Shane Victorino is the kind of guy you want on your team, not just because he can jolt the top of your lineup to life, but because, frankly, it’s so much less annoying that way.
When the Dodgers traded for Victorino, manager Don Mattingly admitted the player had always gotten under his skin. Of course, players who help usher you out of the playoffs, as Victorino did when he batted .368 with two home runs in the 2009 NLCS for the Philadelphia Phillies, will do that.
It’s not just what he does, though, it’s how he does it. Physicists in the last century discovered that matter is only energy frozen for the time being, and Victorino blurs the line between the two. Watching him can be exhausting. Listening to him can be exasperating.
“He’s an aggressive player,” said Dodgers coach Davey Lopes, who was in Philadelphia for four seasons with Victorino. “High energy means he’s on the go all the time, whether it’s talking, whether it’s playing defense, whether it’s on the basepaths.”
Victorino freely admits he’s an “irritant,” and he’s made a pretty good living at it, so why should he apologize?
“I want to win. I don’t care if I’m your best friend or not,” Victorino said. “Sometimes in this era, the way the game’s played is more relaxed. If you still play the old-school way, running the bases hard, hustling, taking extra bases, grinding out at-bats, you kind of stand out. I have always said I will never change that. I was taught as a kid to play that way.”
About a year ago, Victorino started talking about his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, something he was diagnosed with as a kid. He has become a national spokesman for a movement encouraging people diagnosed with ADHD as kids to get reassessed as adults. He said he is unable to discuss the campaign right now due to FDA regulations.
A book by Alan Maimon called “Shane Victorino: The Flyin’ Hawaiian,” details some of the behavioral problems, the clashes with coaches and teammates, and the classroom struggles that led Victorino’s parents to seek treatment for their son.
Stoke that personality by having an athletic brother who was 4 1/2 years older and you get a pretty good formula for a baseball catalyst. It helps to have above-average speed, but Victorino isn't just active, he's hypercompetitive. The Dodgers badly needed a guy with those traits because their last leadoff hitter, Dee Gordon, wasn’t getting on base before he got hurt. Left field had been a quagmire for four months.
The theory is that Victorino can create the spark for the explosion that comes when the bigger guys in the middle of the order come to the plate. He got off to a surprisingly sluggish start after the trade, but in the Dodgers’ past three games, he was on base eight times. He woke up the Dodgers' offense, scoring three runs Wednesday.
Growing up in Maui, Victorino said he was “that little rascal running around,” when his brother Michael and his friends were playing sports. Twenty years later, he’s bugging fellow millionaires in front of 45,000 people a night.
If he does some notable things and the Dodgers reach the playoffs, the fans will forgive all those irritating moments when Victorino was wearing a Phillies uniform.
“Teams have their superstar guys and then they have their guys you don’t want to see up in a big situation,” Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis said. “He’s that guy. You know it’s going to be a tough at-bat, you know he’s not going to try to do too much.
“It might bother some guys, him being so chippy, but he’s good. He doesn’t care if it offends anybody.”