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Mike Scioscia gets defensive about the Mike Napoli trade

Oct 26, 2011, 10:45 AM EST

Cleveland Indians v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Getty Images

Mike Napoli continuing his spectacular season in the playoffs has led to the Angels being criticized for trading him in a deal for Vernon Wells and manager Mike Scioscia being criticized for never being the biggest Napoli fan.

Scioscia got defensive when that topic was raised during a radio interview yesterday, saying:

We did not butt heads, that’s absolutely false. Mike had to work on stuff that didn’t come naturally to him, more so than other catchers who maybe do it more naturally. … I think we have to wait a couple years first. Right now, it’s obvious. Mike Napoli is having an incredible run with Texas. He was certainly capable of doing what he did and we valued him. The thing that cracks me up is when people say we didn’t think he was any good. We played him a lot more than Texas has this year over his career with us.

Napoli, of course, had a much different take on his time with Scioscia and the Angels, telling the Dallas Morning News earlier this season:

I always felt like I was looking over my shoulder to see if I was doing things right. I had “bad hands.” I was so worried about my setup and the mechanics all the time. I learned a lot. I learned a lot of what I do there, but playing there just wasn’t much fun.

Scioscia often preferred Jeff Mathis‘ inept bat and good glove over Napoli’s slugging, and while some of what the manager says about Napoli’s time with the Angels is surely true there’s no getting around that fact. Now that the Angels have parted ways with general manager Tony Reagins there are tons of reports about how Scioscia has really been running things for years and the perception–right or wrong–that he helped push Napoli out of town isn’t going away any time soon.

  1. phrontiersman - Oct 26, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    I can’t think of a current manager I’d like to have a big hand in personnel decisions (outside of lineups and staff management). Maybe Joe Maddon. The rest seem like they’d be more effective arranging players they’re given instead of doing both.

  2. APBA Guy - Oct 26, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    I made reference to the Scioscia situation in a comment on yesterday’s Friedman post. You look at the Angels and wonder how they could ever part company with an offensive force like Napoli, then you look at how his production had dropped steadily the last 3 years, and finally read the competing comments. Then you realize the problem really is Scioscia. He’s like a big-name actor who runs roughshod over a director and ultimately ruins the movie. In this case, he viewed Napoli exclusively in the context of a defensive catcher, and saw only shortcomings. Texas saw him as an offensive force, and while working to improve his catching, gave him some of that Ron Washington love we know and miss in Oakland. The result: over a 1.000 OPS for 2011 and a credible job as a catcher.

    • Old Gator - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      Forget Napoli. The biggest plus in that trade was getting rid of Wells, and the biggest minus was receiving Wells. Napoli was bycatch at the time. If Scioscia is going to be criticized, it should be for not threatening to slit his wrists if the Angels got Wells.

      • APBA Guy - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        I think Reagins took the hit for the “receiving Wells” part of that trade. Reagins is gone now. Scioscia remains. Dealing with him is Job 1 for any new Angels GM.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:59 AM

        One problem; Scoscia is signed through like, 2019, isn’t he?

    • 18thstreet - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:39 PM

      One of the main differences in how the Red Sox and Twins viewed David Ortiz was that the Twins focused on what Ortiz couldn’t do — field, hit lefties, not strikeout — and the Red Sox focused on what he could. I think GM who focus on the shortcomings are setting themselves up to fail.

      No one’s perfect. Ted Williams was an indifferent fielder. Babe Ruth got caught stealing way too often. Sandy Koufax didn’t have a change-up.

      Designated hitter is a position in the American League of Professional Baseball Clubs. I don’t understand how the Angels screwed this up.

    • paperlions - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:43 PM

      Hmmmm, you know APBA, I can think of another manager that has this exact kind of input and authority with respect to his team’s personnel decisions…he even has the same heavy handed approach that can wear a player out mentally.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 26, 2011 at 4:51 PM

        Yeah…APBA. His team is in this years World Series and he will be picking up yet another NL Manager of the year award this year.

  3. Kyle - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Man, every day that trade makes a stronger and stronger case as one of the worst ever.

    • metalhead65 - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:37 AM

      maybe but it will never top the reds trade of Josh Hamilton for edinson “I throw really hard” volquez. and for my fellow reds fans still trying to defend them for making the deal Hamilton may be injury prone but he is a mvp winner and playing in his second world series. volquez on the other hand is setting a record for the longest recovery period ever for tommy john surgery according to you believers. me I just think he flat out sucks! look at the back of his card and you will see the reason the rangers dumped him.

      • Bill - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:53 AM

        There have been literally hundreds of worse trades than Hamilton-Volquez, including the Wells trade. Hamilton and Volquez both became stars in the first season after the trade. Hamilton was a huge question mark when they traded him (still is, in a way), and you can’t expect them to have foreseen Volquez’s injuries.

      • clydeserra - Oct 26, 2011 at 2:17 PM

        Giving Hamilton playing time when healthy is a no brainer. Its just he was not ever healthy. And he was a huge risk to not stay in playing condition.

      • schlom - Oct 26, 2011 at 2:36 PM

        Jon Daniels made a worse trade than that one two years previous – Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka.

      • metalhead65 - Oct 26, 2011 at 4:29 PM

        ok bill they could not forsee his injuries but how do you explain the fact that he has sucked since having the surgery? I have never seen anyone 2 years removed from the surgery have the problems with control the way he has.so you and everyone still wanting to believe it was a good deal are saying it takes 3 years to recover?funny the nationals pitcher came back 1 year later and it did not seem to affect his control any. and for your info he had 1 third of a great season his first year with the reds. look at his record after the all star game that year on. I thing the ped’s he got popped for while rehabbing were the reason he was any good for the first part of that season.only a fool would say that was not a bad trade for the reds. if hamilton is so fragile how dud ge wun a mvp award? why is he playing in his second world series while volquez has done nothing for the reds. who else in that deal that the reds got is still in the game and any good? hundeds of trades worse than that 1? can I have whatever it is you are smoking?

