HOUSTON – As ornaments go, Joc Pederson’s now-legendary pearl necklace turned out to be a fantastic choice. So, too, is his loudly bleached hair, making that man impossible to miss whether he’s in the Atlanta Braves lineup or not.
The Braves have reached the World Series in large part due to their ability to move past the loss of All-Star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who suffered a season-ending knee injury July 11, prompting Pederson’s acquisition five days later.
And while his clutch postseason hitting already tagged him with a nickname – Joctober is a perfect fit – there’s another tag that probably better dovetails with his style choices and what he’s brought to the Braves.
After a couple of weeks learning the ways of the Braves clubhouse, Pederson, who played in six postseasons as a Dodger, sensed the still-demoralized Braves needed a lift. Pederson, who can shift from dry and deadpan to blue quicker than he can turn on a fastball, couldn’t believe these were the Braves who took his Dodgers to seven games last October.
“It was a little sad and quiet in the locker room, but I was like, ‘This isn’t the team that I looked at across from the other side,” says Pederson. “(Catcher) Stephen Vogt got there a day or two after me, and we were just talking about how weird and quiet it was and he was like, ‘Man, I’m too old to put up with this. We’re going to do everything we can to change it.’
“And we kind of continued to instill the confidence in these great players. They were already good, but I think it just they’d been kicked down a couple times and a couple injuries, and the mojo wasn’t there. So we did everything we can to get the mojo going.”
Mojo, of course, is highly subjective, and the true reason why Pederson donned the pearl necklace – and whatever he does to fire up the squad behind closed doors – remain a mystery. Yet the Braves won four of their final five regular season games after Pederson’s pearls lit up the night, and seven of their 10 playoff games to reach the World Series for the first time since 1999.
Pederson, meanwhile, slugged a pair of home runs to sink Milwaukee in the NL Division Series and added another against his old team in the NL Championship Series. His .862 career playoff OPS – in a whopping 74 games – far outshines his .794 regular season mark.
So, if Joctober is real, so, too, is Pederson’s mojo?
“He keeps it light,” says third baseman Austin Riley. “Like he said, we were searching, for sure. I think he comes in and makes everything light in the clubhouse, in the dugout. Just a really good dude. Like I said, he’s just Joc. He’s all over the place. He means really well. Wants the team to win.
“I think you need one of those guys on your team.”
Pederson agrees. Be it sipping on glasses of vino during the NLCS on-field celebration to his jewelry choices, to telling the world, “I’m a bad MF!” his choices always stand out.
Though it may at times be awkward, the proof seems to be in the pearls.
“Just show some love to some people,” Pederson insists. “There’s just different ways to go about it to – you’ve got to kind of find out how each individual ticks, and what motivates them or what inspires them or builds confidence in them and keep pushing those buttons to make you feel like you’re a bad MF.
“Because that’s the way you’ve got to compete on the field.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joc Pederson’s pearls: Why Braves slugger changed the team’s attitude
Source: Yahoo Sports