Dustin Pedroia can't bring himself to say it, even now, even after going through a knee surgery that didn't really take, even after playing just nine games the past two seasons. He has diligently followed the recommendations of doctors and athletic trainers, and endured hours, days, weeks and months of rehabilitation, and it hasn't paid off.
He still can't play baseball. Imagine the frustration in that, and imagine what it has been like for someone with a Little Leaguer's craving for the game to watch other people play.
He can't utter the obvious. He won't, maybe ever. After his most recent minor league rehabilitation was truncated by persistent knee pain and he was placed on the 60-day injured list, Pedroia met with reporters Monday, and he was asked if he will play again.
"I'm not sure," Pedroia responded, refusing to state what seems obvious now, that this part of his professional life is over. The respect for him runs so deep in the Boston Red Sox organization that nobody will push him to say what he didn't say Monday. His playing career won't end on his terms, but he'll decide, and nobody else, when and if he acknowledges it.