Editor’s note: NESN.com is holding a three-week tournament to determine “Boston’s Best Newcomer.” The Red Sox added a lot of new faces in 2013, and the results have been impressive. It’s time to determine which new addition from 2013 best embodies Boston baseball.
The 2013 Red Sox are successful, likeable and poised to make a deep playoff run. Boston has a ton of new faces to thank for its turnaround.
The Red Sox brought in a number of key veterans in the offseason and throughout the year. The goal was to improve not only the roster, but also the clubhouse culture. An emphasis was placed on acquiring players who are both talented and possess a lot of character. The Red Sox have discovered that it’s a winning formula.
The veterans that the Red Sox have acquired since the end of the 2012 season, which ended with a disappointing 69-93 record, are all unique. They’re also becoming more well-known to Boston baseball fans as we head down the stretch and toward the postseason.
But which player acquired over the last 11 months is Red Sox Nation’s favorite? Red Sox fans typically gravitate toward players who combine on-field success with a dash of personality, and a number of this season’s newcomers fit that mold.
Fans are asked to consider the players’ total package (personality, style of play, on-field success, impact, intangibles, etc.) while voting for their favorite. NESN.com’s “Boston’s Best Newcomer” tournament will determine which 2013 newcomer best personifies Red Sox baseball.
Weight: 190 pounds
MLB experience: 10 years
Acquired: Signed as a free agent (three-year, $39 million deal)
Shane Victorino has lived up to his nickname. The Flyin’ Hawaiian has reached amazing heights in his first season in Boston, making an impact in all facets of the game.
Victorino came to the Red Sox having enjoyed plenty of success in the National League. He won a World Series with the Phillies in 2008, racked up three Gold Gloves and earned two All-Star selections. Still, there were some folks who were skeptical of Victorino’s three-year pact because he was coming off a down year by his standards in 2012. Those skeptics have since been silenced.
Victorino has been an important part of the Red Sox’ potent offense. The switch-hitting outfielder handles the bat well from both sides of the plate, and he looked like the perfect No. 2 hitter behind Jacoby Ellsbury. Victorino has been even more dynamic at the dish later in the season, putting together a monster August and enjoying an amazing power surge while batting solely right-handed.
Offense isn’t the only strength in Victorino’s game, though. The 32-year-old has done an excellent job of holding down right field, which is a difficult position to play at Fenway Park. His range and arm have allowed him to prevent runs, and Victorino has showed on a number of occasions that he’s not afraid to bang into walls.
Boston loves a good dirt dog, and that’s perhaps the best way to describe Victorino. He’s willing to literally run through a wall, and he continues to take the field despite suffering some bumps and bruises in 2013.
“A fastball off the shoulder compared to how many times he’s run into the wall probably seems like a fly landed on him. But again, he’s fearless. He slams into the wall trying to run down a fly ball that goes foul. It didn’t have any effect on him at the plate, and I think we’ve come to know over the course of this year he’s got an extremely high pain threshold.” (Aug. 4)
Weight: 215 pounds
MLB experience: 16 years
Acquired: Signed as a free agent (two-year, $26.5 million deal)
Ryan Dempster has been around a while. He has never won a World Series, though, so he’s clearly still a pitcher on a mission.
The Red Sox signed Dempster in the offseason knowing exactly what they were getting. The 16-year veteran has reached the 200 innings mark seven times in his career, including four straight seasons from 2008 through 2011. Not only that, but Dempster has provided quality innings, making the durable right-hander an important component of many pitching staffs.
Dempster, who earned All-Star selections in 2000 and 2008, might not be a front-end starter at this point in his career, but he continues to take the ball every fifth day. That helps immensely, especially when you lose your ace for three months, like the Red Sox did in 2013. As parts have moved around, Dempster has remained a constant.
Dempster’s impact goes beyond the field, too. The Red Sox have a loose clubhouse, and Dempster has been a positive influence on the culture change. His combination of veteran poise and unfiltered humor has been exactly what the doctor ordered.
Dempster can essentially be summarized in thee D’s: durable, dependable and determined.
“Dependability and reliability are two main aspects you look for in any player. They will give you hopefully what you anticipate. And Ryan has done that. Whether it be innings, or walking to the mound without interruption due to injury. Innings by starting rotation are worth their weight in gold.” (Sept. 4)