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Farewell, Shane Victorino

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, August 02, 2012 10:15 AM | Comments: 25
Commentary, Trades, Transactions

Shane Victorino

So long, Shane (Photo: Phillies Nation)

Certain games and specific events stick out to hardcore fans, no matter how many years have passed. That’s just what happens when someone devotes so much of his or her time to a team. The players start to feel like members of the extended family and their great memories become ours as well. I couldn’t tell you what I had for dinner last Thursday, but I know exactly what I did on September 22, 2005: I fell in baseball love with Shane Victorino.

The Phillies were five games behind the Braves in the NL East with only 10-11 games left, but remained legitimate contenders for the wild card berth. They were set to play the final game of a crucial late-season series with those Braves, and after splitting the first two contests, were sending ace Jon Lieber to the hill. The Braves countered with Tim Hudson, who was in his first year with the team. It was one of the most important games of the season for the Phillies, and a clear must-win.

The game was scoreless through eight innings. Lieber was on and Hudson wasn’t far off of that. However, Hudson started to falter in the top of the ninth. He walked Bobby Abreu on four pitches. Two batters later, he gave up a single to then-rookie Ryan Howard. First and second, one out, 0-0 game. Michael Tucker (!) singled Abreu in and the Phillies had finally broken through. Billy Wagner quickly started warming up to get ready for the save situation.

With Wagner getting ready to enter, Charlie Manuel pulled Lieber and decided to instead pinch-hit with Victorino, a September call-up. The Phillies had selected him in the Rule V draft prior to the season and he absolutely tore up the International League, winning the Triple-A MVP award. Over 126 games with Scranton, Victorino hit .310/.377/.534, with 18 home runs and 17 stolen bases. He had nothing left to prove and deserved the call-up. He would soon prove he deserved this pinch-hitting opportunity as well.

Good luck in Los Angeles, Shane.

He had only logged about 10-12 big league plate appearances to that point, but he was energetic, legitimately looked like he had a blast playing, and seemed to cover the plate well. Pinch-hitting with him in that spot was questionable, as this was a must-win game for the Phillies to seriously remain in contention, and a one-run lead, even with Billy Wagner, wasn’t exactly safe against those Braves. Four pitches later, doubts were erased, and Victorino was well on his way towards becoming one of my favorite players.

I can still recall his three-run shot off of Hudson vividly, as if it happened yesterday. This was one of those specific moments, one of those certain games that I’ll forever remember, no matter how many other Victorino homers or Phillies victories have since occurred. He put his patented left-handed slap swing on the ball, with that hesitation at the top, the quick strike through the zone, and the almost startled look that he could actually hit a baseball that far.

He rounded the bases swiftly, giving a quick fist pump but doing what he could to avoid showing up the opposition. It was his first major league home run, and it put the game away. The Phillies won, 4-0, and while they didn’t make the playoffs that season, they had found their center fielder, a Rule V selection that they literally couldn’t give back to the Dodgers for free.

Fast-forward to April 9, 2006, and I was at a game with my father against the Dodgers. Victorino was starting in center and I was sporting my new custom-made shirsey. He was so new that his merchandise wasn’t yet available in the team store. It felt cool wearing that, like listening to a band that eventually becomes popular before many have heard of them. In the fourth inning, he gunned a runner out at the plate and everyone in my section started patting my back, as if Victorino was my guy.

After the play, you could almost hear everyone in the crowd become a fan of his. Maybe they didn’t know where he came from, if he had a prospect pedigree, what his strengths and weaknesses were, but he had a magnetic personality, played hard and played well. He won me over with the home run against Hudson in that crucial game. I think he started to win thousands more fans over with that throw to home plate in the fourth inning.

Those are two of my personal favorite Victorino moments, but there are just so many others. The walkoff home run on his own bobblehead day in 2007, against the Giants. The throw home in extra innings against the Braves in June 2008 that kept Brad Lidge‘s perfect season alive. The grand slam off of C.C. Sabathia in the 2008 NLDS. The Hiroki Kuroda “not at my head bro” incident one playoff series later. The line drive home run that just barely cleared the right field wall off of Cory Wade a few days later — which tied the game at 5-5, setting the stage for a famous Matt Stairs home run.

Getting ejected while playing center field for arguing balls and strikes, and running in incredulously, arms in the air. The reaction after having a beer tossed on him at Wrigley Field. The scrap with backup awful player catcher Eli Whiteside. The hilarious defensive miscues — which we can grant him because he played center field so well most of the time — including the time he somehow threw the ball behind him. His tremendous charity work with the Nicetown Boys and Girls Foundation.

