Sox turn to Victorino

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Sox turn to Victorino

There's some uneasiness in Red Sox Nation after the report that the Sox have signed Shane Victorino to a free agent contract worth 39M over three years.

But you know who doesn't mind? The headline writers and copy editors.

Victorino Lap!

Anyone used that one yet?

Sox Get Low Down and Dirty with Shane.

Actually, that one sucks.

Victorino Was His Name-O

Eh, that one too.

The Thrill of Victorino.

OK, that's better.

But either way, over the next three years, we'll see and hear them all. Over and over and over. Or we can only hope, because if Victorino's in the headlines that means the Sox money is well spent. Something we haven't been able to say very often when 'Ol John Henry pries open his wallet.

So, what is there to like about Victorino?

First of all, he's a good dude. Great in the clubhouse and in the community, and seems to already have a strong relationship with at least one of his new teammates.

Despite turning 32 last week, Victorino still has some speed. (He stole 39 bases last season.)

He has the ability to play centerfield, which should come in handy after Ellsbury's annual injury.

Lastly, after seven and a half years in Philly, he's obviously well-accustomed to playing in an insane mediafan atmosphere.

But and of course there's a but when the first positive thing you say about a guy is that he's a "good dude," then clearly there are a few things missing. In Victorino's case (as if the outcry from Red Sox Nation wasn't enough indication), more than a few things. For instance:

Three years and 39M is a lot to pay for a guy who, in a perfect world, is your fourth outfielder.

Thirty-two isn't older but it's getting for a speed guy, and it doesn't help that Victorino's coming off what was easily the worst season of his life, with career-lows in batting average (.255), OBP (.321) and OPS (.704).

So, OK. It's far from perfect. Maybe this is more than you want to pay for Shane Victorino, especially when it's exactly what you just paid for Mike Napoli.

But let's forget, 39M is nothing for the Red Sox. And when it's only spaced over three years, it's not going hurt their flexibility in the long term. It will be give their young prospects just enough time to prepare themselves for a takeover.

And if it doesn't work out with Victorino (or Napoli), or the prospects are ready earlier than anticipated? Trade time. By the deadline in 2014, Victorino and Napoli will have a year and half and less than 20M left on the deal. Someone will take them off the Sox hands.

And that's the worst-case scenario.

Best case?

To the Victorino goes the spoils.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

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Bruins come away impressed with new practice facility

BRIGHTON – It’s been a summer brimming with anticipation for Bruins players and management alike with the prospect of moving into a new, state-of-the-art practice facility.

The Bruins contingent hosted Jimmy Vesey at their new Warrior Ice Arena home a couple of weeks ago and the B’s players christened the ice by kicking off their informal captain’s practices on Monday morning.

Torey Krug, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid, John-Michael Liles, Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano all hit the ice to work with a local goaltender and went through skating drills for the hour-plus to get the blood pumping. Krejci left the ice after roughly 15 minutes as he recovers from left hip surgery, but was still left excited at the prospect of practicing in the new digs after spending his entire Bruins career with Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington as their practice home.

The arena doesn’t officially open until the Bruins and New Balance hold a grand opening on Sept. 8, but color several Bruins veterans impressed.

“It’s beautiful. It’s great. It’s a little bit different than Wilmington,” said Krejci. “You guys will get a chance to see it next week, but it’s pretty cool.”

The captain’s practices will continue in earnest with more Bruins players joining the group as the calendar gets closer to the start of training camp. The expectation is that all of the B’s skaters will be wholly impressed with the new facility. 

Clearly, it’s got all the bells and whistles of a new rink, and the closer proximity is a bonus for Bruins players that these days live in and around Boston rather than in the distant suburbs.

There's even the distinct possibility in the not-so distant future that the Bruins could start holding game day morning skates at the practice facility rather than at the Garden. It's something already done in Montreal, where the Habs have a similar setup with their practice rink in Brossard, just outside of the city. 

“It’s beautiful. For the guys that have been the scenes and doing all the work in Wilmington all of these years, it’s great for them to be a part of this and move into a new building,” said Krug. “I’m fortunate to be here and be a part of it. That’s exciting.”

Krug joked that being an early arriver at Warrior Arena doesn’t guarantee him one of the big lockers in the dressing room once training camp gets going: “I’m pretty sure Zee [captain Zdeno Chara] will kick me out of whatever stall I picked. It’s obviously exciting to be one of the first guys skating on this ice.”

 

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

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Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

During our series discussing the 1986 Boston Celtics, we have sat down with many players from that championship, along with members of the media that were close to the team.

This week features a few of the opponents that were very familiar with the 1980’s Celtics  - Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, former Celtics coach (and Hawk) Doc Rivers, and Lakers great James Worthy.

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.