I was sitting in a bar in Manhattan when I decided I
could no longer hate Johnny Damon.
Maybe I was persuaded by the Yankee fans that packed
the bar for Game 4 of the 2009 World Series, or maybe I was worn out by the
insults thrown my way by New York’s Finest earlier in the day as I ran the New
York City Marathon — all 26.2 miles — wearing a Red Sox hat.
Whatever the case, watching Damon’s double steal in
the top of the ninth inning brought me back to Team Damon, even though he was
going all out for another team and another fan base.
That says a lot because “Judas Damon” was my least
favorite professional athlete after he sold out to join the Yankees after the
During the 2009 Series, Damon was a little heavier
than his Idiot days in Boston, but he was still all about smarts and hustle. That
double steal summed up what Damon was all about almost as much as those times
he slammed into the wall covering center field in Fenway.
It was a signature moment in the career of an ultimate
From that night on, I decided to appreciate Damon,
even though he broke our heart when he signed with the Yankees.
Nobody had a better view of the double steal than Shane
Victorino, who was in centerfield for the Phillies that night in Philadelphia,
and right now it seems the two have more in common than that one play.
Like with Damon, fans have been quick to forget the Red
Sox heroics of Victorino. And Victorino didn’t even sign with the Yankees. He’s
just getting older and standing in the way of the prospects.
The 2014 season was a forgettable one for Victorino, now
34, who played in just 30 games and was a shell of the 2013 Flyin’ Hawaiian who
won the hearts of Red Sox faithful.
But how great was he in 2013?
One of the top moments of that magical season was
seeing Victorino pound his chest after the Game 6 grand slam in the ALCS. It’s
right up there with bullpen cop Steve Horgan’s arms and Torii Hunter’s feet
going up at the same time on David Ortiz’s slam in Game 2.
Just 17 months later, though, many in Red Sox Nation just
want Victorino to go away.
Sure, he looked slower in spring training, when he was
outplayed by Rusney Castillo. Sure, he sounded a little selfish at times in the
weeks before the start of the season.
While he claims “Mazz and whoever that other guy is”
put words in his mouth, it does seemclear
Victornio would trade Castillo, Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart and a player to be named latter for his
pal Cole Hamels. Even after Mookie took Hamels for a ride on Opening Day.
That didn’t sit well with the Red Sox faithful who go
to bed with the thoughts of Mookie and Rusney dancing through their heads.
Making matters worse, the Flyin’ Hawaiian will only
bat right handed this year because he said it hurts too much to swing left
handed. That sounds incredibly like a guy playing in the Old Ozzie division of
beer league softball.
Victornio hurts, however, because he plays the game
all out, and 2013 really beat him up.
He was hit by a pitch 25 times in 2013. Yes, 25 times,
and seven of those came in the postseason. That would make Ernie Pantusso
That doesn’t mean Victorino should stay in the lineup
if he’s hitting .205 and not stealing bases. But it should mean that he gets
the benefit of the doubt, at least for a couple of weeks.
John Farrell made the right move in starting the
season with Victorino in right. If he doesn’t produce like he did two years ago,
Rusney will be there by May 1 anyway. Then some fans will get their wish by
trading Victorino away for a case of beer.
Of course, then we’ll probably end up watching
Victorino making a playoff memory for another team and another fan base.