BOSTON — Shane Victorino — a.k.a “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” — has done what Carl Crawford failed do in his two years here in Boston. Victorino has proved all his critics wrong.
Crawford always looked scared. He avoided the media whenever he could. He put too much pressure on himself. He cared what people thought about him. That still shows by his constant comments about Boston.
Victorino, on the other hand, loves the environment that is Boston and doesn’t care what you, me, any media member or anyone at all (expect maybe his teammates and coaches) think about him as a ballplayer.
He knows he’s good and he doesn’t need you to “pump his tires” as Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo liked to say during the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
“He’s been a complete player for us,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Yes, yes he has.
Victorino had another productive night yesterday. He went 2 for 4 with a walk, RBI, two runs and his 18th stolen base in a 4-3 win here over the White Sox.
Victorino exemplifies what this team is about. He is a grinder. He’s tough as nails. He’d run throw a wall. He grows on you. He loves to play and loves to play in a town where every game — every play — means something. He would choose a World Series title over an MVP award.
How many of you wanted the Red Sox to sign Josh Hamilton? How many of you scratched your head when Victorino tweeted Dec. 4, “Just agreed to join the Boston @RedSox in the middle of paradise. #BLESSED!!! Can’t wait to get to Boston!”
Well, Victorino is batting .296 with 12 homers, 51 RBIs, 23 doubles and two triples. He has nine outfield assists, the most by a Red Sox right fielder since Trot Nixon in 2005. Hamilton, meanwhile, is batting .234 with a .294 on-base percentage for the hapless Angels.
Victorino struggled last year with the Phillies and Dodgers. Some thought he was on the decline, citing decreased bat speed. Victorino has shown otherwise.
The most eye-popping and enjoyable-to-watch aspect of his game actually is defense. And he works hard at it. He does band exercises like a pitcher does to strength his arm and he works on his accuracy and length of throws from right field every four or five days.
“He’s been everything and probably more from the defensive side of it,” Farrell said, stressing a right fielder at Fenway Park must have as much range as a center fielder. “Not just in terms of his range (but) his throwing accuracy, his throwing arm.
“He’s been a tough, resilient player for us. He’s played banged up for a good portion of this year. And I think that through that example and the energy that he brings, he’s injected a lot of life into us.”
On July 28, when he had already missed 34 games, I stressed that the Red Sox could not afford for Victorino to miss any significant time.
Since then, he hasn’t missed a single game. Yes, he has played every day, through some pain, and done an incredible job. Victorino is one of the top candidates for American League Player of the Month for August.
Here on the final day of August, he leads the Red Sox this month in homers (7), RBIs (22) and slugging percentage.
And how about this stat ... His 73 total bases since July 30 are second in the AL behind only the superhuman Miguel Cabrera (75). During that span, Victorino is batting .347 with 10 doubles and 25 runs.
With the season winding down and first place in the AL East on the line, Victorino has been there batting second and playing right field every day, literally.
A switch hitter, he has been hitting solely right-handed because batting left-handed aggravates his hamstring.
He actually went to Farrell during a game against Arizona at the beginning of this month and asked his manager if it would be OK to try hitting right-handed against a righty if there was nobody on base. The rest is history. Victorino has batted .300 against righties in 50 at-bats.
“And hitting solely from the right side of the plate of late, he’s proven to himself not only can he handle right-handed pitching, he’s handled it with power,” Farrell added.
Like this whole 2013 Red Sox team, Victorino is exactly what Crawford and the ‘11, ‘12 Sox teams weren’t. And he’s just out there having fun.
Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB