When the Rangers picked up Mike Napoli recently, it felt like a move motivated by both desperation and irrational perspective. The thinking was along the same lines as the Mavericks’ re-signing J.J. Barea.
He was good here in 2011. Then he left and played poorly with another team. So, yeah, let’s bring him back and he’ll be good again four years later.
During his first couple of at-bats at Globe Life Park, fans fueled the delusion with good-ol’-day-syndrome chants of “Nap-oh-LEE!”
But then something funny happened: Napoli became not a sad liability, but rather a refreshing asset as the Rangers make a surprising late-August playoff push.
Hitless in his first seven plate appearances with Texas, it initially appeared that Napoli would continue his stark decline that saw him hit a pathetic .209 in 98 games this season with the Red Sox. But then he tweaked his hand position and found his swing. The result? Six hits in his last 11 at-bats against lefties, including two homers (one in Sunday’s 4-2 win in Detroit).
With the Rangers Napoli is hitting .318 and, unless this is nothing more than a futile last gasp of his dying career, his right-handed bat can be a weapon when they face left-handers. He's not an everyday player with a true position, but he's a right-handed power bat with lots of big-game experience.
And, oh by the way, just look who’s in town this week – the Blue Jays and starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and David Price. Series like this is why general manager Jon Daniels brought Napoli back. Now let’s see if Napoli truly is back.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.