At one point this offseason for the Boston Red Sox, Shane Victorino’s name was raising eyebrows.
Fast forward a few months, and he is back at it again, this time for different reasons.
Victorino signed with the club on December 13, 2012 to a startling $39 million dollar contract. I’m not even going to pretend I liked the signing, I thought it was a mistake as soon as the ink dried. Considering the Red Sox had the option to resign fan-favorite Cody Ross, Victorino seemed like a bit of a reach. After all, Ross’ swing was built for Fenway, he hit 22 homers and drove in 81 RBI’s in his lone year in Boston, and had a knack for the dramatic hit.
Meanwhile, after a successful career in Philly, the 32-year-old Victorino found himself on the market after a down year with the Phillies/Dodgers. He seemed headed in the wrong direction of a nice career and I didn’t see him getting paid that handsomely from anyone, never mind the Boston Red Sox.
Ben Cherington had made the vow to stay smart in free agency by not dishing out any big contracts with several years attached, and surprisingly, stood pat on that idea. The Sox bargain shopped all winter , and besides Victorino, they really only spent some semi-serious money on Mike Napoli (originally signed, 3 yr. $39 million).
The appreciation for a guy like Victorino doesn’t truly settle in until he’s on the team you watch everyday. It sounds bizarre, but he’s really a five-tool player. I know when people hear “five-tool player, ” they think of these phenom athletes like Mike Trout, or Bryce Harper, but that’s not always the case. Victorino has speed, fields well, throws well, and can hit for contact and power. Maybe the power is a stretch, but he’s got more pop in his bat than I previously thought. The point is, he does everything really well and brings a tremendous amount of energy with him to the ballpark while doing so.
After deciding to murder baseballs last night (3-3, 2 HR’s, 7 RBI’s, and 4 R), Victorino is on an absolutely blistering pace over the last two weeks. He’s got 4 homers and 11 RBI’s in his last 10 games, and has been in the middle of everything lately. The decision he made to almost exclusively bat right-handed has been paying off. His slash this month, .313/.384/.576, is by far his best of the season, and even though that .576 SLG is somewhat of an outlier for what he normally produces, his OBP is not.
Having him at the top of the order is proving fruitful for Boston’s offense who specialize in grinding out pitchers, and putting runners on base. If you put enough people on base, the runs are destined to follow and Victorino is playing his role to a T this year.
All this, and I haven’t even mentioned his defense yet. In 827 innings played, Victorino has only committed 3 errors (.988 fielding percentage), and has 9 outfield assists. His work in right field has been nothing short of spectacular, especially with his unfamiliarity with Fenway Park’s dimensions entering the season. Balls bouncing off into the right field corner tend to give most players who’ve experienced it trouble, but Victorino gets to the ball so quickly, it rarely has time to get all the way back there. With an outfield that features both him, and Jacoby Ellsbury, you have to hit a rope to get it into the gaps.
I’ve eaten my fair share of crow in my years. It never tastes good, but sometimes a healthy plate of crow is just what I need and Shane Victorino is serving it up this time. So it’s my pleasure to admit that the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” was worth every penny.