The Year of the Napoli
The chant still rings in the ears of every Rangers fan across the state of Texas and beyond. The rallying cry for the newest Ranger fan favorite. The everyman. The guy who seemed to just be out there for the fun of it.
When we look back at the 2011 season of the Texas Rangers, many thoughts come to mind. The World Series, obviously, Nelson Cruz in the ALCS, Adrian Beltre’s 3 homer game in the ALDS, the Shannon Stone tragedy and trade deadline deals, to name a few. However, the one thing that we remember most is Mike Napoli and what he accomplished. I think most people were probably like us when we heard the news of the trade from Toronto, “Well, there are 20 more home runs.” The things we didn’t count on were his better than advertised defensive skills and Nap hitting over 300. (.320/.414/.631 with 30 HR and 75 RBI)
Yet the year did not begin in the most explosive of ways for Napoli. He was quite average at the plate and most of the catching was still being done by Yorvit Torrealba. It seemed to turn around right around the time of 3 major events in the season for the Rangers catcher
First, the injury. Napoli was sidelined for almost three weeks with injury in early June. It was frustrating because he felt he was just finding a repertoire with some of the young pitchers and was calling better games for them.
Second, the All-Star break. The figurative “half-way point” in the MLB’s regular season, the All-Star break gave the entire team some much needed rest away from the record setting heat that was turning parts of RBiA into a blast furnace in the afternoons.
Thirdly, the bet with Emily Jones. Silly, but after Mike Napoli was forced to pay up on a bet to FSSW’s Emily Jones regarding the NBA Finals, things began to click for Nap. The game where his walk up songs were chosen was a forgettable one, what happened for the next four months was not. Before the date of the bet, July 5, Napoli hit .219/.339/.489. After the bet, Napoli hit an insane .382/.462/.719.
Going into 2012, the main question, is can Napoli repeat that performance? That will be the looming question in regards to Napoli early on in the season. Is it Rangers’ Ballpark in Arlington? Has Napoli just gotten better as he’s matured, or was his 2011 season a fluke?
The book is still out on him, since last season was well above his career numbers. One thing we can look at is that he may be more comfortable in Texas. He doesn’t have Mike Scoscia looking over his shoulder, or having to worry about being sat down for Jeff Mathis. And he loves it here. The clubhouse is fun for him, and he seems to enjoy the banter on Twitter with the fans and media. Texas has welcomed their every-man with open arms, hoping he will continue to deliver.
This will be the year on which Napoli and the Rangers will base their long term goals. Not only is their incentive for a long term deal, there are some demons that need exercising after the World Series last year. With virtually every player coming back for the 2012 season, and the addition of Japanese phenom Yu Darvish, success is there for the taking.
The Year of the Napoli will begin with the echo of a chant 50,000 strong from just a season ago.