- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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For the first time in a five-year span, Victorino missed the playoffs in 2012 after playing for a perennial winner with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Sox have failed to earn a postseason berth in the previous three seasons. Boston's general manager Ben Cherington believes Victorino can help turn things around here. Victorino agrees and that's why he signed a three-year deal worth $39 million to play for the Red Sox.
"It wasn't fun to be home at the beginning of October," said Victorino, who will wear No. 18. "I plan on being (in the playoffs) this October and beyond."
Red Sox manager John Farrell has explained the type of roster he and Cherington are trying to create this winter. Both want quality players that will excel on and off the field and believe Victorino will add to what the Red Sox are trying to do.
There's already a buzz among his new teammates about the addition of Victorino to the Red Sox. It didn't take long for players, including Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz to make their positive feelings known on Twitter once news broke that Victorino had agreed to a deal during the winter meetings last week in Nashville.
When he arrived at Fenway Park on Thursday for his introductory news conference, Victorino walked in and appeared upbeat, wearing jeans, sneakers and a hoodie.
"I'm going to be fun. I'm going to be loud. I'm going to talk a lot. You're going to get what you get," he said. "It's going to be me. I'm going to go out there and play 100 percent."
Ever since the club's historic collapse in September 2011 when the team quickly dropped out of postseason contention with a 7-20 record, many stories about a lack of clubhouse discipline surfaced, and the team spoke openly about changing the culture.
So, Bobby Valentine was hired as the manager, but Boston finished in last place in the AL East, costing the manager his job.
Former Red Sox bench coach Farrell was hired from the Blue Jays this offseason to turn things around. Cherington then signed Ortiz to a two-year deal and added Jonny Gomes, Victorino and possibly Mike Napoli, all of whom are considered good clubhouse guys to complement the existing core of players in Boston.
"When you're winning, everybody's happy. You guys are happy. I'm happy. We're all happy we're winning," Victorino said. "But at the end of the day, when you're not doing well, people are going to find reasons to why you've got to change. I don't think there's a need to change the clubhouse. These guys have won. They've been there and they've been to big games. I'm just trying to fit in. I'm going to be myself and bring that energy, that excitement and have fun."
Victorino credited the Red Sox's rich history, tradition and the makeup of the team for signing.
"I always pay attention to my counterparts and the last couple of years have been definitely tough for Boston and the organization," he said. "At the end of the day, we look beyond that now and we look forward to 2013 and being the organization that we can be. The game of baseball is the game of baseball, it happens sometimes like that and you can't put a finger on it.
"Going into the season last year, everybody talked about it was Boston in the AL and Philly in the NL, and looking at those two teams, unfortunately both didn't end up where they wanted to. (Now) I'm a Red Sox and I'm going to focus on that and have the great 2013 I think I can have, and I know I'm going to have, and go out there and have fun. That's the most important thing and I'll bring energy to this organization."
Victorino has already talked with many of his new teammates, including Ellsbury and Buchholz. He was advised to just have fun. The pressure of playing Boston should be overwhelming after spending most of his career in Philadelphia.
"Hopefully it's not worse than Philly," he said with a laugh. "I hope you guys aren't that much tougher because that was a pretty tough market. It's one of those things, they said it's a big market and we all understand that. I've played in a big market, played in Philly for all those years and had success doing it."
With free agency looming for Victorino last season, he admitted he wanted to remain in Philadelphia. The Phillies, however, traded him to the Dodgers on July 31. The Dodgers then went out and acquired Carl Crawford from the Red Sox as part of a nine-player trade on Aug. 24. Victorino knew he would hit the open market.
When he first began talks with the Red Sox, it didn't matter to him that the club missed the playoffs the last three seasons.
"There is no convincing," he said. "It's Boston. That in itself says it all. It's the Red Sox. It's a storied franchise. It's still, to me, if you look around the game of baseball there's one rivalry you speak of, it's the Yankees and Red Sox.
"There was no selling. I look at the guys and the chemistry on this team. ... I look at the makeup of the team, the guys, so this is one of those teams you can turn around and that's the goal. We don't want to be known as the team that didn't make the playoffs. I want to be that team that makes the playoffs."
At the start of the offseason, Cherington made it known he was in market for an outfielder with versatility. Cherington felt that Victorino could handle large right field in Fenway even though he's a natural center fielder.
"Shane is someone who we think fits perfectly into your short- and longer-term plan," Cherington said. "He's been an outstanding performer for a lot of years in a tough place to play. He's been a part of great teams. He's a guy who can do a lot of things on the baseball field. He's one of the highest-energy players in the game, so we're thrilled to add him to our team and to our clubhouse and we welcome Shane."
From an offensive standpoint, Victorino's numbers have dipped the last two seasons. He hit .279 with 17 homers and 61 RBIs in 2011. He then posted a .255 average with 11 homers and 55 RBIs between Philadelphia and Los Angeles in 2012.
He said a few factors contributed to his offensive decline, including the thought of free agency, but he did not want to lay blame on any health issues.
"If I had an answer I would have put my finger on it the last two years to figure out why I didn't hit .280, .285, .290, .300," he said. "More importantly, it's just about going out there next year. Last year I think everybody, and speculation, had it that I was worried about staying in Philly and focused on that and worrying about where I was going to be, instead of just going out there and playing the game. Yeah, for the most part it got to me because I love Philly so much, but at the end of the day I look beyond that now. Unfortunately, I didn't have the year I wanted, but I'm looking forward to 2013."
From a defensive standpoint, Victorino is looking forward to switching positions and playing right field for the Red Sox.
"When I knew I was going to get an opportunity to come to Boston and go back to right field, I'm excited," said the three-time Gold Glove winner. "Don't get me wrong, I love center field, I want to be a center fielder, but I've played right and I'm excited about the opportunity. I'm going to go out there and have fun. I'll still wrap myself around that pole, but hey, if I've gotta go get the ball, I'm going to go get it."
Cherington called Victorino a "big part of what we're doing."
"He's still young. He's still in his prime age years and we're looking forward to seeing him out here," he said. "He's a big part of what we're trying to do. He's been a part of teams, a big part of good teams, and he knows when you're on good teams it's about 25 guys being part of a good team and not just one."
9hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com