus isn’t pulling into Cooperstown just yet but he’s headed West on highway 90 and he just passed Springfield.
Just to be clear, I am not a Hall of Good guy. Instead, I consider myself a strict constructionist when it comes to the Hall. The place is for guys like Aaron, Teddy Ballgame, Seaver, Bench, Schmidt, Alomar and of course … Pedro. And if it were up to me, the current membership would be trimmed by at least a quarter, if not a third. So I subscribe to the “high bar” membership club and five years into his career, Dustin Pedroia looks like he might clear that bar.
When I am considering HOF credentials, I basically buy into the “head and shoulders” theory*. Meaning, I think a player’s career has to have a “head” that consists of five GREAT seasons where he is arguably the best player at his position. And then, to round it off, he needs another five “very good” shoulder seasons that help round it all out. Some awards are nice. Some post-season moments can’t hurt. But the core of any resume is a five year core where the player has to really excel.
Well, five years into his career, and the Muddy Chicken is already getting close to the magic “five” mark. Let’s take a look.
At first blush, his rookie season in 2007 looks a little more like “very good” than great. That season he was not arguably the best second baseman in baseball. But he was without a doubt the top rookie and given that, I am willing to put 2007 in the “great” category for Dustin. Admittedly, it is not a clear-cut case.
However, 2008 was obviously great as The Chicken won the AL MVP. The next year was not quite so clear but Pedroia did chalk up a WAR of nearly 5.0. That isn’t quite great but it only misses by a smidge. So through 2009, we have two great years and one very good one.
That brings us to 2010 and 2011. The former is a little tricky because DP got hurt and missed 250 plate appearances. But up until that time, he was GREAT and his injury came just as he was exploding. Conservatively, he was well on his way to a 6.0 WAR season and I am comfortable giving him 2010, particularly since I didn’t give him the close call in 2009.
And 2011? Well, this is all you need to know about 2011 … the Chicken is SECOND in the league in WAR among position players. Assuming Zobrist is a second baseman means Pedroia is only lapping the field when it comes to relative value against second baseman and if you say his competition is just Kinsler and Cano, than we are talking about something akin to Michael Phelps and the rest world in the 200 Fly. NOT CLOSE.
(This is where Yankee fans get excited. Mutts, take a look at the tables. It is a blowout.)
That rejoinder aside, I am comfortable saying the Chicken, by the end of the season, will have amassed four great seasons and one very good one. At this rate, another great year and four very good ones get him over my bar. Throw in the hardware and the fact that he is one of the three best interviews in the sport and the guy is chopping massive amounts of wood as far as Cooperstown goes.
Obviously, injuries could derail it all. And there is no telling what happens to the Chicken after he turns thirty in TWO years but the facts right now suggest Pedroia will make a serious run at the HOF. As I said earlier, he can always blow a tire on Highway 90 but right now, he is cruising down the road and making good time.
*The Head and Shoulders theory is actually my theory. I wrote it up as an alternative to the popular “compiler” theorem that has carried guys like Perez and Sutton and Blyleven and even Eddie Murray to the podium. (Rice and Dawson aren’t even good enough to be considered compilers. Not sure how either made it in.)