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10/23/07 11:00 AM ET

Heart of the Order: Dustin Pedroia

Tell him he's short. Tell him his swing is too long. Tell him he doesn't have enough athleticism to enjoy sustained success in the Major Leagues. Dustin Pedroia is listening to his critics, because they've always driven him toward greater success. After a brutal April in his rookie season, there was an outcry in Boston for manager Terry Francona to replace Pedroia with Alex Cora. Francona never listened and Pedroia responded with a season so solid that he might win the American League's Rookie of the Year in November.

"I'm proud of the whole organization for drafting that kid and developing him and I'm also proud of him for all the hard work and defying the odds and not listening to his critics along the way," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "Every time he gets criticized for being too small or too something, it makes him try harder."

Heart of the Order
With the World Series approaching, MLB.com explores the people behind the numbers on the AL champion Red Sox.

C: J. Varitek
1B: K. Youkilis
2B: D. Pedroia
SS: J. Lugo
3B: M. Lowell
LF: M. Ramirez
CF: J. Ellsbury
RF: J. Drew
DH: D. Ortiz
SP: J. Beckett
SP: C. Schilling
CL: J. Papelbon

Pedroia is, well, cocky, but as Curt Schilling recently said, it's cockiness in "a good way." As much as the Red Sox ride Pedroia -- he's a dartboard of clubhouse quips -- any teammate would be the first to rush to his defense if the occasion called for it.

Ever the competitor, Pedroia will engage a teammate in any competition he can find. In the visitors clubhouse in Cleveland this year, Pedroia beat someone in a game of ping pong and triumphantly announced to anyone in earshot that "There's a new champ today, boys."

Pedroia plays cribbage with Francona and third baseman Mike Lowell on a near daily basis and there are constant bragging rights at stake from all corners. Growing up in the Bay Area, Pedroia roots for the Sacramento Kings and San Francisco 49ers. He lists movies, reality shows and PlayStation 2 among his hobbies.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.