A face of the franchise, besieged by injuries that derailed what could have been a Hall of Fame career, made official Monday what the baseball world long had seen as inevitable: He retired. After trying his darnedest for years to return to the field, he was ready to say out loud and in public that it wasn’t going to happen.
This time it was Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia’s story. But it is one with which David Wright is deeply familiar.
"I know exactly what he’s going through," Wright said in an interview with Newsday on Monday afternoon, around the same time that Pedroia was doing his goodbye news conference. "Your brain is telling you that you can do it and that you’re going to make it back physically and you’re going to feel good one day — and your body is just telling you something completely different.
"It takes time and it takes failure. It takes failure, your body letting you down, before the two match up, before your body and your mind get on the same page."
Wright and Pedroia have been friends for more than a decade, and their careers contain many parallels. They were early-round draft picks who debuted in the mid-2000s and quickly became perennial All-Stars, fan favorites and team leaders. They spent their entire careers with one big-market organization. They signed long-term contracts to stay there instead of testing free agency and maximizing their money-making ability. They even have the same agents, Sam and Seth Levinson of ACES. And they suffered what looked like mid-career injuries that turned out to be late-career injuries.
For Wright, it was back, neck and shoulder problems induced by spinal stenosis. For Pedroia, it was left knee problems induced by Manny Machado’s spikes during a slide at second in April 2017.
Both players were virtually done as big-leaguers after their age-33 season but tried for years to return — experiencing endless rehab and surgeries and a refusal to call it quits.
"I felt for him, and I’ve tried to be here for him — and I’ve told him this, without being too pushy, I said, if you ever want to talk about it or have any questions about what I went through, feel free to use me," Wright said.
Pedroia didn’t often take Wright up on that offer, but when they did discuss their mutual issues, Wright’s advice was straightforward: "Make sure you do everything in your power so that when the time comes [to retire], you sleep well knowing you’ve explored every avenue."
That was what brought Wright peace of mind when he played his final games in 2018. And it is what Pedroia, who said he no longer can run after a partial knee replacement in December, pursued in the years since.
"I applaud him for really exhausting all those possibilities," Wright said.
In 14 seasons, Wright had 5,998 at-bats, a .296 average and 49.2 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.
In 14 seasons, Pedroia had 6,031 at-bats, a .299 average and a 51.6 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.
Wright and Pedroia became buds when they were Team USA teammates during the 2009 World Baseball Classic and they periodically get in touch — including getting to know some of the same doctors and therapists in recent years.
When the Mets visited Fenway Park during Wright’s farewell tour in 2018, Pedroia presented Wright a No. 5 from the Green Monster scoreboard.
Wright’s best Pedroia story?
"Oh, I got a million of them," he said. But there is one that sticks out.
In August 2015, the Red Sox visited Citi Field. Pedroia, sidelined with a hamstring injury, traveled with the team. Wright, pursuing a pop-up at the visitors’ dugout, leaned over the rail to try to make the catch, only to come up short.
Then he noticed Pedroia, 5-9 and a prolific trash-talker, right below him. "I look and I see him standing there," Wright recalled. "I said something like, ‘What’s up, little guy? Stand up when I come over here and acknowledge me.’ Just talking a little trash to him. And as quickly as you could possibly come back, he goes, ‘I’m just as tall as you when I stand on my World Series rings and MVP trophy.’ It shut me up like no other. All his teammates started laughing. I said ‘touche’ and tipped my cap."
That is Pedroia.
"When I think of Dustin Pedroia, I think of the competitiveness, the trash-talking, the unbelievable confidence," Wright said. "I enjoyed the back-and-forth with him and the trash talk and just his overall attitude toward the game, because I feel like we had a lot in common."
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