Well, we flicker the lights back on merely in order to vent again about the Mike Napoli trade and, lo and behold, visitors old and new find us. The traffic surge almost makes us want to make another go of this thing…
So we’ll do just that, at least for the duration of time that the entire baseball world is wondering how in the hell anyone jettisons a player like Mike Napoli. We received a few messages from readers yesterday lambasting us about the clarity of hindsight. Of course, we flickered the lights briefly at the time of the trade, too, to let everyone know that we thought it sucked, so we feel compelled, and justified, to pile on now.
Every real Angel fan knew that trade sucked. The Mike Napoli trade, in fact, sucked even before it involved the division-rival Rangers (remember, the Angels traded Napoli and Juan Rivera to Toronto for Vernon “Not So” Wells before the Rangers then made a separate trade with the Blue Jays to acquire Napoli). Napoli was the only Angel besides Bobby Abreu capable of working a count and drawing a walk. Mike Napoli was the only Angel capable of, say, stepping up in the ALDS and hitting two light-tower bombs off of Josh Beckett in Fenway. Mike Napoli was the only Angel who every fan knew deserved to be in the lineup every day against every kind of pitcher. Those of us who watch the Angels intently knew all of that; it could not have been more clear, which is why the consistent benching of Napoli by Mike Sciosica, during Napoli’s Angel tenure, was so damned maddening, and so obviously personal.
Scioscia chose Jeff Mathis over Mike Napoli, though Scioscia can easily explain that away by saying that it was more a product of Napoli lacking durability and the Angels being flush with first basemen (Kendrys Morales was at the time penciled in to return from his ankle injury and Mark Trumbo was waiting in the wings). Uh, okay, fine…then the Angels chose Mark Trumbo over Mike Napoli.
But, you know, Mark Trumbo’s a light-tower kind of guy, too, (even though he struggles so far to get on base…guy’s an out machine), so we’ll buy that for a moment. Then we’re left with the notion that the Angels are filled with aging outfielders, which makes the DH position reserved for, well, Bobby Abreu.
Well, then…the Angels chose Bobby Abreu over Mike Napoli.
The point is that Napoli, coming off a 2010 season in which he struggled a bit (curiously, though, he posted nearly identical offensive numbers in 2010 as did Abreu), was still far and away the Angels best power threat. Added to that, Napoli was the only player aside from Abreu able to go deep into counts consistently and even draw walks.
So the Angels had exactly one player who could both work counts and hit for power. One. Ironically, everyone in baseball recognized that those two skills were exactly what the team was so sorely lacking.
So the Angels traded him. And no amount of justification can change that fact. It was an awful trade that made no sense then and it’s obviously looking now as though it might be the worst trade in Angel history (and that’s actually really saying something).
The fact is that Mike Scioscia fucked this up beyond comprehension, beginning in 2008 when he decided that Jeff Mathis was his guy. Mathis doesn’t hit and he doesn’t throw runners out…never has. But, still, he was Scioscia’s guy.
And now Scioscia is telling bald-faced lies to try to justify all of this. He and Napoli did indeed “butt heads,” on numerous occasions, both directly and indirectly (Scioscia alternated between dressing Naps down and staring him down). Scioscia consistently rode Napoli about defense and used the bench to dole out the punishment for perceived defensive transgressions/shortcomings. Scioscia is a master of old-school baseball double-speak but he’s fooling nobody with this, not even as he tries to take implicit potshots at Naps.
The fact remains that Mike Scioscia, purportedly the best evaluator of catching talent in the game, has watched this year’s and last year’s World Series from home while his former catchers have played critical roles in each of those Series. And this seems like a good time to mention, too, that in one of the biggest games in Angel history, he had Josh Fucking Paul behind the plate.
Step up and be a man, Scioscia. This is about Napoli’s catching, even though it shouldn’t be and even though you’re trying to pretend that it wasn’t. As the Angels’ gatekeeper, you chose to make a stand about catching defense rather than simply acknowledge that Napoli deserved to be in the offensive lineup no matter what, be it as first baseman, DH, or catcher. In an organization where there is such a critical dearth of key offensive talent, there is simply no excuse for scuttling a player like Napoli (who even in his weakest year (2010) led the team in slugging).
It’s inexcusable, Mr. Scioscia, so please stop trying. You’ve reached the point now where you’re insulting everyone’s intelligence, insisting that you didn’t butt heads with Naps, that you’re “just a manager,” and that we should only judge this trade after “a couple years.”
You blew the Mike Napoli trade, pure and simple. Just admit it already and then give Mike Napoli his due. And when you do, go ahead and let everyone know what both the statistics show and everyone’s eyes can see:
The sad and ironic truth is that Mike Napoli is actually a better defensive catcher than is Jeff Mathis.
Okay, now let’s go ahead and accept as fact that anyone who has Josh Paul in that game AND thinks that Jeff Mathis is a better baseball player than Mike Napoli, is no better an evaluator of catching talent than anyone else in the game (and, in fact, his superiority complex on the subject may just make him worse). Heaven help Hank Conger, who must now be the most anxious catcher in all of baseball.
Tony Reagins, Ken Forsch, Gary Sutherland, how many scapegoats does it take to put this awful trade to bed?
You’re not fooling anyone here, Scioscia, and you’re only making yourself look pathetic in your attempts. One catcher with the “intangibles” is not more important than an offensive lineup capable of getting on base. We sure hope that, if nothing else, you’ve learned that lesson in all of this…lord knows the Angels need you to learn that lesson.
Of course, Scioscia is too proud a man to ever admit any of this. Just as he defended the Josh Paul fiasco to the bitter end (and still will) while quietly abandoning his strategic 3-catcher roster, he will continue to posture about this Mike Napoli trade.
Yeah, let’s look at this trade in “a couple years,” when Vernon Wells is even older, and see what it looks like then. Great idea.