Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Defensive outfielder: Making the case for Shane Victorino as Phillies best

 Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino ERIC MENCHER/Staff Photographer
 Shane Victorino Gallery: 2009: Shane Victorino

Shane Victorino might have the best arm of any centerfielder in Phillies history. Give him that.

Still, it's tough to make the argument that he's a better overall defensive player than Garry Maddox. Or Rich Ashburn, for that matter. Not after just 1 year as the Phillies regular centerfielder, even if he did win a Gold Glove.

"Maddox has to be No. 1," said broadcaster Chris Wheeler, who has spent almost four decades with the organization. "Shane, to me, I've seen him play center 1 year and he's good. But Maddox and Ashburn were great. Garry won Gold Gloves, but he was never an All-Star. Whitey, when I was a kid, led the league in putouts every year in that big ballpark, Connie Mack Stadium."

The numbers support Wheels. Victorino had 328 putouts last season, most of them in center, although he also played five games in right.

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  • Maddox averaged 417.4 putouts for the Phillies from 1976 through 1980, according to baseball-reference.com. That was good enough to inspire the famous comment that water covers two-thirds of the earth and Garry Maddox covered the rest.

    And Ashburn averaged an amazing 475 for 10 years, from 1949 through 1958.

    "You can't compare to what Garry did and all the Gold Gloves he won. Shane's won one. He's got a long way to go," said current Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson.

    There is a school of thought that Victorino's speed gives him a chance to come close to the two icons, though.

    "He's got a chance to get close," former Phillies and Cubs manager Lee Elia said with a smile. "Garry Lee, for us in this organization, was the best. For me, nobody was like Junior [Griffey] in Seattle and Garry was right there with him, a close second."

    Larry Andersen, who played with Maddox in 1983, said Victorino has the right stuff to approach that level.

    "I think he's got as chance to come close," the Phillies broadcaster said. "I was just with Garry in '83 and I think at that time he was nearer the end of his career while Victorino is nearer the start. Victorino has the speed and the arm. I don't remember Garry's arm, but I have a hard time believing anybody had a better arm than Victorino. Garry Maddox was the Secretary of Defense but I think Victorino has a chance to be one of the best defensive centerfielders ever."

    Unofficial team historian Rich Westcott concurs with Andersen.

    "I'd have to put him pretty close," he said. "You've got Rich Ashburn, too. And going way, way back you've got some other centerfielders who were pretty good. He hasn't played there that long but I'd put him, if not at the top, in the top two or three."

    Current Phillies manager Charlie Manuel thinks Victorino can still get better.

    "From the defensive side, Shane has a ways to go yet," he said. "I played against Garry Maddox in the minor leagues. I saw him all the way through his career. He was what you'd call a loper. He'd get real good jumps. He knew how to play the game. Victorino has only been in the big leagues [a relatively short period of time] and although he's got talent, speed and a great throwing arm, he could get much better. I think he's got to go a ways on defense."

    *

    THE COMPETITION

    To be considered the Phillies' best defensive outfielder, Shane Victorino would be judged against:

    1. Garry Maddox. Eight consecutive Gold Gloves from 1975 to 1982 earned him the nickname "Secretary of Defense."

    2. Rich Ashburn. Ballhawk had 500 centerfield putouts four times for Phillies from 1949 through 1957.

    3. Doug Glanville. Growing up, Maddox was his defensive role model. Averaged nearly 385 putouts a year from 1998 through 2001.

    4. Billy Hamilton. Future Hall of Famer was Phillies regular from 1890 to '95. "Great centerfielder. I never saw him play but from what I've always heard he was a great defensive player," said author Rich Westcott.

    5. Roy Thomas. Everyday centerfielder from 1901 until traded to Pirates during the 1908 season.

    Honorable mention: Lenny Dykstra, Aaron Rowand

    *

    DOUG GLANVILLE ON SHANE VICTORINO

    "What I like about Victorino is that he seems very focused. What gets lost is the preparation to get ready to play the hitters.

    "When you're playing centerfield, there's more ground to cover. It's like being the captain of the outfield. You need those intangibles.

    "Garry Maddox was a gazelle. But it's also about preparation and getting reads on the ball off the bat, and Victorino shows he already has that ability. He also plays hard and is fearless. He's a gamer.

    "Sometimes if you're a blazer they just stick you out there. It's like when [track star] Renaldo Nehemiah signed with the 49ers. He might have been faster than Jerry Rice, but he didn't have the same precision in running his routes.

    "It's hard being an everyday centerfielder. There's a lot of running in and out of the dugout. And you're responsible for everyone in the outfield. It's a great spot to be if you like being in the middle of everything.

    "Maddox was the guy I followed growing up. I loved that era. Omar Moreno. Gary Pettis. Guys who were defensive purists.

    "Maddox was graceful and prepared. He knew where to play. He covered ground and he knew what the guys around him could do. He was the whole package. I really paid attention to him.

    "I knew that Chad Keuter was one of the three hitters in the league who could consistently hit a knuckleball. That it would come off his bat with a lot of topspin and all that kind of crazy stuff. I knew that Randy Wolf liked to throw 2-1, 3-1 changeups so you couldn't always look for the batter to pull the ball.

    "Back then you didn't have to be an offensive juggernaut. Now they sometimes just throw a bat out there. They say, 'Give us some offense for the first seven innings and we'll find somebody to play the last two.'"
     

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