BOSTON -- One of the most intriguing matchups of this year's World Series is taking place at second base.
Until this past season, any comparison between the Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia and the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter would have tilted in favor of Pedroia, who has had a lengthy history of success.
Pedroia played shortstop at Arizona State University as the double-play partner of Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. Pedroia was a second-round selection of the Red Sox in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
In his eight-year career in Boston, Pedroia has played with passion and energy on his way to a .302 batting average. He has been a major sparkplug, winning the American League MVP Award (2008), being named to four All-Star teams and picking up two Gold Glove Awards -- the most recent of which came in '11. In addition, Pedroia won a Silver Slugger Award in 2008.
Pedroia did not let up this past season. He hit .301 with nine home runs and 84 RBIs. Among Pedroia's 193 hits, he collected 42 doubles and two triples. He scored 91 runs, 10 more than the year before, and he also stole 17 bases.
And even with all those fabulous credentials, Carpenter might get the nod as the better second-base option in this World Series. It's hard to believe, but for many, it's fact. The better player is in the eye of the beholder.
Pedroia or Carpenter? Who gets the nod?
Consider that Carpenter has played only two full seasons after a brief introduction to professional baseball as a rookie. As a 13th-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Carpenter was selected from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.
At 27, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Carpenter had a true top-of-the-charts 2013. In 2012, there were hints of a breakthrough season for the versatile and highly athletic left-handed hitter. He hit .294, serving notice that he could be counted upon for quality play from several positions.
So far with the Cards, Carpenter has played every outfield position, first base, second and third, and he's played them all well.
Offensively, Carpenter is coming off an awesome season. He hit .318, leading the National League with 126 runs and 55 doubles. In 717 plate appearances, Carpenter also stroked seven triples and 11 home runs among his league-leading 199 hits.
Pedroia is generally believed to be a better fielder overall than Carpenter at second base. Pedroia's play in the fourth inning of Game 2, when he ranged far to his right to take a hit and an RBI away from the Cardinals' Matt Adams, helped the Red Sox avoid what could have been a big inning.
With the game on the line, who would a fan rather have step up to the plate: Pedroia or Carpenter? What a decision.
Awards, accolades, commendations? All good. A World Series ring? The ultimate.
Both Pedroia and Carpenter can change a game with power, a key base hit, a great defensive play or a disciplined at-bat that puts pressure on the pitcher. Both players have nice short swings, staying quick to the ball while trying to barrel the pitch to the gaps. They don't swing for the fences, but they swing for an RBI or to become the runner on base who can provide their team with the lead.
But pick one over the other in this World Series? It can't be done.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.