After a terrible 2014 campaign, most of the Boston Red Sox would like to forget what happened and concentrate on 2015. Nobody more so than Shane Victorino.
In Rob Bradford’s report for FullCount.WEEI.com, Victorino claims “that everything in regard to his offseason training following back surgery has gone according to plan. Victorino wrote in a text Sunday: ‘So far full go. Picking up swinging this week. Throwing every day, and lifting, etc. So far, so good.'” The 2013 Gold Glover will want that trend to continue, if he is to achieve greater success next season.
The 34-year-old, Hawaiian native had an excellent 2013, capping it off with clutch hitting in the playoffs against the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals, to capture the World Series Championship. Victorino hit .294 for the regular season, with 15 home runs and a .451 on-base percentage, partly due to his stance in the batter’s box as he was hit a stunning 18 times by pitches. He earned an .801 OPS for his troubles.
The problem, other than his age and his contract status, which runs out after 2015, is that sports is a world of what have you done for us lately? The 2014 season, plagued by injuries, allowed Victorino to only play 30 games for the Red Sox, hitting .268 and required rookies to fill in for him in the outfield. Clearly, the back surgery could alleviate any issues, much like it did outfielder Melky Cabrera for the Toronto Blue Jays, last season. Cabrera looked like a bust the year before, but turned things around after his health was reassured. The same could happen for Victorino, but that is if general manager Ben Cherington feels that veteran experience outranks youthful impacts.
Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo are both young men, chomping at the bit to play for the Red Sox in the outfield. With Hanley Ramirez playing left field, center and right field are the only options left. Betts hit .291 in 52 games for the Red Sox, while making incredible diving catches in the field and stealing seven bases on offence. His power rivals that of Victorino, earning an .812 OPS for the rookie against top Major League pitchers. Castillo hit .333, with two home runs, six RBIs, and three stolen bases in just 10 games with the Red Sox, earning a .928 OPS. Young, talented, and cheaper players make any veteran nervous, especially those coming off of back surgery. Victorino made $13 million riding the pine, while both Betts and Castillo made significantly less and will continue to do so until a few years from now.
That is not to say that Victorino is nervous. If his back is in as good of shape as he says it is, the issue then becomes a question of sample size. Both Betts and Castillo have not played through a full regular season as of yet. They have not won a World Series, let alone hit clutch RBIs in to win those playoff games. They have not won any Gold Glove votes, let alone awards. The Red Sox may see it that they should try to be loyal to a veteran hero, which may also attract other veteran talent to the club by the way they treat their own stars. However, success breeds confidence. Red Sox Nation will be happy as long as whomever plays right field or center is contributing, and not sitting on the bench. Only Victorino’s back knows the truth.