BOSTON — If you were about to start your own Major League Baseball team, and you had the choice of having either Dustin Pedroia or Robinson Cano be your second baseman, who would you pick?
"I'd have to go with Cano," Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey said. "Just my gut feeling. They're both great players."
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have had several great positional rivalries over the years: Carlton Fisk vs. Thurman Munson, Jason Varitek vs. Jorge Posada, Nomar Garciaparra vs. Derek Jeter.
Now, it's Pedroia vs. Cano.
Pedroia, 28, has played in 686 major league games. He has a .305 batting average, .375 on-base percentage, .463 slugging percentage and .838 OPS with 71 homers, 199 doubles, 825 hits and 80 stolen bases.
Cano, 28, had played in 1,024 major league games entering yesterday. He has a .308 batting average, .347 on-base percentage, .494 slugging percentage and .841 OPS for his career along with 139 homers, 275 doubles, 1,230 hits and 28 stolen bases.
Basically, Cano hits for some more power, but Pedroia gets on base at a higher rate.
Pedroia has more speed while both second basemen hit for about the same average.
So which of the two would you rather have on your team?
"It's not easy," Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said, pausing to think. "Either one. Both are different kind of players. They are both really good. Defensively, they're pretty similar — Cano more of a flair kind of a guy where Pedroia is more of a grind-it-out kind of a fellow. Pure hitting-wise, probably Cano (is better) as a pure hitter. Probably. I think they both have wonderful intangibles, but Pedroia just drips with them."
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin said Cano makes the game look easy.
"He does everything real smooth and easy," Tomlin said. "And Pedroia is one of those guys who is hard-nosed and will give you everything he has."
Pedroia and Cano certainly have different styles.
Cano originally was criticized for his smooth, easy style when he first was promoted to the majors. Many mistook that for not trying and working hard.
"That's how I am," Cano said, discussing his smooth style. "It's not like I want to be like that. That's just how I am. I got criticized a lot when I first came up. But then they realized that's the way I play."
Pedroia, who declined three different interview requests for this article, will never be mistaken for someone who isn't trying. At 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, Pedroia is all about hustle and effort.
"Pedroia, I call him a little mug rat," said Don Zimmer, a Tampa Bay Rays senior advisor who managed the Red Sox from 1976 through 1980. "He's just in your hair all the time whether he's making a good play or whether he's getting another hit. They're both great players. I wouldn't say that one is better than the other."
Pedroia's small stature may require him to be a little cocky and outspoken.
Pedroia certainly is one of the most energetic, outspoken, humorous and sarcastic players in the Red Sox clubhouse. He constantly is looking to joke around with and make fun of teammates and the media.
His outspokenness off the field and his hustle on the field makes him a natural leader. It would not be foolish to presume that Pedroia will become the next Boston captain once Jason Varitek retires or leaves Boston.
"He's different," Maddon said about Pedroia. "He's different in the way he goes about his day (and) his impact on the team. (His) leadership qualities I see as being more outstanding (than Cano's) just from a distance."
Cano doesn't seem to be as much of a leader maybe because he appears much quieter than Pedroia.
But Cano has the potential to be a great team leader himself, like a Derek Jeter type, Cano's ex-teammate Hideki Matsui recently said through his translator.
"I feel like Cano has taken on that role, the leadership role, within the Latin players," said Matsui who is the Oakland Athletics DH. "He really sort of took the young Latin players under his wing. And I think he definitely has that sort of leadership personality in him that eventually he can take on that role for the entire clubhouse. And he's got a great role model in Derek Jeter."
Cano's opinion of Pedroia
Cano said he speaks with Pedroia whenever he gets the chance. The two, for example, talked at the 2010 All-Star Game and Cano said he often asks Pedroia about his family when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox go head to head.
"This is just a game," Cano said. "There's nothing personal. I'm happy to see him hitting the way he's hitting right now. ... I'm happy he's back in the game because I know how it is when you're not doing that good and he wasn't (doing that good) in the beginning (of this season)."
Cano has said Pedroia has a big heart and a hard swing.
"He swings hard, but his swing is always in the zone, that's why he's so successful," Cano recently said, according to the New York Daily News. "A lot of times you see people swing hard and it's not in the zone and their head is out. Not him. His head is always right there."
Stepping up big
Pedroia has spent the majority of his career hitting out of the No. 2 hole in the Red Sox lineup. Cano, meanwhile, has spent the majority of his time hitting fifth and seventh in the Yankees order.
But when both players are asked to elevate their games by batting cleanup, both have done so.
Pedroia is batting .413 with a .461 on-base percentage, .728 slugging percentage, 1.189 OPS, six homers, 21 RBIs, 20 runs scored, nine doubles and one triple in 92 career at-bats as the Red Sox' cleanup hitter.
Cano has logged 218 at-bats in the cleanup spot and is hitting .312 with a .373 on-base percentage, .509 slugging percentage, .882 OPS, 11 homers, 52 RBIs, 43 runs and 10 doubles.
Best of the best
Both Pedroia and Cano each have won one Gold Glove. Each have been named to the American League All-Star three times.
Pedroia was the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and the 2008 AL MVP. He won a Silver Slugger award in 2008. Cano, meanwhile, finished second in the 2005 AL Rookie of the Year voting and third in the 2010 AL MVP voting. He won the AL second baseman Silver Slugger award in both 2006 and 2010.
Pedroia and Cano are No. 1 and 2 respectively right now in Major League Baseball for batting average among second baseman.
Right now, second basemen are providing lots of high averages and power for teams around Major League Baseball. Eleven second basemen already have reached double-digits in home runs this season. Nine second basemen have knocked in 50 or more runs.
"What they (Pedroia and Cano) have done for second basemen — you can even add (Texas Rangers second baseman Ian) Kinsler in there — they've kind of made this new phenomenon seeing second basemen in the middle of the order where you never really saw that before," Bailey said. "So for those two doing what they're doing, it's pretty cool."
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