Red Sox

McAdam: Dustin Pedroia refused to quit – until he had no choice

(Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Former basketball coach Jim Valvano, battling cancer, famously exhorted others: "Don't give up ... don't ever give up.''

For the longest time, that was Dustin Pedroia's mantra, too. Having undergone a half-dozen surgical procedures on his ailing left knee, Pedroia wouldn't entertain thoughts of retirement. He managed to play six games in 2018 and three more in 2019, and while that may not seem much, the fact that he played that many astounded medical professionals.

But when Pedroia underwent a partial knee replacement last December, he knew doing so was, effectively, the end of his baseball career. Pedroia, who overcame doubts regarding his size and used them to fuel his ambition, announced his retirement from baseball on Monday.

"At some point, you can't play anymore and this is that time,'' Pedroia said in a Zoom call. "Most of last year, I wasn't in a good place. I grinded every day just to be able to play with my kids and just live a normal life. It was bad. But once I had the surgery, no one has ever played with a partial knee replacement.

"When the cards are stacked against you. I tried -- we all tried -- to do everything possible to continue to play. And I'm proud of that. But it wasn't physically possible for me to continue to play baseball with a partial knee replacement. Once I got that done, I knew.''

Pedroia, 37, was unable to recover from a knee injury first suffered early in the 2017 season. He underwent multiple surgical procedures with the aim of returning to the field, but two comeback attempts -- in 2018 and 2019 -- fell short.

Drafted out of Arizona State in 2004, Pedroia was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2007 and AL MVP in 2008. He was a four-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner while part of three World Series championship teams.

Through it all, Pedroia used a caustic sense of humor to entertain teammates, while boasting about his outsized talent. He gave himself the nickname "Laser Show'' for his propensity to hit the ball hard and played with a reckless style that, at times, put his body in jeopardy.

A takeout slide by former Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado in 2017 effectively spelled the beginning of the end for Pedroia, who played just nine games after the 2017 season -- three in 2018 and six more in 2019. He did not play at all in 2020 after undergoing major reconstructive surgery on his knee in 2019 and remained home in Arizona with his family.

Over 14 seasons, he posted a .299 lifetime batting average and an .805 OPS.

"Dustin came to represent the kind of grit, passion and competitive drive that resonates with baseball fans everywhere and especially with Red Sox fans,'' said principal owner John Henry. "He played the game he loves win service to our club, its principles and in pursuit of championships.''

Pedroia's uncertain future as a player