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The one that got away..

As Game Six of the World Series approaches, there clearly is some growing unrest in Anaheim.

Why?

The Rangers, The Angels chief rival in the American League West,  are in the Fall Classic for a second straight year.  This time, Texas is just one win away from the franchise’s first ever championship and they’re doing it with a guy the Angels seemingly just gave up on.  A player the organization thought couldn’t cut it in an Angel uniform.  That player is Mike Napoli.

Napoli spent five seasons in Anaheim under manager Mike Scioscia.  He never quite seemed to fit the mold of what Scioscia,  one of the finest catchers to play the game, expected in a backstop.  Let’s be clear; Napoli is more Mike Piazza than Mike Scioscia.  In other words.. he can just flat out hit the baseball.  Catching be damned.

Now in all fairness, the Angels traded Napoli to the Toronto Blue Jays in a deal that brought Vernon Wells in Orange County.  The Jays then turned around and flipped Napoli to Texas, landing right smack in the Angels division.

Scioscia is a stand up guy.  A straight shooter.  On Tuesday, he went on the Mason and Ireland Show (ESPN Radio 710 AM in Los Angeles) and was really quite candid about trading Napoli away last winter.  It helped that hosts,  Steve Mason and John Ireland asked him point-blank what everyone has been thinking and writing about in southern California. 

Was there a rift between Scioscia and Napoli?

Scioscia said that Napoli and him never butted heads despite rumors to the contrary. He actually complimented Napoli saying that he called a fine game behind the plate.  But the manager also pointed out that Napoli just couldn’t hold up to the rigors of working behind the plate night in and night out. 

Napoli never caught a hundred games in an Angel uniform and in his last season with the Halos fought the injury bug.  Nice save skip! 

But what he failed to mention was that in those five seasons, Napoli clubbed 92 home runs…66 of them coming from 2008-2010.  Napoli set a career-high this season in Texas with 30 dingers, 4 of them in the season’s final two games of the regular season in…you guessed it… Anaheim.

Scioscia pointed out the fact that Rangers manager,  Ron Washington used Napoli in a limited role behind the plate ( 61 games as a catcher, 35 at first base).  Gee.. why couldn’t Scioscia have thought to use Napoli in a similar role?  Wait, he did.  Last season,  Napoli caught 66 games and played 70 at first all the while hitting at the time,  a career-high 26 home runs.  But there wasn’t a rift.  Sure.

That brough up the next item of much discussion. Is Scioscia the defacto General Manager of this team?

Scioscia has a World Series ring with the Angles.  He’s managed the team for 12 seasons, the longest current stretch in the American League.  So he clearly has earned and deserves some say about the product the team puts on the field.  So I believe him when he says he’s not the GM.  Fact is, it’s almost impossible to be both.  You can’t ask a player to commit to a team, play through pain,  etc. and then turnaround and say they’re not worth a raise come contract time. 

The Angels whiffed and whiffed big on the hiring of Tony Reagins.  A GM is the voice of the organization that runs a line of consistency from the big league team down to rookie ball.  It is that vision that shapes the organization and delivers players to the big league manager.  Then comes contracts, scouting, and player development.  All things that seemingly have Scioscia’s finger prints on them. But that comes from 12 years on the job not necessarily from holding the puppet strings. 

Bottom line, Reagins was in over his head and the team made the change.  Who will the new GM in Anaheim be?  It better be someone that is the one thing Reagins was not.. experienced.   Scioscia likes to win.  Ego be damned.

Now back to Napoli who is standing at the precipice of winning a World Series.  After hitting a 3-run home run in Game 4 and clubbing the game winning double in Game 5, he might even be the Series Most Valuable Player.

Goes to show you even the great manager is wrong once in a while.  Scioscia might want to remember that.. you know the new Angels GM sure will.

Follow me on Twitter: @mediarodriguez

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About jimdcuban

Cuban, Father, Husband. Avid sports fan and lover of cigars, scotch and the female persuasion.

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