The 30-year-old second baseman, an All-Star this year for the fourth time, had helped the Red Sox to the best record in the majors at week's end, batting .297 with eight homers and 78 RBIs.
DAN PATRICK:How often do you check your stats?
DUSTIN PEDROIA: They let you know on the scoreboard every time you hit. I try not to look at that stuff.
DP:Do you know how many stolen bases you have?
PEDROIA: Actually I do because a fan in Tampa yelled at me that I'm on his fantasy team and I need to get 20 for him. I had 17. He's like, I need three more steals. I'm like, I'm trying. Sometimes I have to let David Ortiz hit into that hole.
DP:The media coverage is much more subdued this year compared with when you were scuffling in 2012. Does that bother you?
PEDROIA: I don't think about it. I think the guys that were here last year will never forget about what happened. We've learned from it. It's going to make us better in the long run. It's made me a better leader.
DP:Why haven't you ever been named captain?
PEDROIA: I don't know. I don't believe in that stuff. I learned so much from Jason Varitek when he was captain. He always told me that you need 25 guys to lead for your team to win.
DP:Varitek always carried that briefcase around. What was in it?
PEDROIA: A lot of scouting reports. My rookie year I made fun of him. I was like, Jeez, you studying for a test? He's kind of a scary guy. He looked at me like he was going to kill me. That was the last time I ever talked about that briefcase.
DP:What is the etiquette for watching a home run?
PEDROIA: I don't hit very far home runs, so I don't know the feeling of standing there and watching it. I'm usually trying to fly around because I think they're a double.
DP:What was it like meeting Derek Jeter for the first time?
PEDROIA: I think I asked him for an autograph.
DP:Not during the game.
PEDROIA: No, really, during the game. [Laughs.]
DP:Were you nervous?
PEDROIA: It was 2006, right when I got called up. We were facing Randy Johnson. I hit a double. I remember looking at [Jeter] and saying, "My name is Dustin, how ya doin?" He was like, "Yeah, I know." He's one of my favorites. Everything he does is first-class.
DP:Where did the nickname Muddy Chicken come from?
PEDROIA: Darnell McDonald always called me Laser Show. I said, I really don't like that, come up with something else. Ortiz was eating chicken that looked like it was smothered in dirt, and Darnell said [Muddy Chicken]. Everyone started laughing and calling me that.
PEDROIA: Terrible, isn't it?
DP:Doesn't exactly strike fear in the opponent.
PEDROIA: I don't think I do anyway.
Legendary hothead John McEnroe had advice for Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on controlling his anger. "Eventually it starts hurting you," McEnroe told me. "In my case, it was almost like a bad habit—like a smoker who couldn't stop.... It's become counterproductive for [Suh]. His career is going to be much, much shorter unless he gets his act together." ... Landon Donovan believes the U.S.'s clinching a World Cup berth feels bigger than ever. "Times have changed," he said. "We have a lot of guys playing at a high level. We're at a tipping point. People really care. Ten years ago they weren't talking about soccer on SportsCenter." ... I asked Patriots receiver Julian Edelman if teammate Rob Gronkowski looked as if he were ready to play. "He's 6'7", 500 pounds," Edelman said. "He always looks like he can go."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
JAMES BORCHUCK/TAMPA BAY TIMES/ZUMAPRESS.COM (PEDROIA)
MATTHEW STOCKMAN/GETTY IMAGES (MCENROE)
CARLOS M. SAAVEDRA FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (DONOVAN)
CHRISTOPHER SZAGOLA/CSM/LANDOV (EDELMAN)