Don't completely give up on Mike Napoli just yet
|(Matt West/Boston Herald)|
It has been impossible to not hate the Boston Red Sox for most of the 2015 season.
The team was losing games in crushing fashion, and it often seemed like the players and the manager didn’t care a whole lot. They tried the same thing night after night and we went crazy as we watched it fail to work.
Lately, though, the team has been fun to watch, and not just because the Red Sox have been winning enough to get back into the playoff race.
They have been easier on the eyes and the heart because manager John Farrell has been making bold decisions, and those decisions have paid off. The Red Sox passed the point of riding out the storm, and Farrell has been managing his butt off to save the season, and possibly his job.
One move that showed the manager is putting winning first was the benching of first baseman Mike Napoli, one of the bearded faces of the magical 2013 Red Sox. That he played 39-year-old designated hitter David Ortiz at first was what really made the move a stunner.
As has been pointed out, Ortiz doesn’t want to be the everyday first baseman. Nobody wants to subject Big Papi to that kind of wear and tear, either.
Other options the Sox have is All-Star Brock Holt at first base when Dustin Pedroia returns. A better option would seem to be to put Holt at third and move Pablo Sandoval to first now that the Panda has appeared to snap out of his defensive slump.
It’s hard not to like how Farrell isn’t afraid to take the lackadaisical — to put it nicely — Hanley Ramirez out of left field for Alejandro De Aza, who turned out to be a very good pick up by general manager Ben Cherington.
One bold move left to make by the manager, tough, would be to give Napoli another chance. He says he will, but, really, you’d have to think that it will be a very, very short leash if Napoli doesn’t hit right away when he gets back on the field.
Napoli has been awful, as his .192 batting average suggests. As it is, there is no way the Red Sox will try to resign him in the offseason, especially at the $16 million price tag he played under the past two seasons.
Even if he goes on a tear, the team will likely look for a more reliable option at first base in 2016.
The thing to remember, though, is that Napoli is completely capable of going on a tear. Remember when he was the American League Player of the Week back in late May? He looked like an MVP that week.
Maybe that week was a fluke. Maybe Napoli, who still ranks second in all of baseball with 4.3 pitches per plate appearance, will never again be the player who hit those two big home runs in the 2013 American League championship series.
Maybe, just maybe, though, that week was a sign of things to come. It is definitely worth giving Napoli the chance to see if it was, even if it is a short leash.
If the Red Sox really aren’t teasing us with their recent run and they really are going to make a run, they could turn out to be a very scary team with a rejuvenated Mike Napoli in the middle of the order.
They’d also be a whole lot tougher to hate.