What does Mike Napoli have in common with Bill Haselman?
Really not a whole lot, unless you want to drill down on the numbers and point out that both started more than 400 big league games behind the plate but fewer than 500, never caught 100 games in a season, was thought of as an offense-first catcher, and, I guess, was once traded by Boston to Texas.
What about Darren Oliver? What do he and Napoli share?
Each played for three different Rangers playoff teams. They were teammates here. Each known as a plus-plus guy in the room who contributed in a big way to every team he played for, and not just between the lines. Ollie was once traded by Texas to Boston, but that doesn’t really count.
What do Napoli and Kenny Rogers have in common?
Both were late-round picks out of a Florida high school, and didn’t get to the big leagues until they were 24 years old. Both have won a World Series.
What about Ruben Sierra? Where are the parallels?
Not a whole lot. I can’t even bring myself to say both were outfielders.
One thing that Napoli and Sierra and Rogers and Oliver and Haselman have in common is they were here, and then they left, and then they came back, and then they left, and then they came back.
They’re the five players, once Napoli signs what’s been reported to be a one-year deal (possibly for $8.5 million with a club option for a second year, according to ESPN/XM’s Jim Bowden), who have had three playing stints in Texas.
What Mike Napoli does not have in common with Sierra or Rogers or Oliver or Haselman is that he didn’t start his career with Texas. He spent the first 11 years of his pro career with the Anaheim and then Los Angeles Angels, who reportedly rebuffed multiple attempts by the Rangers to trade for him . . . only to ship him to Toronto on January 21, 2011 (with Frosty Rivera) for Vernon Wells, a trade that probably doesn’t happen if the Angels had agreed weeks earlier to the sixth-year vesting option that Adrian Beltre wanted and that the Rangers had offered (the Angels had matched the five-year, $80 million base) . . . four days after which the Jays moved Napoli to Texas for Frankie Francisco.
The other thing Napoli doesn’t have in common with those four ex-Rangers is the same thing he doesn’t have in common with anyone who has suited up for Texas.
There’s just nobody like Nap.
He’s been a post-season ballplayer eight times in the last 10 seasons, playing in three of the last six World Series. One with Texas, one with Boston, one with Cleveland. But that’s not fully the thing that separates him.
On the night Napoli helped the Indians get to last year’s World Series, team president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said, through a champagne storm: “It would be impossible to overstate Nap’s impact on our team. You saw what he did on the field. But in the clubhouse, the way he unified guys. . . . We wouldn’t be standing here without Nap.”
I love the idea of Joey Gallo spending a whole lot of time around Mike Napoli.
Napoli’s .800 OPS for Cleveland last year was his first since 2013, when he’d had a run of five such seasons out of six (including a 1.046 for Texas in 2011, followed by a post-season capped off by a 1.164 World Series that would have put an MVP trophy in his hands, if . . . ). But it wasn’t a great season. His .239/.335/.465 numbers with the Indians, which included a career-high 194 strikeouts, was a lot like the .227/.343/.469 season he had with Texas in 2012, leading the club to let him go the first time.
When he was brought back here the second time, in August of 2015, it was to add a right-handed bat to a lineup that wasn’t hitting lefties at all. The Rangers were 5.0 games back in the division at the time, and they were going for it. After hitting .207/.307/.386 for Boston that season, he hit .295/.396/.513 for Texas down the stretch. The club made up the gap and made the playoffs, and Napoli was a big reason why.
The Rangers are going for it again. Whatever the level of this deal is, it signals that ownership and management are all in. Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez and Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner have guaranteed Rangers money this year, but not after that.
We’re going to find out before long that Mike Napoli has guaranteed Rangers money this year, too.
And that’s going to mean this Texas Rangers team suddenly has one more thing in common with some pretty great Rangers teams from not too long ago, on the field and off, and that fires me up more than I can put into words.