Mike Napoli deserves credit for playing through the pain of the plantar injury to his foot. On Sunday night he not only played, but drove in three runs with a double and a home run. He looked like the Mike Napoli of April who went missing for three months. Whether this is the real Mike Napoli or the once-in-a-blue-moon Mike Napoli remains to be seen.
But it takes plenty of nerve to play on an injury he describes as the pain of an ice pick stabbing you. Having given Napoli the Bronx cheer in this space (“Batting Crappily”) it seems only fair to applaud the guts it took to play with such pain. The Red Sox have a gutsy first baseman, if not a consistent one.
Meanwhile the jury is out on whether Napoli deserves a new contract at the end of the year. He still strikes out more than any other Red Sox batter, despite seeing more pitches than anyone in baseball. Apparently he is selective until he gets two strikes on him and then swings with abandon. That seemed to work in April, but finally pitchers figured he would rip at the high ones and the low outside ones, and the punch-outs started to add up.
I’ve given both Napoli and Stephen Drew a little spite this month, and both have found the groove and anchored the lower half of the line-up. It proves that the baseball season is long, and some players contribute seasonally. At the end of October you can put that all in perspective.
However, I’ll stand by my original judgments about both of these players. I place a lot more faith in Daniel Nava and Xander Bogaerts for the future of the team. Already Drew is sagging a little, and even shows uneven play at shortstop. Napoli may fare less well against American League pitching, because they know what he likes, and he misses a lot of pitches he likes.
But Napoli showed some intestinal fortitude on Sunday, and I would be heartless to ignore it. When the season’s tab is paid in full, Napoli’s feat should not go unnoticed.