The rumors featuring the interest of the Dodgers in Shane Victorino had been swirling for weeks. It was no secret that the Dodgers desperately needed a true lead-off hitter. Yet when I heard the mere idea of Victorino in Dodger Blue I couldn’t help but cringe with disgust. My most-hated player in Major League Baseball as a Dodger? The sneaky, will do anything to get on base, turns into pitches to get hit, “rat-faced” Victorino will be on my team? I tried to ignore the mention of the possibility. I was unable to wrap my head around the suggestion. Well, now I must transition from the denial phase to acceptation, because Shane Victorino is a Dodger.
When you love a baseball team as much as I do, there’s bound to be players which you form a natural
hatred for. It’s part of the game, it’s part of sports in general. Rivalries are an integral part of competition. As a Dodger fan, I have grown up hating the San Francisco Giants of course. Yet there are other pesky players which have got under my skin over the years as well. Gerardo Parra is exceptionally annoying of late. Ryan Braun‘s P.E.D. controversy and Matt Kemp‘s subsequent second place finish in the 2011 M.V.P. voting has made me dislike the Milwaukee slugger. CarGo, Tulo, and Todd Helton are still annoying threats even though their team is out of contention. I must say the one of the most heated rivalries over the past few years for the Dodgers has been the Philadelphia Phillies and their eventual collapsing dynasty.
In Game 3 of the 2008 NLCS, Shane Victorino became a villain to Dodger fans. Hiroki Kuroda made a pitch over the head of the center fielder, and Victorino began to gesture toward Kuroda not to throw at his head. Of course Kuroda was not intentionally trying to hit Victorino in the noggin. Shane then grounded out to second base, and he continued to make gestures toward Kuroda which resulted in the benches from both teams clearing. After the game, Victorino was fined $2,500 for the incident. Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS was one of the most heartbreaking games in Dodger history. Shane Victorino would hit the game-tying two-run homerun versus Cory Wade in the eighth inning which would set up the horrific Matt Stairs game-winning shot against Jonathan Broxton. The Phillies would go on to win the NLCS four games to one and the 2008 World Series as they defeated the Tampa Bay Rays.
The next year would be a rematch between the Dodgers and Phillies in the NLCS once again. Shane Victorino hit a three-run homer in Game 3 and
another homerun in Game 5 as the Phillies once again won the series four games to one. The Phillies would lose in the World Series to the New York Yankees.
In 2010 Shane Victorino would break up Hiroki Kuroda’s bid for a no-hitter by hitting a single to right field with one out in the eighth inning.
Hiroki Kuroda is no longer playing with the Dodgers, but there are a few remaining Dodgers who were there to witness Victorino’s antics against the Dodgers over the years and played in those NLCS games.
The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” was actually drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 1999 draft. In 2002 Victorino was selected by the San Diego Padres in the Rule 5 Draft, but he was returned to the Dodger organization after just 36 games with the Padres. In 2004, the Phillies claimed Victorino in the Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies tried to give him back to the Dodgers who declined. Philly was stuck with him. He finally became a starting player in 2006 when he replaced Bobby Abreu in the middle of season. Ironically Bobby Abreu would be the player he would displace in 2012 after rejoining the Dodgers.
“The Pineapple Express” has come full circle and landed back with the Dodgers. I’m having trouble coping with this. Of course I’m no longer going to boo Victorino since he’s part of my team now, but I’ll never wear a number 8 jersey or buy any Hawaiian themed merchandise that the Dodgers will surely churn out. Victorino has yet to notch his first hit as a Dodger, but when he does I will cheer his success as much as any other Dodger. The team as a whole supersedes the individual. Winning today always makes one forget the losses of yesterday.
We can forgive, but we shouldn’t ever forget. Let’s hope we are saying mahalo to Victorino in two months, otherwise I have no trouble saying hele aku.