DETROIT — Shane Victorino blames himself, in part, for the Red Sox’ helter-skelter season because he hasn’t been able to stay on the field.
“I feel just as bad as anyone else because I’m part of the problem. I’m not out there playing. I’m only adding to what’s going on. From my standpoint, of course it’s frustrating to watch,” said Victorino, who has had two stints on the disabled list with hamstring strains.
But he also sees fight in his teammates and with 102 games remaining entering Saturday night he feels “this is a huge character test for our team and the guys in this room and we’ll fight our way back.”
Victorino, who has appeared in only 21 games, said he sees the inconsistency of the team as a huge problem that he feels can be rectified once injured regulars like Mike Napoli (due back Sunday), Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, and Will Middlebrooks return to good health.
“Injuries have hurt us this year. From myself to Will to Napoli to Buck and Doubront, plus the guys who aren’t here,” said Victorino, referring to the loss of free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Stephen Drew, who was recently re-signed.
“Injuries are the part that gets tiresome and frustrating. It becomes a frustrating thing. You feel helpless like there’s nothing you can do. Sit and watch your teammates and feel like you’re a culprit because you’re not out there.
“But if we sit here and start talking or moping about what we haven’t done, then we’re going to defeat ourselves. Dustin’s [Pedroia] comments [Friday] when he said we’re sick of losing, is exactly how we all feel. This team hasn’t gotten hot — we had a seven-game winning streak — but we haven’t found consistency.”
Victorino has played on a team trying to defend its championship before. After the Phillies won it in 2008 they returned to the World Series in 2009, losing in six games to the Yankees.
He understands the challenge of repeating and how the opposition attacks you.
“Everyone is trying to take you down,” Victorino said. “You’re the world champions so everyone is bringing their best against you. You see it. You feel it. Pitchers are pitching you different. There’s a whole new set of circumstances you have to get used to.
“And then there’s the Red Sox thing. When I used to play against this team it’s just a natural thing to bring a higher level of game.”
Victorino said he’s tried to see the positive aspect of it all. While he’s been sitting he’s seen effort and the team trying new things to get out of its funk. He understands the angst of the fans and the media and he hears the derogatory comments being directed at the team.
“I played in a tough market [in Philadelphia], so I’m aware of how people react to a team not being as good as they should be,” he said. “I tell people if I give 100 percent of what I can give on that particular day, if I can look at myself in the mirror, then I can live with myself. I learned a long time ago, I’m not going to please everybody. You can’t worry about that and what people say, what people have written. Yes, do we pay attention, yes. Do we read everything, no.”
Victorino thinks that fans aren’t aware of how badly the players feel when they don’t perform up to expectations.
“If you think it’s [expletive] to watch, imagine being the player?” he said. “It’s hard, people don’t understand. Do you think I want to go up and strike out four times? If you think you’re mad and yelling at me through the TV, think at how mad I am dragging my bat back to the dugout. I gave my best that at-bat, I might have looked like crap, but I did my best.”
He’s also aware of how difficult it is to repeat.
“To go out and win a World Series championship and win it again, that’s a tough thing to do,” he said. “It’s hard to do, but do we have the right personnel to do it? I think yes. Have we shown signs of doing it? Not yet, but we have what it takes to get there. You can’t go out there without a full team.
“But now what’s happened is Brock Holt and Xander [Bogaerts] are getting an opportunity. Holt was a guy I always liked in Pittsburgh and now he’s getting his chance to shine. Now John Farrell knows he can be an everyday player.’’
“Let’s not look at just the negative,” Victorino went on. “Sure, we’ve never been 10 games back, but it’s not necessarily how you start, but how you finish.”
“We can come back from that. We can play great over those 100 games and get back in it. Our focus is to win the division, but there are other ways now with the playoff format to get back in. You have other opportunities. Can we get there? One hundred percent I think so. But if we can’t get to the top, let’s try to get in because once you get in, anything can happen.”
Victorino, who has increased his physical activity and says his body feels much better, is hoping to return at the end of next week, according to manager John Farrell.
While trying to fix his own body, he’s trying to help others.
“It’s never one guy,’’ Victorino said. “It takes all 25. There are some guys still trying to find themselves as everyday players. Give them belief and hope.
“You try to watch things to see things that could help their approach. Let’s try to work things in the cage. Things like that. You always try to communicate what you think.”
Asked about Farrell’s frame of mind, Victorino said, “He been fine. It’s frustrating for him. His full team isn’t out there. At the end of the day he puts the names on the lineup card and says go out there and be the best you can be. It’s not simple. Things happen from year to year and John is doing the best he can with what he has. His players aren’t there.”
Victorino speaks with passion and he’s a dynamic person. He’ll have a future as a motivational speaker someday because he’s a natural at speaking from the heart. And that passion translates to the field. When healthy, he’s an impact player.
At one point he pinned his body against his locker at Comerica Park and he said, “Our backs are against the wall. This is a character test of everyone in this room. We were tested a lot last year and we passed the test. We’re going to pass it again.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.