If Pedroia Can't Do It, Who Can?

December 04, 2009 - 4:48 am

Is there anything Dustin Pedroia thinks he cannot do? Without hesitation, he would accept an invitation to take on Rocky Balboa for the heavyweight crown. In the blink of an eye, he would challenge Usain Bolt to a 200-meter sprint. With a grin on his face, he would engage in a one-on-one dunking contest with Yao Ming. Most likely, he would even assume the daring underdog role of David to stand up to the intimidating giant Goliath. He may be short in size, but his ambition and determination is colossal in height. After acknowledging earlier in the week he would welcome the opportunity to switch infield positions from second base to shortstop, Pedroia has once again proved why his value as a player surpasses any level of talent. Even though the Red Sox signed Marco Scutaro to fill the shortstop void, there is no denying Pedroia has in him an unflappable persona that does not recognize fear or apprehension, nor does it know the definition of an impossible task or an unachievable goal. Come spring training, the 2007 Rookie of the Year and the 2008 Most Valuable Player could have been the next gutsy individual to occupy the No. 6 infield. Although shortstop is considered to be the most defensively demanding position on the field, Pedroia approached the notion of playing there with his usual confidence and certainty. Pedroia relishes the idea of a challenge. He savors the prospect of defying the odds. But could he have done it? If he says he can, he can. Switching positions has become common in recent years as many teams look to upgrade offensively, often opting to sacrifice an elite defensive position to add an extra bat. However, while several players have successfully acclimatized themselves to their new positions (whether they chose so or had no other choice), Pedroia would have been one of the few who sought to fulfill a more taxing infield role. Here are some examples of notable players who have given up their traditional positions for new ones in the last few years: Alex Rodriguez If Alex Rodriguez had wound up in Boston prior to the 2004 season, we would not be having this conversation. Afterthe deal that would have sent Rodriguez to the Red Sox and Manny Ramirez to the Rangers fell through, the Yankees landed Rodriguez shortly before the season began. After third baseman Aaron Boone had suffered a season-ending knee injury after playing a game of pickup basketball in the offseason, A-Rod, a two-time Gold Glover, surrendered his role as shortstop, allowing Derek Jeter to retain his position. Since the move, A-Rod has experienced an up-and-down defensive transition. In 2004 and 2005, his errors at third totaled 13 and 12, respectively, before inflating to 24 in 2006. Yet, A-Rod has become more comfortable since, compiling 13 errors in 2007, 10 in 2008, and nine in 2009 (though he was limited to 116 games at third). Cal Ripken, Jr. When baseball's Iron Man broke Lou Gehrig's record for most consecutive games played on Sept. 5, 1995, Ripken was penciled in as the full-time shortstop for the Orioles. Yet, when the Orioles and free agent shortstop Mike Bordick agreed to a deal before the 1997 season, Ripken moved to third base permanently after playing only 83 games there his entire MLB career. In his first season at third, Ripken struggled, making 22 errors with a subpar .949 fielding percentage. The next year, Ripken was an entirely different player at third, committing only nine errors in 161 games with an improved .979 fielding percentage. Michael Young After A-Rod departed the Rangers to put on pinstripes, Michael Young transitioned from second base to shortstop to accommodate Alfonso Soriano. Finishing second in the league at second base with a .988 fielding percentage in 2002 and following with a .987 percentage in 2003, Young carried his Gold Glove-caliber defense to shortstop. Winning his first Gold Glove in 2008, Young was rewarded by being asked to move over to third base so that rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus could man the position. In response, Young requested a trade from the Rangers, though he eventually ended his protest and consented to the switch. Limited to 134 games at third after battling injuries throughout the season, Young finished 2009 committing nine errors to give him a .969 fielding percentage while Andrus was charged with 22 errors and had a .968 percentage at shortstop. Alfonso Soriano When the Washington Nationals acquired Soriano from the Rangers in December 2005, the team announced it planned to have Soriano play left field while Jose Vidro would remain at second base. Disgruntled by the switch, Soriano refused to take the field during his spring training debut. In turn, the Nationals threatened to place Soriano on the disqualified list if he continued his holdout. Two days later, Soriano ended his standoff as he made his way out to left field. Known for being a below-average defender at second, Soriano did not do much better in the outfield, committing 11 errors in 2006. After signing an eight-year deal with the Cubs in the offseason, he has since been limited in playing time due to injuries. However, he certainly knows how to entertain fans while out there.