PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Shane Victorino hasn’t given up on this season – getting healthy, getting back into the Red Sox lineup, or helping his team get into the postseason. And he doesn’t want you to, either.
He knows his team has dug a hole for itself. Somewhere between Grand Canyon-ish and Big Dig-like. Entering Wednesday, the Sox are 8 ½ games back in the American League East. At 35-43, they have a better record than only two other AL teams – the Rays and Astros.
But, Victorino has seen teams turn it around before, and in less time than the Sox have left in this season.
In 2007, while with the Phillies, Victorino and his teammates found themselves 6 ½ games behind the National League East-leading Mets on Sept. 13, with 16 games left to play. By Sept. 27, in a span of 13 games, the Phillies caught the Mets with three games left. The next day they took over the division, only to relinquish it on the penultimate day of the season. But in the final game, on Sept. 30, the Phillies beat the Nationals while the Mets lost to the Marlins.
The result? The Phillies went to the postseason, while the Mets went home. And Victorino became a believer.
Although he has been limited to just 21 games this season because of injuries, Victorino believes his team – the woefully underperforming World Series champions – can still make a run at the postseason and the division.
“Nobody’s panicking. We just keep grinding,” Victorino said. “And that’s the part that I love about these guys. And unfortunately I haven’t been a part of it, a big part of it this year, but we’ve got guys that are going to grind every single night. They’re going to bust their [butts] every night. And though they’re down, we’re going to keep coming and you better hope by the 27th out we didn’t find a way to come back. And hopefully, if we’re in it, we keep it that way.
“And that’s what I try to focus on. I know the media wants to look at the standings and I understand that. It’s about wins and losses. But for us it’s about the process, going out every night, and grinding.
“Looking at the big picture, we’re [8 ½] games out. I understand, that’s a mountain to climb. But climb that mountain and win the division. That’s what you set out today. But it’s about getting in, whether it be a wild card, just getting in. I understand it’s a lesser goal and it’s easier to attain. I’m not saying I don’t want to win the division. But when you have a mountain to climb, you got teams in front of you that got to lose or you got to catch ground. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting in. and I hope that we can get in, because when we get in, there’s something about this team that understands what it takes to be winners.”
How many wins would a healthy Victorino mean to his team?
“I don’t ever want to put a number on it,” he said. “I’ve never been that kind of guy. I never look at it that way either. People obviously are going to go off of what happened last year, and that’s the thing that people say, ‘Well, if he can be as productive as he was last year, then this amount of games.’ But for me, I can’t say that because I haven’t been out there. I can’t say this is how many games we would have won if I would have played.
“There’s always a ‘would have.’ And I’ve never been that kind of guy that said ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda.’ The bottom line is I haven’t been out there. So to look at that kind of stuff to even talk about is something that shouldn’t even be discussed. So that’s how I look at it, and hopefully when I get back out there, I’m going to focus on trying to stay healthy.”
And he knows it can be a different season after the All-Star break.
“Yeah, you see guys that hit .300-plus for the first half go ‘Damn, I got to do this for a whole ‘nuther part of the season?’” he said. “And that’s when you see guys wearing down. And that’s why I always say it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. And I can say that by just going back to my postseason. I had two big hits in the last two series [of last postseason] that nobody remembers that I had no hits. And that’s what I always revert to. Every time you get a chance, you live for that moment, and hopefully it happens.”
Pie in the sky? Probably. Pipe dreams? Maybe. Not dealing with reality? Possibly. But, for Victorino, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.