[UPDATE] January 25, 2011: Mike Napoli traded to Rangers for Frank Francisco.
"Angels Release Mike Napoli, Sign Juan Rivera To Four-Year, $86 Million Extension"
"Stupid Fucking Assbites Offseason"
"I'm disgusted with this trade."
"He [Napoli] is WITHOUT ANY EXAGGERATION a 30+ home run hitter."
i don't remember that ever happening, when did Napoli ever hit these 30 HRs. I know, "if he played everyday, he'd hit 30." Fact of the matter is: Mike Napoli isn't an everyday player. I absolutely adored Mike Napoli for everything he was: kind of a man whore, mashed at the plate (albeit when there was no one on base and the situation had no pressure), I always thought he was at least on par with Mathis defensively, if not better.
But despite the HR rate and the WAR and everything positive he had going for him saber-metrically; he is never going to achieve the absurd expectations we had for him here. It is really easy to say that he would hit 30-35 HR if he played everyday; but he won't play everyday. He never did with us, for whatever reason (always suspected he Napo-smashed a relative of Soth's or something of that nature). And he won't get to play everyday in Toronto either. Maybe he goes out and has a Phil Nevin-type surge after we get rid of him. It is possible, but it is just as possible that he hits .250 and hits 20 HRs while producing very little else offensively. And it is also just as possible that he continues regressing and flames out in his early 30s. DId no one else notice that he played worse, the more he played? OBP, OPS, OPS+, AVG, even his WAR. All got worse the more playing time he got. It was easy to miss because of how frighteningly better he is than the alternative during this time period. But you can't just overlook the facts that he got worse the more he played.
During this season, every single person on this site had countless moments where they would have been glad if we had gotten rid of Rivera for a box of batting practice balls. Could we have gotten more for his very reasonable contract? Yes. I spent a great deal of time waiting for Rivera to turn it on like he had in 2009. But the guy didn't have it anymore. First half, second half. He just didn't. He was lifeless in the outfield, constantly grounding out weakly to the 5/6 area, and stopped appearing to care about whether or not he succeeded. Maybe it was Vlad leaving, maybe it was the money being in his pocket, maybe the previously broken leg/eye problems/bat sniffing finally got to him, maybe he isn't actually 32 and hit his peak already (would it shock anyone if we found out Juan is really 34/35?). Whatever the reason, Juan Rivera was not a major league starter anymore, and was baggage on this team.
At the end of the day, I trust Soth with this team. I, along with all of us here, questioned why Steve Finley kept getting at bats,and why we let the guys I grew up loving walk away like GA and Glaus and Erstad and Washburn, and why we signed Shea Hillenbrand, and GMJ, and why the guys that weren't good enough to get on the roster of Soth's teams were so successful in other cities. But it always worked out for us in the end. Why? Because we have the best manager in baseball.
Despite his unexplained infatuation with Jeff Mathis, Scoscia realizes that Hank Conger is waiting in the wings. He realizes that Mike Trout is on the cusp of being Major League ready at 19/20. Jeff Mathis played 68 games for us last year, 68 excrutiating games of hideous offensive, defensive and mental baseball. He inexplicably got a 40-ish% raise for doing so this year. Will he play that many games for us this year? Probably. Is there any reason to believe that Soth will not give Hank or Wilson a chance to take over? There were a lot of games last year that I remember Wilson playing C while Mathis was healthy. Whatever hate or resentment there was between Napoli and Soth is not there with Soth and WIlson/Conger. They will get their shot.
Option 1: If Mathis rakes in Spring Training (unlikely), he will probably be allowed to start the season until he becomes himself again and treads the Mendoza line. Then, Wilson or Conger will get a chance.
Option 2: Mathis sucks in Spring Training (likely), he still starts the season catching. Eventually, he either gets hurt again or shows that the 2009 postseason and start to 2010 was simply a fluke and not the true talent level (like those other 1000 ABs have shown). Wilson gets a shot until Conger is 100% ready by Soth's standards.
Option 3: Mathis sucks, still plays 140+ games, sets a new record for futility. Eventually is so overcome with failure that he just leaves baseball forever.
Option 4 (or complete fantasyland): Mathis somehow proves everyone except his mother wrong, bats .270, produces at an average level, is healthy and delivers for us all year.
