Shane Victorino may have great numbers, but it’s his approach to baseball that should get him a ticket to St. Louis.
Most teams have a hustle guy, but no one has a player quite like Victorino. What he does every day at the ballpark is not “hustle.” It is not even controlled chaos.
Call it instead an eternal exercise in utter recklessness.
Everybody wants players who hustle. They run out every ball, they lead in the clubhouse, they help your team win. Shane Victorino does all of those things, but he does some other things too.
For instance, earlier this year he tried to steal second in the ninth inning. The only problem was that the Phillies were down two runs, not one.
In 2008, Shane leapt into the stands to catch a foul ball. This wasn’t a “run a couple of steps and flip into the seats ordeal” a la Derek Jeter. This was a superman head-first dive. He didn’t catch the ball, and it wouldn’t have been a legal catch even if he had.
The man gets thrown out, thrown at, and sometimes tossed out.
Victorino plays his way, and sometimes it hurts you and sometimes it helps you. When he gets thrown out stretching that single into a double you shake your head.
When he runs through a catcher and practically knocks him unconscious you can’t help but nod approvingly.
He’s the MLB‘s Juggernaut. When his raw intensity is harnessed, Victorino is capable of great things. If you let him loose too often, he can destroy your baseball team. Isn’t that refreshing?
You never have to ask him to give more; instead, you just need to control him. You just need to coach him.
Like it or not, this is the era of the baseball wimp. We need more than mere hustle players to stop the trend. We need Victorinos—guys who are the true antithesis of laziness and detachment. They care so darn much that their judgment is often dim and their mistakes are always sincere.
Guys who play the game this hard are shooting stars. Victorino is always one ill-advised dive or steadfast catcher away from fading into early retirement.
2009, one year removed from a championship, may very well be our only chance to watch him play in an All-Star game. We deserve more from today’s baseball players, and Victorino playing on the national stage would be a great opening argument.