This Award goes to a player or players who went through tough times - through injury, through illness, through personal matters, through a harsh slump - but came out on top.
There was only one nominee I could think of off the top of my head, so he wins it. And the nominee/winner is…
Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox!
Pedroia wasn’t a highly touted prospect like Nomar Garciaparra, Hanley Ramirez, or Jacoby Ellsbury were. He was a solid player in the minors, hitting .305 with 5 homers at AAA Pawtucket in 2006. He came into what has been a tough position for the Red Sox the past few years. In the last two decades, second base has seen the arrival and departure of Mark Bellhorn, Tony Graffanino, Mike Lansing, Jose Offerman, Mark Loretta, Todd Walker, Rey Sanchez, Mike Benjamin, Jeff Frye, Luis Alicea, Scott Fletcher, Jody Reed, and Marty Barrett.
When Pedroia entered the fray, he struggled. He hit .182 in April, with a poultry .236 slugging percentage and only a pair of RBI. Despite the success of the team, Dustin was becoming the focus of scrutiny from the fans. It appeared as though he didn’t have what it took to be a Major Leaguer.
But Terry Francona and the Sox stuck with him. And it paid off. Pedroia had an outstanding month of May, hitting .425, slugging .600, and getting on base 47% of the time. In June he hit .333, then .299 in July, .346 in August, and .302 in September.
He finished the season with a .317 average, a .380 OBP, 50 RBI, and 86 runs scored. He was 10th in hitting in the American League. Placido Polanco and Chase Utley were the only 2B to sport higher averages. Pedroia won the Rookie of the Year Award, getting 24 of 29 first place votes.
Pedroia hit .345 in the ALCS, with 3 doubles, a homer, and 5 RBI. In the World Series, he hit .278, with a double, a homer, and 4 RBI. He also filled a spot in the lineup that had been tossed around like a hot potato: the leadoff spot.
He stayed strong despite all the negative attention. He remained confident that he would find his groove. It’s hard for a player to begin a season in a slump, especially when it’s your first season. But Dustin’s ability to stay inside the game was a big reason why the Red Sox won the World Series.