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Dan Shaughnessy

Pedroia still smarting from failures of 2011

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / February 24, 2012
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - He can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t funny the night it happened. Dustin Pedroia was sitting at a table alongside Jacoby Ellsbury, preparing to be honored at the Gold Glove awards dinner in New York in November, when master of ceremonies Bob Costas launched into some fresh comedy material.

“The bar is going to be closed,’’ Costas told the large gathering at the banquet. “Except for the Red Sox.’’

“I was embarrassed, man,’’ said Pedroia. “I have a tough time with all that stuff because being a Boston Red Sox, my name is a part of that, and it’s frustrating.’’

Chicken and beer. Beer and chicken. If you played for the 2011 Red Sox, it will always be part of your legacy, even if you did nothing wrong. Just as Al Pacino will go to his grave knowing he appeared in “Gigli,’’ Dustin Pedroia has to live with the fact that he was part of the 2011 Red Sox.

Pedroia doesn’t sound like a guy who wants any part of a captain’s role (and Bobby Valentine is apt to make himself captain), but he has spoken to teammates who stained the Sox and the legacy of his favorite manager, Terry Francona.

“This is my family, man, this is my life,’’ said the second baseman. “I talk to these guys in the offseason and text them. We talked. We know what’s going on.

“Those guys [pitchers] care, man. I know it ended awful. But they owned up to it. It’s not going to happen again. They love competing. That’s what makes all of our starters good. They want to go out and win. They’re tough guys. It just got away from us.’’

Pedroia was closer than any of his teammates to Francona. The two played cribbage in Francona’s office almost daily. The diminutive infielder was not happy with the way things ended for the only big league manager he has ever known.

“My feeling in this game is, from owner to clubhouse guy, everyone should have everyone’s back, no matter who messes up,’’ said Pedroia. “In our case last year, that didn’t happen, and that part really got to me.

“I never think a manager can win us a game or lose us a game. I’m the one playing. [Jon] Lester is the one pitching. We have the control of the game. He makes decisions, but if you have 25 guys who know what they’re supposed to do, it shouldn’t matter what his decision is.

“I never think about if he messed up a game or helped us win a game. I don’t think about that.’’

Hard feelings and accountability aside, there’s a distinct Sergeant Schultz “I know nothing!’’ theme among players who were there last September. Alas, Pedroia is part of the blind chorus.

“I didn’t know what was going on,’’ he insisted. “I was playing the games. I don’t have time to go in the clubhouse and I don’t know what’s going on. We’re competing and trying to win.

“The part I was frustrated the most with . . . I pride myself on being the guy who needs to find a way to get us out of it if our team is in trouble or not playing well. There were a couple of games where I was able to do that, but I couldn’t get us back rolling.

“That bothered me. It still bothers me. I think that’s my biggest job on this team. When times are tough, I need to be the guy that pulls us out of it and makes sure we get back on track so everyone else can take off.

“I wish I went 5 for 5 in some of the games and drove in six runs and carried us. I know that’s really hard to do in this game, but I feel like I can do that. I did do it in a game against the Blue Jays, but it eats at me that I couldn’t stop it.’’

Did he get in the face of any of the violators?

“We all like each other,’’ Pedroia said. “I didn’t know what was going on. When I get to the field, I’ve got to work. I have those blinders on. I know what I need to do to help us win. I thought we were all going in the same direction.

“I saw what some of the guys said when we first got here. As teammates, we appreciate how they talked about it and said what went on. I appreciate what they said. It’s not going to happen again.’’

Regarding new manager Bobby Valentine, Pedroia said, “I haven’t really spoken to him that much. He told me yesterday he wants to go out to dinner and talk, so we’ll do that.’’

Might it be a good thing to have everyone laughing at the Red Sox instead of taking them seriously in the American League East?

“I remember last year everyone thought we were going to win 130 games and run through like this is easy and not break a sweat,’’ said Pedroia. “We have basically the same players. So that talent’s here. We just have to put it together.’’

How long did it take to get over the way things ended in Baltimore?

“I’m not over that,’’ said Pedroia. “I’m never going to get over that.

“It was frustrating how it went down. We had that rain delay. And the last play for me was in slow motion. That last ball, I don’t think Carl [Crawford] could have dove forward.

“It was weird. I guess that’s why baseball is great. Anything can happen.’’

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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