Former Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia won the AL MVP award en route to the World Series title in 2007 with Terry Francona at the helm. With rumblings of this being Francona’s final season, Pedroia joined WEEI’s Rob Bradford on the Audacy original podcast “Baseball Isn’t Boring” to talk about just how special the current Cleveland Guardians manager is.
“I wouldn’t even have had my career if it wasn’t for him,” Pedroia said (5:20 in player above). “Just the way he handled me, the way he approached me, the way he helped me. Basically everything.
“I look at a coach or a person that you look up to, you look at them how they treat you when you’re not at your best. He was at his best with me when I was at my worst. That’s what makes him.”
Francona was able to get the best out of a scrappy middle infielder that just wanted to win.
“Anybody can manage David Ortiz in his prime or Manny Ramirez in his prime or even me in my prime. You just put them in the lineup and press play,” Pedroia continued. “But when a guy’s a rookie and he’s struggling and he’s not proven in one of the biggest markets in baseball, the biggest fanbase in baseball, the pressure to win, the pressure to everything, and for him to treat me the way he did, it just shows that not only is he the best manager, he’s one of the best people, too. I owe him everything.”
Pedroia may have been one of Francona’s best success stories but he was just one of many.
“It’s not just me. I’ve seen him do it with numerous guys,” he said. “It’s a tough job, man, and he’s done it for a long time and he understands how to do it. I was just fortunate enough to be able to play for him for those almost seven years.”
While more and more baseball decisions nowadays are impacted by front offices and analytics departments, Francona’s personal touch is what made him stand out.
“I think Tito realizes it’s not X’s and O’s. When you get to the major leagues, everybody’s got the same talent,” Pedroia said. “There are a couple guys where you’re like ‘Hey, that’s a Hall of Famer.’ … But everybody’s good. It’s how you get someone that gets the best out of them. Tito’s the master at that. You look up his teams and every year they’re in there.”
After starting his career with a rebuilding Phillies club, Francona found immediate success in Boston and has now won over 900 games in Cleveland. He’s been able to get the best out of his team no matter the situation.
“The way he operates in the clubhouse. The way he keeps everybody relaxed,” Pedroia continued. “There are times to mess around, there are times to focus. The way they run spring training. The way he takes care of his everyday guys and the way they don’t get tired. It works.”
Pedroia spent nearly seven years with Francona as his manager and has tons of stories, but unfortunately, none of them are appropriate for a podcast, he explained.
“Every day I looked forward to going to the ballpark and playing for a guy you knew had your back, you knew was going to have fun doing his job. He loves it. I appreciate it so much,” Pedroia said. “To be in that environment, to have a guy have your back like that, there’s nothing like it, man. There’s nothing really like it.”