We all had a Dustin Pedroia in our social circle when we were kids. You know, the little kid with the Napoleonic Complex who took everything you said to him as a dig at his size. The pipsqueak would challenge anyone to a fight at the drop of a hat, which made him kind of a pain to have around because there was always tension in the air.

This kid usually started out as the group mascot, but then after a while, he would gain everybody’s respect. He was the first to get a tattoo. He always asked the hottest girl in class to go to the prom with him, and usually got her. He crawled through the basement window to sneak some beer out to everyone while his parents were sleeping. The kid had no fear, and you knew if you were ever in a fight, you’d take him on your side over the biggest bully in town.

Well, Dustin Pedroia is on the Red Sox side, and he’s kicking more butt than Napoleon at Austerlitz. Unless there is a sign somewhere that says, “You must be this tall to win the Rookie of the Year,” he should be the American League’s guy.

It’s a pretty strong class of rookies in the A.L. this year. There’s Brian Bannister in Kansas City and Delmon Young in Tampa Bay. Heck, Pedroia may lose some votes to teammates Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima.

Too often, the Rookie of the Year is based solely on the numbers. And if stats are where it’s at, Pedroia can make as good a case as any of the other candidates. He was hitting .327 heading into last night’s game, which puts him in the top 10 in the league. He’s second among American League second baseman in on-base percentage (and in the top 10 in the league overall), third in OPS, and sixth in fielding percentage.

It’s not the Most Valuable Rookie Award, but in that regard, Pedroia has it all over his competitors except maybe Okajima. After an abysmal April in which he hit .182, Pedroia caught fire, batting .415 in May. By June, he was filling a gaping hole at the top of the lineup left by a struggling Julio Lugo. And just when you thought the little guy would wilt in the heat, he hit .346 in August and scored 22 runs in 26 games.

There is no doubt in my mind that when the heat gets turned up for the playoffs, Pedroia will be at his best. He certainly plays the game with panache. With that upper-cut swing, he’s goes after pitches that are up in the zone like he’s Gary Sheffield, although when you’re 5-6 (if he’s his listed height of 5-9, I’m a svelte 185 pounds), everything is up in the zone. In the field, he throws his body aound like he’s trying to escape a burning building. The play he made to save Clay Buchholz’s no-no, topped off with a celebratory glove slap and an exclamation that we can’t print, pretty much summed up Dustin Pedroia.

He’s barely been in the majors one full season and the Yankees already hate him. Maybe because he’s hitting .356 against them, they’ve been going out of their way to drill him at second base and in the batter’s box. Or maybe, they just think he’s a runt who doesn’t know his place.

That makes him a pest. The thought of Pedroia pestering the Yankees and every other American League team for the next 10 or 15 years is pretty appealing.

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