|Why Mike Napoli left an ‘awesome’ situation in Texas behind||03.07.13 at 7:22 am ET|
For the past two seasons, Mike Napoli was part of a team that won more games (regular season and postseason combined) than any other team in baseball. He has been in the playoffs in five of the past six seasons.
Now, the Red Sox first baseman is banking on the streak continuing.
Napoli not only left a team in the Texas Rangers that had won more than anybody in the past couple of years, but one which also possessed the kind of clubhouse the Red Sox aspire to duplicate.
“It was awesome,” said Napoli regarding the environment hovering around the Rangers. “You get up and want to get to the field because you don’t know what’s going to happen in the clubhouse that day. You just never knew what was going to happen. It’s always a good feeling waking up and really wanting to get to the field. And winning doesn’t hurt. It had a good feeling.
“Once you have such a good group like that … It’s everything in a clubhouse and on the field that you need. Looking at it, you think you would keep the core group of guys together and be able to keep things going.”
But in early December, Napoli made the choice to move on. According to the 31-year-old, it wasn’t easy.
When December rolled around, there was still a chance that not only Napoli would return, but Josh Hamilton could be back. And Michael Young, perceived as a cornerstone in that clubhouse, was still nine days away from officially being traded to Philadelphia.
“They were always in it,” said Napoli of the Rangers. “I felt really comfortable there. I didn’t know really anywhere else. The thing that came to mind was I didn’t want to go somewhere and it not be the same. I really enjoyed what they had there. That was the biggest thing for me. I knew they had a good team. We would win there. So they were definitely at the top of the list and I wanted to give them a chance and keep them in the loop and go from there.”
“I definitely thought there was a good chance he would be back in Texas,” explained Napoli explained, who was never asked by the Red Sox to help recruit the free agent outfielder. “But free agency is free agency. I guess they just couldn’t figure something out. But, yeah, it’s a little surprising just because of his whole situation. The Rangers dealt with a lot with him and were able to comfort him and be able to help him. Just being comfortable with all of his surroundings. That’s his personal decision.”
But three days into December, Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million with the Red Sox. He was not only sold on the financial terms, but the idea that the Red Sox could become what he was leaving behind in Texas.
Even when the initial agreement with the Red Sox blew up due to the diagnosis of avascular necrosis in both the slugger’s hips, the Rangers didn’t go away. They understood the value of Napoli, and thought he might want to continue what had been a good thing.
Still, even with contact continuing with Texas, Napoli was ready to move on.
“When I agreed here I felt really comfortable,” he said. “I liked what was going on. Talking to Ben [Cherington], John [Farrell], their visions of what was going on. Obviously there was the talent. Boston is a good place. I felt they definitely could win here. Texas was always there. I was in a weird situation where my emotions were so up and down. I think going through the whole thing I was hoping we would work it out in Boston. The role did play into it, but I think going into it and other teams being involved I still had my mind set that I was going to come to Boston. But I still had to listen and it just so happened the Rangers came in and were in the same area. I was weighing my options but I really already had my mind set. I already had my mind set once I agreed the first time.”
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