The Dustin Pedroia double-standard

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The Globe’s Pete Abe — in passing along an observation from his colleague Bob Ryan — drops some righteous wisdom:

If Alex Rodriguez broke his foot, cast aside his crutches and took
grounders from his knees in the infield a few days later, he would be
universally ripped as being a glory-seeking fraud.

But when Dustin Pedroia did it yesterday, he was hailed as the
personification of guts and dedication.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

That leads to a nice little exploration of the double-standard A-Rod faces. At least until the end when Abraham basically says “but people are right: A-Rod is a clown.”  Let’s not allow the conclusion to distract from a perfectly fine observation, however.

In other news, Dustin Pedroia was on the radio yesterday and was asked about how he hurt his foot. His response:

“When you hit the ball that hard and you hit that part of your foot,
something’s going to give. You should have checked the ball. The ball
was pretty messed up, too.”

Funny! But again, if anyone else said it, they’d probably be mocked.

I suppose there’s the perception that when Pedroia says and does the kind of stuff he says and does he’s being genuine, whereas A-Rod or whoever comes off calculated or studied or whatever.  But I think it goes deeper than that. People don’t merely take issue with A-Rod’s delivery — which is admittedly poor — they take issue with the substance too.

Like Abraham points out: Both A-Rod and Pedroia work their tails off. If one says it he’s called a hard worker. If the other says is he’s a phony.  Doesn’t matter if what A-Rod says is true. He’s trashed.

I’m not suggesting that there’s some long-standing conspiracy against A-Rod (though at times I think there has been at least a loose, unspoken agreement that he was a great target).  I think this phenomenon says a lot about human nature. What we find repellent, what we find attractive and the like.

Could it simply be physical? Pedroia is small and balding and even though it’s totally silly to even suggest that he’s “like us” — he is a world class athlete, after all — we can at least squint and pretend that he is like us. A-Rod, on the other hand is a tall, obviously otherworldly-talented specimen who has made it very clear to us from his play alone, that he is very different from us.

We tend to cut people who we perceive to be like us more slack than we cut people who are somehow . . . other.  That has always been the case with race,* but I think it applies to tall and short and any number of other factors that makes Pedroia seem less foreign to us than someone like A-Rod is.

Oh well, that’s my deep thinking for the afternoon. What do you think?

*I’m not suggesting that Pedroia-A-Rod is a racial thing, so please
don’t go there.

Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak ended 78 years ago today

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There’s nothing special about a 78-year anniversary. It’s not a round number or anything and we tend to like round numbers. But (a) I was reminded of this today; and (b) we have no idea if the Martians will have invaded and taken over the planet come 2021, so I feel like it’s best to run this now than wait for the 80th anniversary. Cool? Cool.

Anyway: on this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s still-unbroken and possibly unbreakable (see below) 56-game hitting streak came to end. The game took place in Cleveland in front of a staggering 67,468 fans. Not bad for a Thursday night. The way the streak ended, courtesy of an ESPN Classic post from Larry Scwartz back in 2003:

Third baseman Ken Keltner makes two outstanding plays, grabbing DiMaggio smashes down the line in the first and seventh innings and throwing him out at first base. In between these at-bats, left-hander Al Smith walks DiMaggio in the fourth.

The Yankee Clipper has one more chance to extend his streak when he bats in the eighth with the bases full against Jim Bagby, a young right-hander who just enters the game. DiMaggio hits the ball sharply, but shortstop Lou Boudreau plays a bad hop perfectly and turns the grounder into a double play.

Stuff happens.

To be clear: 56 may not be broken in my lifetime or yours. It’s obviously a SUPER difficult task to string together a hitting streak of considerable length. As we saw when guys like Pete Rose or Paul Molitor or whoever have come within spitting distance of DiMaggio’s record — long spitting distance — the pressure ramps up and it’s hard to do you job with a lot of pressure. Add in the fact that simple base hits are harder to come by in today’s game than they used to be due to prevalent hitting, pitching and defensive trends, and it’d be no shocker whatsoever if no one ever does it.

But I draw the line at “unbreakable,” simply because, as noted above, stuff does happen. And because there’s nothing structural preventing it from happening. It’s not like Cy Young’s 511 wins or something which fundamental changes in the game have made basically impossible. No one is going to win 26 games a year for 20 years straight or what have you. Heck, CC Sabathia is baseball’s current gray hair among pitchers and only has a few dozen more career starts than that. It’s just a different game.

Hitters do play in 150-160 games now, though, and the good ones do average more than one hit per game. Putting them in the right arrangement may never be likely, but doing so is only a matter of stars aligning, not breaking the fundamental rules of engagement. It could happen. Maybe. Because, unlike some other records, it did before under broadly similar circumstances.

OK, that aside, I’ll offer up my favorite and most maddening DiMaggio hitting streak fact.

During his streak, which lasted from May 15-July 17, DiMaggio went 91-of-223, which is a .408 average. Between April 15-September 28 (i.e. the whole dang season) Ted Williams hit .406. And when it was all said and done he was substantially better in virtually every other batting category as well.

Joe DiMaggio won the MVP Award.