When the Angels traded Mike Napoli to Toronto on January 21, 2011, things appeared innocent enough.
They had sent both he and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells and cash to offset Wells’s salary. After all, they had sent the pair to non-divisional foe and one in which they only played a handful of games against yearly.
Aside from any sort of fortune telling that would have enabled the Angels to see the albatross they were taking on in Vernon Wells, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, it only took four more days for luck to change.
The Blue Jays, for some reason or another, opted to flip Napoli to the Texas Rangers in exchange for reliever Frank Francisco. Now Napoli was back in the division, playing for the rival Texas Rangers who already had a dynamic line-up and could hide Napoli’s low batting averages in exchange for his power.
But Mike Napoli appears to have taken his time in Los Angeles, and his subsequent trade, very personally. In fact, you could easily classify Napoli’s mission in life as a personal vendetta against the Los Angeles Angels.
Heading into Sunday’s action, Napoli owned a .383 batting average and a 1.255 lifetime OPS against his former team. Through those 31 games, Napoli has butchered the Angels for 10 home runs, 9 doubles, and 19 runs batted in, for a tOPS+ of 189, a number only bettered in three brief encounters with the Giants, Nationals, and Cardinals.
But what Napoli did on Sunday was his coupe de grace.
With a double header on the dockett, Napoli made only a brief pinch-hitting appearance in game one, won by the Angels 5-4. However, in game two, Napoli struck what could be the final nail in the coffin for the Angels’ playoff hopes.
In the game, Napoli went 3 for 3 with a double, a pair of home runs, and 6 runs batted in. The explosive game gave the Rangers an 8-7 victory and punched the playoff tickets for Texas, Baltimore, and New York simultaneously. It also put the Angels on the edge of elimination, making them 3 games behind Oakland for the final wild card slot with just 3 games to play.
With Napoli being 4th-year arbitration eligible at the end of the season, it remains to be seen if the Rangers will bring him back. However, after seeing how personally Napoli takes rejection, the Rangers may choose to remember what he is capable of when properly motivated, and they may keep him around for another season.
It does not hurt when Napoli also owns a .893 OPS against his current squad as well.