"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one"
— Spock in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
Boston Red Sox spark plug Dustin Pedroia has a reputation for being spunky, plucky, gritty and grimy. But even he needed motivation after a thumb ligament injury suffered opening day threatened to put him at the mercy of a surgeon and on the shelf for weeks or, perhaps, longer.
ESPN Boston's Jackie MacMullen reports that, just as Pedroia had made up his mind to go under the knife, he got a message from teammate Jacoby Ellsbury:
"We had a day off and I got checked out and then I got this news," Pedroia said. "I'm driving home and I'm just sick about it. Then I get this text from Jacoby. He says, 'Are you OK?'
"I tell him, 'I've torn the ligaments in my thumb. I might need surgery,'" Pedroia recalled. "He comes back with, 'Is there any way you can play through it? We need you.'"
Until that moment, Pedroia admitted, he was mentally preparing to undergo the operation, be fitted for a cast and be sidelined for weeks.
"Jacoby hasn't said something like that to me in seven years we've been together," Pedroia said. "I looked at [my wife] Kelli, and I told her about Jacoby's text. Then I said, 'I gotta play with this. He would do it for me. All the guys would. I have to do it for them.' "
Ellsbury, with free agency looming, knew this probably was going to be his final season with the Red Sox. Pedroia, convinced from Day 1 the Red Sox were destined for great things in 2013, didn't want to mess it up by not playing.
Obviously inspired, Pedroia missed a grand total of two games, and the Red Sox won the World Series after taking the American League East by 5 1/2 games over the Tampa Bay Rays. Setting career highs in appearances and plate appearances, Pedroia batted .301/.372/.415 for an OPS+ of 116 (his career average is 117). He made the All-Star team for a fourth time and won a Gold Glove for a third. Pedroia earned 6.5 wins above replacement, sixth-best among position players.
So, as we all know, it worked out. But was it the only way?
Pedroia's play was affected by his thumb injury; his slugging percentage was the lowest of his career. And he admitted his thumb wasn't allowing him to hit for power in the postseason. It didn't, but Pedroia being out of the lineup for — say — half of the season after undergoing surgery could have cost the Red Sox the playoffs. It didn't, but Pedroia not being at his absolute best could have cost the Red Sox the World Series against the Cardinals. Or, were he 100 percent healthy in the World Series and bats better than .208 and slugs more than .292, perhaps the Red Sox win in fewer than six games.
Ellsbury and Pedroia were going to put the team ahead of the individual no matter what. The text message is a great story. But even if Pedroia had ignored Ellsbury's desperate plea and gotten surgery in April, it might not have been bad for the Red Sox. Pedroia would have come back at some point. The Red Sox still probably would have won the division. They still probably would have won the World Series. It all would have worked out. Just in a different way.
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