The list goes on and on. He was a full-time regular with the Phillies from 2006-11, and an effective starter up until his trade on Tuesday. He averaged 4 WAR/season with the Phillies and, aside from the numbers, will undoubtedly go down as one of the best personalities in the history of Philadelphia sports. I’ve always said the toughest part of this extended run of success will be saying goodbye to the players that helped make it happen when they get traded or reach free agency, and it’s especially true here.

When Bobby Abreu was traded, it felt to me like he was on loan to the Yankees for the rest of that year. He was still a Phillies player, just being used by a different team. The next year he felt more like a distant cousin you rarely saw. A year later, he was officially no longer a Phillie in my head, as the statute had expired. The same will probably be true of Victorino. Though he’ll play the rest of the season with the Dodgers, it’ll feel like he’s a Phillies player who took a California vacation. He’ll sign somewhere else next season, get massive ovations when he returns, and then slowly and surely start to feel like a friend we’ve drifted away from.

But when his career ends, no matter which team he plays for, he will retire a Phillie. I knew a deal was likely, and was somewhat onboard with the prospect of trading him. I figured he would sign elsewhere after the season as well. Despite knowing and feeling all of these things, Tuesday’s deal still managed to catch me a bit off-guard.

And despite knowing and feeling all of these things, it’s still very difficult to say goodbye to a player I had such a fan-connection with. I always love listening to my dad talk about Tony Taylor, Cookie Rojas and other personalities from his own youthful fandom, and I cannot wait to one day talk to my future children about Victorino. He is just that type of player, the kind that you can’t think or talk about without smiling.

Thanks for the memories, Shane, and best of luck in Los Angeles and wherever your career heads after this season. You will be greatly missed here as both a player and person.

Avatar of Eric Seidman

About Eric Seidman

Eric Seidman has written 64 articles on Phillies Nation.

Eric offers his unique analytical perspective to Phillies Nation and is a regular contributor on FanGraphs.com.

 
 
  • Posts: 1190 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    Great article. The throw to home plate to save Lidge’s perfect season was, in retrospect, HUGE! We’ll miss you Shane!

     
  • Posts: 9 philsphan914

    Avatar of philsphan914

    Awesome article. I was honestly getting chills while reading parts of it. I know we had to, and I’m glad we made the move, but it really does suck saying good bye.

     
  • Posts: 0 toddfromfairmount

    The game tying homer before the stairs bomb is my favorite Flyin moment of all time. It was part of the clutch that was Victorino. I really wish that hit would be talked about more in the lore of the 2008 Fightin’s.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Another great article by Eric ..

    I was in the stands, (good seats for a change too- section 111) when Victorino hit the Grand Slam off of CC Sabathia – and it was at that moment that the thought “We could actually win the World Series this year!” became reality. . .

    a game that we were supposed to lose, was broken wide-open by little Shane Victorino … David vs. Goliath …. the stadium was litereally shaking .. it was great!

    ………………..
    One thing you mentioned is why I think so many people had turned on Domonic Brown already . . . . “He was so new that his merchandise wasn’t yet available in the team store. It felt cool wearing that, like listening to a band that eventually becomes popular before many have heard of them. ” …………..Remember how many people were Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Domonic Brown fans before they ever did anything – people (newer fans especially) think its cool to have a favorite player that is different from everyone else … there were Jason Donald fan clubs on facebook for crying outloud …

    but with Brown- people were so ready to jump on his bandwagon and say they are his #1 fan (an honor that we all know belongs to MEECH) … that people got frustrated too quickly when this 23-year-old didn’t win the MVP right away . . . . he might not be great, but he’s a still-developing baseball player with a lot of raw talent . . . same as Victorino was

     
  • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

    yea man i remember that game i was won over also! lots of good memories . he was pretty clutch for all his time here! this year not so much, and now he’s back with the dodgers yuk! i’ll miss him. good luck shane!
    i also remember the king howard foreskin saying on his radio show to a caller who was in like i was on vic,s talent and energy! when foreshin made the comment ” he’s a nice player he’ll never be anything but a 4th or 5th OF” i almost through my handheld radio angaist the wall! well since then we all know the kind of player he was. A WINNER and a damn good one! and by the way howard he’s a gold glove winner 3 times! a national league all star! and a stand up guy who never in good or bad shunned the press and stood up when he made a mistake and took it like a man! but most of all howard he was a WORLD SERIES CHAMPION FOR THE PHIADELPHIA PHILLIES! and how’s that for a really really nice player!

     
  • Posts: 2980 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Never will I forget that slam. I was at work and had the radio on. I started screaming at the top of my lungs. I actually DID go to one of the NLCS games that same year vs the Dodgers and Vic made an unbelievable play at the wall in the deepest part of the park. The place went nuts.

    Vic was never my favorite Phillie but i am sad that he’s gone. Maybe one day he’ll come back as a waiver wire pickup and help us win another WFC.

