The Rangers (And Especially Their Fans) Will Miss Mike Napoli
Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
Brooke Robinson (Guest Baseball Writer and Rangers Correspondent):
In the early months of 2011 when Mike Napoli was traded to Texas, most fans welcomed him with open arms (especially the women). After all, Napoli had given the fans in Arlington headaches when playing against him so the Rangers did exactly what they did with Vladimir Guerrero– added him to their own roster. His defense was incredible, and he opened up a side of his offense that Anaheim never got to enjoy as a full-time player . He hit .320, with 30 homers in his first season with Texas, but his most incredible performance was during October of 2011. His Game 5 two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning to deliver the win and the World Series lead to 3-2 was honored by Ranger fans and ultimately put him on a fan pedestal.
Those fans showed conveyed this message early into his tenure last year. People who were bitter about the Cliff Lee’s abandonment back to Philly, changed their former Lee jerseys to ‘Nap-oh-Lee’. The time Napoli did see on the diamond, he was used in multiple roles, becoming one of the most versatile on the team as a: Catcher, Designated Hitter, and occasional First Baseman. He not only had respect from the loyal Ranger fans, but he became a leader for his teammates. The attitude of the ball club was completely different when Napoli was in the lineup, and he provided a strong presence even when on the bench. However 2012 was a less than glorious year for 30-year-old. In February he signed a one year contract with Texas to avoid arbitration, but this ultimately backfired. He spent most of the regular season in and out of injury, nonetheless he was still highly respected by fans and managed to hit 20+ HRs (24) for the 5th straight year. He also did this in only 417 AB.
So when Napoli was acquired by Boston Red Sox on Monday, it was no surprise that many fans in Texas were heartbroken. Mike provided strong defense behind the plate, and a catcher that many of the pitching rotation were well accustomed to such as rookie Yu Darvish. This leaves the question of who in baseball could replace the versatile Napoli? Perhaps the current free agent and fearsome offensive bat of catcher A.J. Pierzynski could fill in. If the Rangers do not acquire any 1B/DH free agents, the role of current 1B Mitch Moreland could increase dramatically. Moreland, who split time with Napoli and veteran Michael Young, hit 50 RBIs and 15 homers in his 114 games in 2012. His defense is not to be taken lightly, as his fielding percentage was .996 this past season. The Rangers are however looking into potential free agents such as left-handed 1B/DH Adam LaRoche, and switch hitter Nick Swisher. LaRoche could be the best fit long-term for the ball club, both monetarily and physically.
If both Napoli and OF Josh Hamilton leave Texas, it has the potential to leave a huge hole in the Rangers offense. While the promising defense of Craig Gentry and Leonis Martin could fill in for Hamilton, the ball club might struggle at the plate if it does not acquire any big free agents. Beyond the field, Rangers merchandise sales might temporarily struggle with the popular sales of the C and OF out of the picture. Look for the team to sign a big offensive force, but for GM Jon Daniels to take his time to do so.
(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)
A big thank-you goes out to Brooke Robinson for preparing today’s featured article. Brooke is a junior Sport Management major at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. She is a native of Fort Worth, Texas. Spending time at the Texas Rangers spring training facility in Arizona and seeing all of the prospects are what she loves most about baseball. Feel free to follow Brooke on twitter and talk the game of baseballFollow @bka_9
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Posted on December 5, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged @bka_9 twitter, a.j. pierzynski, adam laroche, AL West, anahem angels, boston red sox. brooke robinson, cliff lee, craig gentry, josh hamilton, leonis martin, michael young, mike napoli, mitch moreland, nick swisher, rangers, the ballpark in arlington, vladimir guerrero, yu darvish. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.