Defensive difference: Mike Napoli's gun
October, 25, 2011
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com
ARLINGTON, Texas – Mike Napoli has had a historic World Series, joining Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle as the only men with four multi-RBI games in the same Fall Classic.
He’s made quite an impact behind the plate, too.
The Cardinals have managed to score a total of only six runs in the four games Napoli played catcher. His presence went beyond calling a good game Monday night, when he twice gunned down Allen Craig trying to steal second base in critical situations.
Craig’s first failed attempt came on what Cardinals manager Tony La Russa called a “mix-up” in the seventh inning, allowing the Rangers to intentionally walk Albert Pujols with two outs instead of pitching to him with a runner on first.
The second came on a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play with a full count on Pujols in the ninth inning. The first two outs of the final frame came on the hit-and-run gone wrong.
“The throw with Pujols at the plate [in the ninth inning] was not an easy throw,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler, who made the tag on both plays. “That ball is up over his head at 98. He had to reach up, catch it and throw a strike down to second. It was a very good play.
“He’s been overlooked in his career as a catcher, as a defensive catcher. He’s proven leaps and bounds [better than] what people though, and he’s obviously not too shabby on the offensive end, either.”
Napoli’s defensive ability was a sore point in Anaheim. Manager/ex-catcher Mike Scioscia didn’t believe Napoli was good behind the plate, prompting the Angels to trade him to Toronto, which quickly flipped him in a steal of a deal for Texas.
That made the throws on the game’s biggest stage even sweeter for the player Rangers manager Ron Washington affectionately refers to as “Dirtbag.”
“I got labeled as not really a good catcher,” said Napoli, who drove in the game-winning runs with an RBI double in the eighth. “I’m glad I can show everybody I can do it on both sides.”