Angels' Mathis Out Two Months; Napoli Will Get His Chance.
This is why you keep your mouth shut, Napoli.
Just last week, Angels catcher Mike Napoli was the subject of trade rumors after he publicly ridiculed Manager Mike Scioscia for his lack of playing time.
"I don't like coming in here and not seeing my name in the lineup," said Napoli. "I'm a competitor. I want to be on the field. I don't feel like a player who should be in the lineup for only two of nine games. I feel like I should be a starter."
Napoli will get his wish now that Jeff Mathis has broken his right wrist and will be out for up to two months.
Rotisserie geeks everywhere are at risk of suffering the same wrist injury as Mathis, as they rush to their computer mice to add Napoli's name from their respective league waiver pools. A justified move since Napoli put up better numbers than Victor Martinez and Brian McCann in 2009—hitting 20 homers and 56 RBI in just 382 plate appearances.
From a purely baseball perspective, this is quite a blow to the Angels and Mathis, who seemed to be poised for a breakout season similar to what Kendry Morales had in 2009. Mathis, 27, was batting .324, which forced Scioscia to increase his playing time dramatically to the chagrin of Napoli.
For Napoli, whose play behind the plate and in the batter's box has been inconsistent, it is time to put up or shut up. Napoli will have two months of playing virtually every day to convince the former all-star catcher and reigning manager of the year Scioscia that he was wrong.
Scioscia has not taken kindly to past dissent in the ranks—fueling rumors Napoli could be moved. However, with Scioscia's background as a catcher comes the understanding that 162 games, plus the playoffs, makes for a long and grueling season behind the plate.
Scioscia has favored carrying a third catcher on the roster for most of the time he has been manager and platooned Napoli fairly evenly with Mathis last year. This, despite Napoli's superior offense. Scioscia recalled Robb Quinlan from triple-A Salt Lake to fill the empty roster spot partially because Quinlan can be used as an emergency catcher.
Knowing all this, Napoli should have sat tight and waited for his opportunity. By not doing so, he has now created pressure for himself that never had to exist.
Napoli is a notorious streak hitter that strikes out way too much. Now would not be the time for Napoli to go into one of his 0 for 20 funks. If he does, we may see rookie Bobby Wilson make an appearance. Wilson hit .323 in the spring to earn his first big league, opening day roster spot.
If Napoli can work on his consistency and cut his strikeouts by about a third, he may have a good argument for regaining his status as the number one Halo catcher.
Mathis was billed as being on a par with Joe Mauer and Johnny Bench while playing in the minors. He was the guy Angels fans heard the most about as a prospect and was always considered the catcher of the future. Napoli threw a monkey wrench into those plans with his unexpected rise as one of the best offensive catchers in baseball—a problem the Angels are happy to have.
Mathis appeared to have finally blossomed into the star the Angels always thought he would be with his outstanding play in the 2009 playoffs and his quick start this year.
With a broken wrist on his throwing hand, one has to wonder if Mathis will require a lengthy rehab assignment with Salt Lake, even once he is cleared for action.
Carpe diem, Napoli, or you may find yourself unhappy once again in about two months.
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