The minute Jon Daniels said that he was fully prepared to go into the season with a combination of Joey Gallo, Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar at first base, one thing was for certain: No way were the Rangers going to go into the season with any combination of Joey Gallo, Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar at first base.
Not if they intended to win.
The announcement that they have signed Mike Napoli to a third tour of duty with the Rangers confirmed that. And it confirmed what the team really thinks of Gallo, Rua and Profar.
Gallo is not a major leaguer. Rua is not an every day player. Profar is not a first baseman.
The fact that it is reportedly a two-year deal means the Rangers realize they don’t have anyone ready to take over for a few years.
But none of that is news. Mike Napoli returning for a third tour of duty with the Texas Rangers is, however, news. Even though it was as surprising as a hundred degree day in July in Texas.
The signing that seemed to be three months in the making was announced yesterday. It’s been reported the deal is for $8.5 million, with a club option for a second year (a Joey Gallo insurance policy). Chances are the deal will not be officially announced until February 14, because that is the earliest date Texas can move both Prince Fielder and Sam Diekman to the 60-day DL, which would free up roster space for Napoli without the Rangers having to cut someone loose in the interim.
Mike Napoli 1.0 was pretty incredible, perhaps one of the more dominating offensive performances for a Ranger ever. Napoli came to Texas the first time in 2011 and turned himself into a fan favorite. The Ballpark came alive when he came up to bat. But if you look at the first half of the season, it didn’t appear that Napoli would be anything more than yet another in the revolving door of Rangers’ catchers not named Pudge.
After getting off to a strong April (.265 BA, .431 OBP, 1.164 OPS, 6 HRs, 12 RBIs), Napoli fell off the face of the Earth in May (.206/.320/.764) then landed somewhere near the crack of Uranus in June (.179/.233/.488 which is not a typo but really bad numbers).
Then he got injured.
Then, somehow, a light switched on.
Then the legend was born.
A .232 first half batting average turned into a remarkable .383 average. His on-base percentage went from .344 to a Bonds-like .466. He picked up 36 hits in the first half, 82 in the second.
If Napoli didn’t get a hit, or hit the ball hard somewhere, it was a fluke. He single-handedly carried the Rangers to the World Series.
He was a Ranger in 2012, but due to injury, not remarkable.
Mike Napoli 2.0 was pretty impressive as well. He returned for the final 35 games of 2015. To play left field. Which is all you need to know about how bereft of talent the Rangers are in their minor league system, and especially in left field in 2015. (Rumor has it Jim Knox was next in line to play left.) But the bat was there. He hit .295, with an OBP of .396 and an OPS of .908.
He took a one-year vacation to Cleveland (perhaps the first time “vacation” and “Cleveland” have ever been used together), where he helped lead the Indians to a surprising World Series appearance on the strength of 35 home runs and 101 RBIs. His 35 homers would have led the Rangers—Odor slammed 33, Beltre 32. And his 101 runs batted in would have been a close second to Beltre’s 104.
The guy he is replacing, Mitch Moreland, hit fifteen fewer home runs and drove in 41 fewer runs.
The Texas Rangers lineup just got a whole lot better.
The Texas Rangers chances of repeating in the West just got a whole lot better.
The Texas Rangers Ballpark just got a whole lot louder.
Bring on Mike Napoli 3.0.
Na-Po-Li. Na-Po-Li. Na-Po-Li.
As I mentioned yesterday, I am going to work on lining up an RR3 day at the Ballpark. It will be $40 per person, in the upper home run porch in right field, in the All-You-Can-Eat section. There will be absolutely no way to accommodate everyone’s schedule, so I will try to work with my Rangers ticket guy to find one that fits. It will probably be earlier in the season, while excitement for the Rangers is still high.