Jacoby Ellsbury may have left Boston for New York, Kevin Garnett may have gone to Brooklyn, Wes Wekler may have departed for Denver, Nathan Horton may have sought greener pastures in Columbus (seriously,what’s he thinking?), Doc Rivers might have left for Los Angeles, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ray Allen may have taken their talents to South Beach, but Boston is still the center of the sports world, and Mike Napoli knows it.
Napoli, the 32 year old catcher-turned-first-baseman, has re-signed with the Red Sox for two years at $16 million per year. He’s played the Anaheim Angels (I think Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is a stupid name) and the Texas Rangers before, and even got to a World Series Game 7 with Texas, but Boston is where he won the World Series. Boston is where he partied for about four straight days combining a World Series championship, Halloween, and his birthday. The Red Sox came into the year with low expectations from fans and media alike, and Napoli was key in setting the tone and making the team likable again. He’s an everyman ballplayer with a lumberjack beard and a softball swing that can send the ball a mile. The dinger he hit to dead center in Detroit back in October is probably still up there. He crushed that thing. That’s what he does. He crushes baseballs. He may strike out a lot, and he may have a hip condition that caused the Red Sox to be concerned last winter, but he’s a ballplayer, and he is a great fit for that roster and for this city.
Being the first baseman for the Red Sox means being relevant. He probably could have made more money on a nothing team in a mediocre market, but Mike Napoli gets it. He’s been seen in recent weeks at Bruins and Celtics games and he realizes that this is a city in the midst of a ridiculous run of relevance in professional sports. When the Red Sox won the 2013 World Series, it was Boston’s eighth championship since 2002, and its 12th appearance in the championship game or series in that time. This weekend, Napoli’s signing was overshadowed by dramatic wins by the Bruins and Patriots, as well as a blowout win for the overachieving Celtics, who demolished the Knicks and appear too good to tank as they sit atop the Atlantic Division thanks to wunderkind first year head coach Brad Stevens. Every team is making headlines. Every team is an interesting story within their sport. Even the teams we expect little from seem to do incredible things. Mike Napoli’s 2013 Red Sox are he purest example of that.
I’m glad the Sox were able to come to terms with Nap, and I’m thrilled he’ll be back in the Sox lineup this spring. After the amazing run they went on together, it would be disappointing to see it end so soon. After what happened in 2013, Mike Napoli simply belongs in Boston. I could see them going year to year with him in the future, as well. At some point, David Ortiz might not be the force he’s been at the plate, and if that day ever comes, Napoli would be a great candidate to become the Red Sox’ new designated hitter. By then, he might be able to tuck his beard into his belt!