Sean Casey said he looked at the newest American League Most Valuable Player a little differently on July 12, 2008.
The Red Sox, at the time, were crushing the Orioles, 12-1, with two outs in the ninth inning.
Orioles slugger Aubrey Huff lined a shot up the middle off reliever Mike Timlin. From where Casey watched, on the Red Sox dugout stairs at Fenway Park, it looked like a sure base hit.
"It was a rocket," recalled Casey, who was contacted at his Pittsburgh home yesterday. "But Dustin (Pedroia) dove to his right, got up quick, and fired to first. Game over.
"You have to be into the game for something like that to happen. It really showed me how special he really was. At 12-1, most guys don't even try to make that play. Dustin is always ready. Always."
Pedroia, the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, added the AL MVP Award to his trophy case, beating out Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins.
Of the 28 votes cast, Pedroia received 16 first-place votes. He also got six second-place votes. Morneau seven first-place votes and seven for second place.
While his power numbers (17 HRs and 83 RBI) aren't usual resume material for MVP candidates, Pedroia was the among the league leaders in nearly every other hitting category — .326 average (2nd), 213 hits (1st), 54 doubles (1st), 118 runs scored (1st) and .952 stolen base percentage (1st).
He also won a Gold Glove 10 days earlier with only six errors in 2008.
"The writers got it right," said Casey. "They looked beyond the big numbered-guys that usually win this thing and gave it to the guy who deserved it. I've been saying it for a while. Dustin Pedroia is the MVP."
The writers may have gotten it right, but there was a little luck, too.
Luck in that Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton, who all but had the 2008 American League MVP Trophy in hand in July, tired (he had 21 homers and 95 RBI before All-Star break and only 11 homers and 35 RBI after) down the stretch. Maybe the Home Run Derby prior to the All-Star Game, when he pounded 28 homers in one round, took too much out of him.
What it afforded baseball to do was appreciate a pure-bred like Pedroia.
"This is great for the game because it shows everyone what happens when you work hard and show up to play every single day," said Casey. "If I was going to show someone how the game should be played, I would show video of Dustin."
Casey, who hopes to play another year, possibly with the Red Sox, said before he arrived in Boston for the 2008 season, he knew Pedroia was good. He just didn't realize how good.
"He's the kind of you have to see every day to really appreciate him," said Casey. "It's not just at the plate, either. It's in the field. It's on the bases. It's in the dugout.
"You realize how this little guy is so mentally tough," said Casey. "He's not afraid to go up against a guy who is 6-10 and 280 pounds. He's not afraid of anybody. He's not afraid of any situation. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to play with him."
You can e-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.