Rich Hofmann: With Shane Victorino gone, Phillies' 2008 World Series title a distant memory

Posted: August 02, 2012

WASHINGTON – It is hard to walk into the Phillies' clubhouse at Nationals Park without thinking of Harry Kalas. It is where most of the Phillies' traveling party got the news in April of 2009 that the club's beloved broadcaster had collapsed in the press box before a game, and it was from behind its closed doors that club president David Montgomery later emerged to tell reporters, "We lost our voice today."

This is not that, obviously. It is brought up not as a comparison, but instead as part sign of affection and part milepost on a continuum. And so, in the silence that was the Phillies' pregame clubhouse on Tuesday, the day the team traded away Shane Victorino, it was hard not to listen really closely and maybe close your eyes for a second and hear Kalas stretch out those five syllables for a splendid eternity.

Five syllables: "Fly-in' Ha-wai-ian."

It was the most joyful noise. That was Victorino, joyful noise. It is the way he played, and it was the way he talked, and it was the vibe with which he infected everyone who watched him. He was a significant part of what they did – speed, power, defense, all of it – and he was the perfect accompaniment to Chase Utley's steel, and Ryan Howard's storm, and Jimmy Rollins' swagger, and Brad Lidge's humble perfection.

Victorino was the fun player on the most fun baseball team the city of Philadelphia has ever seen, the 2008 world champions. Now he is gone, gone at the trade deadline for guys you've never heard of.

And another page turns. As manager Charlie Manuel said, "It seems like 2008 is getting long ago."

As Manuel spoke, the dugout was more full of media than usual on the day the Phillies traded away Victorino and Hunter Pence. In both cases, the deals made perfect sense. The team is going nowhere, Victorino is going to be a free agent after the season, Pence is going to be very expensive next season, and it was time to start to clear space for the future.

Still, the past beckons. This team was supposed to have won another championship by now, and everybody involved with it would admit that (at least in their hearts). But it has not happened, and the bottom fell out this year, and now the Phillies seem to be on the verge of a final, great retooling while the remainder of the 2008 nucleus, and Roy Halladay, are still here.

This was the start. Still, it is hard not to think back.

"I look at those pictures on the wall in our locker room – it seems like [2008] was a pretty good while ago," Manuel said. "But you know what? That is part of the game. That's what the game is all about. In order to stay where you want to be, if you want to be a winning team and competitive every year, sometimes you've got to change. And you've got to see what's going on. And you've got to see the problems and you've got to address them. You just don't sit there and let them fester and let things go.

“People do change – I said that the other day. Money changes you. Everything changes you. Success definitely changes you, and how you handle it is what counts, too. Winning is hard. But when everything starts [being] given to you, or is easy for you ... "

So, the shakeup comes. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. thinks he got a capable bullpen piece (Josh Lindblom) from the Dodgers in the Victorino deal, and at least a fourth outfielder (Nate Schierholtz) and a hot catching prospect (Tommy Joseph) from the Giants in the Pence deal. He also has pretty much said that one of the outfield jobs in 2013 will be Dom Brown's to lose, and that all of this should give him enough payroll flexibility to dip into the free-agent market in the offseason.

And another page turns.

"Shane Victorino was a huge part of what we were trying to do," Amaro said. "Clearly, he is one of those guys who we based a lot of our club around. He's one of those core guys. But it was pretty evident that we were not going to be able to retain him, at least under the circumstances now. That doesn't mean, at some point, when he becomes a free agent, things change. But we felt like we were ready to move on."

And then Amaro said, "Sometimes you have to take a little bit of a tiny step back to move forward."

Even after this year, such a deflating year, the general manager believes in this team. Why? "Because I know we have a lot of talent on this field," he said. "I know we can't control the injuries and things that happened but I do believe in my heart of hearts that we have the core and the nucleus of players that are going to be a championship-caliber club.

“I could be wrong. I've been wrong before. But I think, with some of the flexibility we have now and with the base of talent that we have out here, I think we still have championship-caliber talent."

With that, call the roll. From 2008, the only likely 2013 holdovers are Howard, Utley, Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels. It really does seem like a long time ago. For their final run at this thing, they really are down to their core – except now for Victorino, their hyperactive pest of a player.

And what was it that Harry Kalas said on that day in 2007 when Victorino hit a walkoff home run against the Giants?

Maui no ka ‘oi.

Maui is the best.

Contact Rich Hofmann at hofmanr@phillynews.com, read his blog, The Idle Rich, at www.philly.com/TheIdleRich, or follow @theidlerich on Twitter.

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