If, option 4 doesn't happen and either Conger or Wilson can play decent, we might be done with Mathis forever. Think how different we will all feel about what happened yesterday on the day that Mathis is DFA'd or released.
Is it impossible to think that this can work out for us? No one in the AL outside of Boston and the MFY looks like a for sure playoff caliber team. On paper, we look like a alright offensive team with great pitching and solid defense. The Rangers look like a very good offensive team with unproven, if not shitty, pitching, and a questionable defense. The A's are very much improved with unproven, but likely very good, pitching. About our level, maybe a little worse, offensively and solid defense. The Mariners are still two fast guys and a host of rejects.
Can we win the West? Certainly. Can we shock a fundamentally better team in a 5 or 7 game series with our core of pitching and some clutch offense? Hell yes. Is our team's salary WAY too high for having question marks like we have? Yes.
We need to realize that this is not the end of the world. Vernon Wells is a good player, better than Juan Rivera. I don't understand how people make the argument that they are close to the same player. Rivera is plummeting down the hill, Wells just found his footing again. Is he 18 mill per year better? No. But the contract is what it is, he won't live up to it. But he is going to get paid.
Wells will be happier here.
He will be off of turf for the first time in his career here.
He will not be playing CF here.
He will not have the pressure of crippling a franchise financially here. While this contract might hurt our chances of extending K-Mo and Weaver, our chances of extending both of those players were VERY, VERY slim before any of this happened. A point that was illustrated rather frequently during this year and off season. Two high profile Boras clients combined with our inability to negotiate with Boras and the fact that we haven't really extended many of our high profile players this decade. Sounds like we will have a very similar future off season to what the Rays had with Crawford, Pena, Soriano, etc. this year.
Wells will not be facing our very good pitching when he plays at our stadium. I hate the AVG at ballpark stats. How can the same people who ridicule our management for using Mathis' 2009 postseason/healthy start to 2010 as a justification of playing time, use VW's stats at Angel Stadium as a basis for his "imminent failure" here? It's insanely hypocritical. And against the highly logical and well thought out things that I'm so used to seeing posted here.
This off season was altogether a failure. We whiffed on our priority list. Crawford, Beltre, Soriano (though I hated that idea), Lee, Werth, trading for DeJesus or Willingham, maybe Dunn or Thome. Nothing went as planned. Our Front Office laid an egg. No disputing that. But this trade does not make us worse. This trade makes us better, though financially limited.
Life will go on, the sun will rise tomorrow and set tomorrow night.
"Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain- and most fools do. -Dale Carnegie.
"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not: but remember that what you now have was once among the things only hoped for" -Epicurus
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens: but often we look so long at the closer door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us" -Helen Keller
Post-Napoli to Texas Reaction:
Damn it Reagins. Damn it. How did you not have the foresight to have a clause in the trade against sending players back to our division? [I'm not sure if that is possible, anybody know?]
I hate one team more than I hate the Rangers, the Red Sox. Now we just basically did a 3-team trade that made our rival better in addition to taking on VW's contract (which I am much less okay with now because Texas benefits directly from the trade).
This one hurts.
As I stated in the original post, I loved Mike Napoli for everything he was. I loved his drunken escapades. I loved the unbuttoned jersey enough to steal it in high school (which also had great results for my love life, though not nearly to Napoli's levels). I loved him hitting home runs that made our losses a little less painful at the time. I loved not watching Mathis catch, even if Napoli looked indifferent while catching.
Overlooking the fact that Napoli has gotten worse the more he has played in his career, this is a great move by Texas. I despise the fact that we will have to see 44 in those awful red and/or blue jerseys. Even if Napoli continues getting worse, he is going to get enough playing time in Texas to make us not forget about him. There is no rookie phenom or defensive specialist at C to block him, there is a logjam at 1B and DH which will hurt him. The only bright side here is that we will get to run the bases with him behind the plate (and Napoli gets to escape the Great White North).
Here's to hoping that moonshine and big Texas women get to Napoli before he realizes that he is now playing in a launching pad.
Damn our Front Office. I spent a lot of time building a defense for what occurred this weekend. Now I feel like I wasted an hour writing this. Damn it.