|ESPN.com: BlogsColumns||[Print without images]|
BOSTON --The baseball barely kissed the scoreboard at the base of the left-field wall, but it was good enough for a double to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning, letting Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia extend his hitting streak to 21 consecutive games.
It's the longest streak in the American League this season and he's batting .385 (35-for-91) with eight doubles, seven home runs, 16 RBIs and 19 runs during the stretch.
It's no coincidence Pedroia began this torrid pace on June 29, only days after learning that he was not named to the AL All-Star roster, snapping a string of three consecutive All-Star selections.
|Dustin Pedroia, who has excelled in the field and at the plate, is off to a start comparable to new Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar.|
Pedroia is not one to focus on individual accomplishments. He would rather produce to help the team win another World Series in 2011. He won't talk about his hitting streak, only saying he wants to put together good at-bats in order to get on base for Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz.
Pedroia, 27, is in only his fifth full season in the big leagues, but he can be considered one of the best second basemen in Red Sox history.
He helped Boston to a World Series title in 2007, while earning the AL Rookie of the Year honors. In 2008, he was named the AL Most Valuable Player, and also won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award.
So, on a day when former big league second baseman Roberto Alomar was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, it makes for an interesting discussion to consider how Pedroia might measure up to Alomar.
Alomar, who broke into the majors at age 20 with the San Diego Padres, consistently produced in almost every aspect of the game for 17 seasons. He was a 12-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove fielder, a four-time Silver Slugger winner and played 2,320 games at second base for the Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Current Blue Jays infielder John McDonald was a teammate of Alomar's in Cleveland. McDonald has also played against Pedroia in the AL East for the past six seasons. McDonald's not about to compare the players, but admits he can see why people would consider Pedroia a possible future Hall of Famer.
"It's tough for anyone to start talking about the Hall of Fame until a player has 10 years in," McDonald said. "The benchmark is longevity and part of it is dominating an era. Unfortunately, I know Dustin has been hurt and banged up last year and the year before.
"When you look at his numbers when he's healthy and what he means to the team, and how well he plays that position, there's potential for that. That's why the Hall of Fame is such an exclusive club, because those guys did it over a long period of time."
Pedroia made his big league debut at 22 and played only 31 games in 2006 after being promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket.
Obviously, Pedroia has a long way to go before he can even be mentioned in the same breath as the Hall of Fame, but he's shown the ability and desire to make that a reality as long as he can remain healthy for another 10 years.
There are only 20 second basemen with a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y., including the Red Sox's Bobby Doerr. Pedroia could join the club.
Considering Pedroia was limited to 75 games in 2010 because of a broken foot and has played only 96 games in 2011, let's compare his time in the majors to Alomar's first five full seasons.
Pedroia has played a total of 621 regular-season games, and during that time has produced a .303 average. He's scored 438 runs, collected 765 hits with 189 doubles, 65 home runs, 296 RBIs, 76 stolen bases, 274 walks and has struck out 228 times.
Alomar's first five seasons were also impressive.
He played a total of 761 games and posted a .291 average. He scored 439 runs, collected 862 hits, 146 doubles, 39 home runs, 302 RBIs, 192 stolen bases, 292 walks and struck out 369 times.
"When you think of a Hall of Fame player, and you look at what Robbie did over his career, he was a tremendous fielder, a tremendous hitter and he stole bases," McDonald said. "There are a lot of numbers that jump off the page and he did it for a long period of time."
During that same time frame defensively, Pedroia has committed 25 errors in 640 games at second base, while Alomar made 81 errors in 747 games.
"I don't want to say that it's fair or unfair to Dustin, but he's had some tremendous years already," McDonald said. "He's had Hall of Fame seasons, but to draw those comparisons to somebody over a short period of time is unfair to both guys."
It's safe to say Pedroia compares to Alomar's earlier years.
"[Pedroia] does so many things on the field and can hurt you in so many different ways," McDonald said. "It's fun to watch. There are so many comparisons you can draw and if Dustin can continue to do this over the next five to 10 years, you're going to start seeing comparable numbers."
Anytime a young player is on a hot streak, as Jacoby Ellsbury was in 2007 and Josh Reddick is now, Red Sox manager Terry Francona will be the first to say, "Let's not put the kid in the Hall of Fame just yet."
Prior to Sunday's game at Fenway Park, a 12-7 victory by the Red Sox over the Seattle Mariners, Francona talked briefly about his relationship with Alomar, saying the two played winter ball together when Alomar was breaking into the majors.
"I got to know him pretty well, actually," Francona said. "He was young and it was obvious he could do anything he wanted, whether it was defensively, on the bases, or at bat. You could see it coming."
Even though Francona would never admit it publicly, it's probably a safe bet he feels the same way about Pedroia as he did about Alomar.
Maybe we are witnessing a future Hall of Famer in Pedroia.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.