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The Truth About Shane Victorino

Shane Victorino is from Hawaii:  True.
Shane Victorino is the Phillies rightfielder:  True.
Shane Victorino is having a career year:  True.
Shane Victorino has benefited from Davey Lopes' tutelage:  True.
Shane Victorino is a Phillie because of Ed Wade:  not exactly.

The common lore about Victorino is that he was a Rule 5 pickup by the 2005 Phillies, a team then run by Ed Wade.  It's a feather often ascribed to Ed Wade's cap, as Christina Kahrl did last week in an article about free-talent all-stars.  But, it's not entirely true.

Now, don't get me wrong here.  This is not another Good Phight piece bashing Ed Wade.  In fact, I think it's fair to say that a lot of us here see some serious strengths he had, if not so clearly when Wade was here, definitely in retrospect.  He assembled some top-notch front-line talent, especially hitters and especially through the farm system.  There were lots of other problems he had, but he did have his positives.

But, Victorino being a Phillie is not entirely a positive in Wade's favor.  Why not?  Because at the end of spring training 2005, the Phillies actually offered Victorino back to the Dodgers for the paltry sum of $25,000.  The Phillies didn't want Victorino; they just wanted the cash.

But let's rewind and tell the whole story below the fold.

Victorino was drafted in the 6th round of the 1999 draft by the Dodgers.  He was 18 and signed immediately.  After three years in the Dodgers' low minors, Victorino was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and taken by the Padres in 2002.  The Rule 5 draft requires a team to keep the player on the major league roster or return him to the original team, so the Padres played Victorino at the major league level in 2003 to disastrous results.  In 73 at-bats, Victorino posted a first-half-2006-Nunez-esque .151/.232/.178 line.  On May 28, the Padres returned Victorino to the Dodgers, who kept him in the minors the rest of the year.

Victorino spent another year in the Dodgers minor league system, this time at AA and AAA.  In AA, Victorino showed a bit of power (16 home runs in 293 at-bats), but in AAA, he struggled with a .235/.278/.335 line.  That wasn't good enough for Mr. Assistant MoneyBall GM, Paul DePodesta, who was running the Dodgers at the time.  He left Victorino unprotected in the 2004 Rule 5 draft, and the Phillies, then run by Ed Wade, swooped him up.

For this, the Phillies, and Ed Wade, deserve credit.  They saw promise in Victorino and brought him to the organization.  That promise is clearly paying off now, as the Phillies have a very cheap and very valuable commodity in right field.

But the Phillies, via Ed Wade, almost lost Victorino.  In spring training 2005, Victorino was given a chance to make the team's bench.  But, in 54 at-bats, he hit just .167 with a puny .296 slugging percentage.  The Phillies didn't think their major league roster had room for Victorino, so they offered him back to the Dodgers on March 31, 2005.  According to Rule 5 procedures, the Dodgers could have had him for a mere $25,000 (half the $50,000 the Phillies paid the Dodgers to get Victorino in the first place).  Ed Wade saw Victorino had promise, so he gets credit for that, but he quickly gave up on him.

Victorino would be a Dodger today if it weren't for DePodesta's stupidity in not taking Victorino back for a trivial amount of money.  The Phillies are now benefiting, but it's not because of Ed Wade's wisdom; it's because of DePodesta's error.

To further drive home Ed Wade's deficiencies with Victorino, Wade's handling of Victorino may have, among other things, cost the Phillies the playoffs in 2005.  Remember, in 2005, the Phillies missed the playoffs by one game (one horrible horrible game).  While Wade let Charlie Manuel give 107 at-bats in 2005 to inning-Endy Chavez and his .215/.243/.299 line, Victorino came into his own in Scranton, showing speed (17 stolen bases), power (18 home runs, .534 slugging), patience (51 walks, .377 on-base percentage), and defense (14 outfield assists), all the attributes he's showing now for the big-league club.  Maybe the season would have gone differently if Chavez, along with his late-inning pinch-hit failings, had been replaced mid-season by Victorino.

Of course, we'll never know.  But, we do know, and we should definitely remember, that Ed Wade deserves some credit for Victorino, but by no means all of it.  If DePodesta had coughed up a mere $25,000, Victorino would be hitting Phillies' pitching this afternoon, instead of the other way around.