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)
Round 1: Defeated Ryan Dempster (95.8 percent to 4.2 percent)
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)
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 190 pounds
MLB experience: 8 years
Acquired: Signed as a free agent (one-year, $9.5 million deal)
Round 1: Defeated Jonny Gomes (51.99 percent to 48.01 percent)
Stephen Drew just keeps going about his business, and it’s led to an excellent season for the veteran shortstop.
Some questioned the Red Sox signing Drew in the offseason. Jose Iglesias was still in the mix, Xander Bogaerts looks like he’s poised to become a fantastic major league shortstop and Drew’s brother, J.D., had one of the more polarizing Red Sox tenures in recent years. But Drew has proven to be a very valuable piece of the Red Sox’ 2013 puzzle through solid defense and consistent hitting.
Drew went through some early offensive struggles after missing the start of the season because of a concussion, but he’s been a reliable presence in Boston’s lineup ever since. His sweet swing looks effortless, yet it gets the job done. There was even a stretch this season when Drew was one of the Red Sox’ best hitters.
Drew has also come up with some timely hits for Boston. The easiest way to a fan’s heart is to produce when it matters most, and Drew has been clutch all season. If that continues into the playoffs, Red Sox fans could be calling for him to be more than just a one-year bridge to Bogaerts.
“He’s technically sound. He might not show you the flash that some other shortstops do, but as far as turning double play and making every play at different points or critical points of the game, he’s very dependable.” (Aug. 27)