  4. missthemexpos - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    How about the Blue Jays? Did they get enough in return for Napoli?

    • Old Gator - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:11 AM

      Don’t be bitter. Try meditation.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:27 AM

        Or if that fails, change the first t for a c.

    • Kyle - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      Great point. It gets lost in all the Vernon Wells noise, but the Blue Jays really didn’t do well in their Napoli trade either. Something tells me the Jays could get a better return than an injury prone reliever these days had they kept Napoli around this season, blocking young prospects or no.

      • proudlycanadian - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:37 AM

        The Jays did just fine. They did not need Napoli or Rivera but had to take them to get the Wells trade done. They have a young catcher in Arencibia whom they want to develop and did not want to block him. Arencibia will have a fine career.The Jays needed a closer and were happy to get Francisco. Even though Francisco has been ordinary, the Jays will get a draft pick for him when he becomes a free agent this winter.

      • Kyle - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:56 AM

        “Fine” seems like a perfect way to put it. I don’t want to imply I’m questioning the process, which was reasonable and made sense at the time. Just saying there’s no doubt you’re getting more in return from Napoli end of the season than you are Francisco.

    • cur68 - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:25 PM

      mte; that would be a “hell no”. Just to give an idea of how pervasive Scoscia’s opinion of Napoli had become, Napoli was the ‘also ran’ in the Wells trade. He was a mere blip. Scoscia had devalued Napoli so much that no one really cared what happened with him while Wells, a guy with a tenth the upside, was getting all the press.
      A good GM or Manager, a good baseball guy, sees these guys for what they are or could be, not what prevailing opinion says about them.
      If Ron Washington has any gift as a manager at all, there it is. Recognizing talent. Did it with Napoli, Hamilton, Cruz and who knows how many young players. He certainly got some amazing stuff out of Holland. Then he gets out of the way and lets them play.

      • Alex K - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:55 PM

        Everyone knew about Hamilton’s talent. I don’t think we should give Washinton too much credit for that call.

      • cur68 - Oct 26, 2011 at 1:32 PM

        Not so much for the talent, I agree, but he sure was in on taking a chance with Hamilton.

      • Alex K - Oct 26, 2011 at 5:23 PM

        The Reds took a bigger chance the year before when they worked out the deal with the Cubs to take him in the Rule 5 draft and trade him to them. Hamilton had already been really good (but injury prone) in the majors before he was even in Texas.

  5. Chris St. John - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    It’s true that Napoli received more playing time last year than this (510 PA in 2010 vs. 432 PA in 2011). However, a bit of the discrepancy can be explained by Napoli missing 19 games this season with an oblique strain.

    The most interesting bit I found was in his L/R splits. Last year, he was actually used more against LHP than this year (32% vs. 31%) but his split completely changed. wRC+ accounts for league and park. Last year, he was almost twice as better against LHP (164 vs LHP, 87 vs RHP). This year, he was almost the same against both (179 vs. LHP, 178 vs. RHP).

    Obviously it’s a small sample size, but a Mike Napoli with a very small platoon split is a dangerous Napoli indeed.

    • Bill - Oct 26, 2011 at 11:55 AM

      And the biggest part of the discrepancy, I think, is that the Angels lost their starting 1B, which forced their hand. There’s no way Napoli gets that much playing time if Morales doesn’t land awkwardly on home plate.

    • SmackSaw - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:20 PM

      If whatever Chris wrote means that the Angels had a good reason to trade Napoli, then I agree.

    • Mark - Oct 26, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      Scioscia is so full of shit when he says they used him more than the Rangers did. If you look at his AB/PA, he only had more in ONE season with the Angels, and that was when Morales was injured and they were forced to play him at 1B.

      He had 432 PA, exactly how many he had in 2009. His other games played with the Angels were 99, 75 and 78. Keep in mind, he hit 815 OPS (rookie season), 794 OPS and 960 OPS respectively. So it’s not like he was struggling here.

      He averaged 101 games and 361 PA with the Angels and had 113/432 with the Rangers. So let’s cut through this bullshit that the Angels played him more than he did in Texas.

      And if what you’re saying is correct and Napoli missed time because of an injury, then it’s a no brainer.

  6. SOBEIT - Oct 26, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    It’s very difficult to look back and say why did this happen. Sometimes things just happen. A change of scenery works wonders. At least Napoli thinks so.

    Last year, the Giants got Cody Ross for nothing off the waiver wire and the Marlins asked for nothing in return other than to take him off their hands. Then he went on to have a huge impact on the playoffs…especially against Philly & Halladay.

    But in 2011, he was just terrible. He could not get hotter than 1-2 games per month…the rest was cold, cold, cold!

    If Napoli is resigned, will he continue his hot streak because he is now in Texas or will he regress? That is why late pickups like Napoli and Ross can make or break your run to and through the post season. Personally, sometimes it is just the luck of the draw and Texas is reaping the benefits of Napoli’s hot streak.

    • clydeserra - Oct 26, 2011 at 2:25 PM

      Cody Ross was an average player before being pick up. Had a couple of good months and went back to being an average player (with great socks).

      Napoli was always a plus talent that was not getting playing time over a worse catcher becasue of a lack of skills perception (that has been disputed, some measures have napoli and mathis reversed in defense attributes).

      Making things worse, the angels insisted on spending money on Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui to take DH away from Napoli.

  7. angrycorgi - Oct 26, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    I would have prefered if this article had been illustrated with a heavy helping of Mike Scioscia Face images.

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