     
  • Posts: 5085 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Thanks Eric good stuff. I will miss Shane in a Phillies uniform.

     
  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    Wow. Just a beautiful article. This Eric Seidman fella’s been a pretty good addition to Phillies Nation.

     
    • Posts: 0 randy seidman

      I’ll second that

       
    • Posts: 0 Ryan Warfel

      Great Stuff Eric, I will miss Shane greatly. It will be difficult to fill his shoes. Jim Saulsbury, the beat writer, spoke very emotionally about Shane yesterday on WIP. He was a corner stone of the best era in Phillies baseball history.

       
  • Posts: 0 The SlatMan

    Great article… Victorino made lasting impressions with his play on the field and his involvement in the Philadelphia community… a class act who will be missed, but always thought of fondly for the part he played in this great time of Phillies baseball history

     
  • Posts: 0 Ellen K

    Beautifully written. I so agree. I live in LA so I will still see some of Shane’s highlights, but it will be hard not to cheer for him when the Phils are in town. Thanks for this article.

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew D

    I was at the CC Sabathia game, up in section 308, the triangle in right field that hangs out over the bullpens. There was no doubt as soon as he hit it, but I still remember yelling “Oh, come on ball, come on ball!” (just like Larry Andersen) and then the mass of humanity piling all over each other in celebration, but being scared because a) the stadium was actually shaking, and b) I was being pushed right up against the railing, that piece of metal being the only thing separating me from a 60 foot fall.
    I think it was the first time my dad wrapped his arms around me and picked up up since I was a child. The stadium was just insane.
    I watched the replay of that over and over and over on Tuesday and tweeted Shane best of luck and thanking him for all the moments like that he gave us. It’s hard to say goodbye to a piece of ’08.

     
  • Posts: 84 Tom

    Avatar of Tom

    Great article with great memories! I think that he can still play and would love to see the Phils bring him back for 2013 if the asking price isn’t too high! He’s only 31 and had his best offensive season last year! JMJ isn’t the answer in CF, and someone like Bourne will ask for too much!!

     
  • Posts: 0 Joel

    very nice article, remember all these!! can’t wait to see him back home, even if it’s in a different uniform. Games won’t be the same!

     
  • Posts: 0 jeff

    cliff lee on waivers. ruby a liar. bye mr. lee

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    Waivers doesn’t mean trade. It’s standard operating procedure to put players on waivers just to gauge potential interest and player value.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    @jeff . . . . this doesn’t mean Amaro lied about anything, and it doesn’t mean Lee is getting traded . .

    here is Lee’s situation as written on MLB trade rumors:

    “The Phillies have placed Cliff Lee on waivers, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reports (on Twitter). The Phillies were expected to waive Lee this month, when waivers are revocable. Teams routinely place high-profile players on waivers in August to determine other teams’ interest. “

     
  • Posts: 0 MAC

    In addition to his play on the field, Shane is a man of principle who put himself on a poster produced by the MLPA to support working people’s right to join a union without fear of reprisal from the boss. Will always respect Shane for that!

     
  • Posts: 5 HotelBar

    Avatar of HotelBar

    Does anyone remember game 4 of the 2009 NLDS against Colorado? We had staged a late rally in game 3, in the blistering cold of Denver, to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Now it looked as if the Rockies would tie the series and send it back to Philly 2-2 for a deciding game 5. They had a 2 run lead in the top of the 9th with Huston Street on the mound for the save.

    I don’t remember exactly how Victorino got on base but he did. It was him and, I think Utley, on the bases and Ryan Howard crushed a high fly off the wall in right field. It was one of those moments I’ve gotten a lot from the Phils since around 2007. One of those moments when improbably what you had been hoping to happen HAPPENED! (a rarity in my experience as a baseball fan)

    Anyway, I will never forget how ecstatic my dad and I were that Howard had just tied the game. Our excitement gave way to a bit of confusion when the camera cut back to home plate and Utley slid home about a half second after Victorino!

     
    • Posts: 5 HotelBar

      Avatar of HotelBar

      The replay revealed that, somehow, Victorino had missed third base as he gazed at Howard bomb. He quickly had to back track to touch third and get home with Utley on his ass! It was hilarious and, I think, showed the personality of Shane. He was clutch, but sometimes he was a bit ackward and like a kid out there. He somehow brain farted and hustled on the same key play.

      Another overlooked Shane play has to be his great catch against Cincy in the clinching game of the 2010 NLDS a year later. I remember he made a great catch early in the game to thwart a Reds rally. Had he not made that catch, the game (a 2-0 Hamels gem) might have gone much differently.

       
  • [...] Farewell, Shane Victorino by Eric Seidman helped with some of the dates in this story. [...]

     
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