Red Sox 25 in 25: Mike Napoli
The 2014 season wasn’t nearly as eventful as 2013 for Mike Napoli. In his first season with the Red Sox two years ago, Mike Napoli grew out his beard, clocked timely homeruns, won a World Series and became a fan favorite, especially after his legendary, shirtless trek through the streets of Boston celebrating their world championship with the masses.
Napoli’s two seasons with the Red Sox are a microcosm of the team as a whole for the last two years. He surpassed expectations in 2013, played a key role in the middle of the lineup and was an above average first baseman only to struggle at times in 2014 and come crashing back to Earth. He was riddled with injuries last season and wasn’t really ever able to get consistent results at the plate. Ailments with his toe, knee, back and especially his finger limited his contributions.
In only 119 games in 2014, Napoli hit .248 with 55 RBI (he had a career high 92 RBI in 2013) and 49 runs scored. He failed to reach 20 homeruns for the first time in seven years with only 17 last season, and had a career low slugging percentage of .419. Between the way he and the team performed, there is no doubt that Mike Napoli is looking to get things back on track in 2015.
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It’s a contract year for Mike Napoli who signed a two year/32 million dollar deal in the offseason one year ago. That combined with the motivation to prove that last season was an anomaly could lead to big things for him in 2015.
All signs point to a healthy Mike Napoli to start the season. He is coming back from offseason surgery, not to the much discussed finger that plagued him for about a year, but to correct complications from sleep apnea. Reports are that he lost some weight immediately after surgery due to not being able to eat (the surgery involves actually moving the jaw), but he is now back to his normal weight of 230 pounds, as his appearance at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods Resort Casino clearly showed.
The Red Sox have big plans for “the Bearded Wonder” in 2015. He will once again be counted on to provide some power in the middle of a lineup that is shaping up to be pretty solid. In addition to newcomers Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, Ben Cherington and company are counting on Napoli and David Ortiz to reclaim the magic of 2013.
Some of Napoli’s struggles last season can also be attributed to his constant attempts to destroy the ball in every at-bat knowing that the rest of the team was struggling to get guys across the plate. Red Sox Nation is hoping that he can settle into his own and remain healthy, although I would recommend that fans taper their expectation just a tad. He has only played more than 120 games in two season his whole career, he’s got some miles on him now at 33 years with his past as a catcher and it just might be that 2013 was the right time, right place as it seems to have been for a variety of players on that team.
Boston is just looking for some consistency out of Napoli. It’s understood that he is going to have his fair share of strike outs, but if he can find that power stroke that he’s known for and play a good, solid first base once again, they’ll be happy. Here’s to hoping that the desire for redemption and a chance at one more nice contract drive Mike Napoli back to form.