Don’t worry? Shane Victorino’s lost season and his Red Sox future


The steel drums and cheery words of Bob Marley have been conspicuously absent from Fenway this season.

The walkup song for Shane Victorino, “Three Little Birds,” epitomized the 2013 Red Sox season: “Don’t worry, about a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be all right.” Koji Uehara transformed from a journeyman reliever into a virtually automatic save-machine. Even if the Sox trailed in the late innings, you could never count them out—with tremendous situational hitting, they gutted out 11 walkoff wins, and there was a stretch in August in which they won 5 out of 6 games by coming from behind. According to Chris Abshire of MLB.comJohn Farrell said after one of these games, “there was never any extra sense of urgency, no panic.” Much of that can be attributed to the culture fostered by Victorino. After a seven-run late inning comeback against the Mariners, Victorino casually said (per Ian Browne of, “Just got to keep playing for 27 outs.”

No worries, man.

Victorino’s positive influence on the 2013 Red Sox cannot be overstated. His optimism and energy were welcome additions to the clubhouse after the 2012 Bobby Valentine disaster. Along with guys like Jonny Gomes and Dustin Pedroia, he greatly contributed to the culture of resilience that drove last season’s success. His clubhouse presence has been well documented, but his performance on the field was equally impressive. He hit .294, stole 21 bases, and won a Gold Glove in right field. His 5.6 WAR was 14th in baseball, ahead of more renowned stars like Yadier Molina, Troy Tulowitzki, and Buster Posey. A .315 hitter with runners in scoring position, he capped off his service for the 2013 Sox with a grand slam in Game 6 of the ALCS that put the finishing touches on the Tigers’ season. His reaction was unforgettable and classic “Flyin’ Hawaiian”:

In the lost 2014 season, in which so many things have gone wrong, many have overlooked the impact of Victorino’s injuries. Fans emphasize the absence of leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, but Victorino was just as productive of a table-setter in the two-slot. Jackie Bradley’s offensive under performance has garnered a great deal of attention, but if Victorino had been healthy and able to play every day, the pressure on JBJ to produce would have been far lower. As David Ross noted in today’s New York Times, “If I could pinpoint one huge loss this year, that guy is such a lineup-changer to me.”

Although Victorino has one year left on his three-year, $39 million contract, 2013 may end up being his only memorable year in a Boston uniform. He will be 34 at the start of the 2015 season. Even if he manages to get healthy, Shane will be competing with Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and Bradley for playing time. Cespedes is a lock to start opening day and the Red Sox are committed to Castillo in center. Allen Craig hasn’t hit much this season in a small sample size, but given his age and past success, he may have a leg up on Victorino as well. And with a .326/.404/.587 slash line in his last 12 games, Mookie is making a serious case that he belongs in the majors. There is speculation that the Sox will move him back to the infield, but Ben Cherington and John Farrell have not given any weight to those rumors.

Undoubtedly, there will be some dealing to address the crowded situation in the outfield. While this could open up a spot for Victorino, it makes sense to explore the trade market for the veteran. Recent injuries have diminished his trade value significantly, but he could still be useful to a contender looking for a proven leader with a short-term contract. On the other hand, the Sox could dangle younger, cheaper, and more valuable assets, like Betts and Craig, in a deal to acquire a star pitcher like Chris Sale or Cole Hamels. And of course, the Giancarlo Stanton dream remains alive.

However, it’s risky to rely on a 34-year-old with back problems to be an everyday starting outfielder, especially a guy who plays as aggressively as Victorino. The Sox should be hesitant to trade a promising youngster like Betts, and proven younger players like Cespedes and Craig, with the assumption that Victorino will be ready to go in 2015. The return would need to be significant—either a star outfielder like Stanton or a bona fide front of the rotation pitcher like Sale or Hamels.

It would be great if Shane could regain his 2013 form, and naturally, he remains optimistic that he can. He may not be worried about a thing, but positivity alone cannot cure Victorino’s back or turn back the clock.