Mike Napoli's Boston years: The view from 2015

Ezra Shaw

As Mark Twain probably didn't say, it's easy to see, harder to foresee, but when it's a question of Red Sox Nation eating its own, you don't need to need the benefit of a backwards glance to know what is going to happen.

As you have undoubtedly heard, Mike Napoli signed on with the Red Stockings of Boston for the next three seasons, where he'll play first base primarily, but also serve as a part-time catcher and designated hitter. But you don't come to SBN to hear about that. You know that already. What you want to know is what will happen in those three years.

Well, brother or sister, you have come to the right place, because I've got a rough timeline laid out for Napoli's tenure in the City of Barely Contained Rage.

December 3, 2012
Napoli and the Red Sox agree on a three-year, $39 million contract. It is, improbably, the third-highest contract on the team by average annual value.

December 7, 2012
Mike Napoli takes his physical and finalizes said contract. Doctors pronounce him in the peak of health.

January 7, 2013
Napoli tweaks his oblique, no big whup. He'll be fine by the start of Spring Training.

February 5, 2013
Truck Day! Everyone is super-optimistic for a great season, even though "Truck Day" is barely a stitch in the grand tapestry of life.

March 31, 2013
Fans are genuinely excited after their new 1B-C-DH hybrid hits .284/.381/.543 in Spring Training. Bring on the Yankees!

April 4, 2013
Red Sox lose the opening series two games to one. Napoli goes one-for-eleven with a walk. Barely staving off outright panic, Red Sox fans nervously laugh at how James Loney has already been DFA'ed by the Rays.

May 31, 2013
With the Red Sox hovering around .500 and Napoli hitting .245/.350/.440, Dan Shaughnessy publicly mocks Napoli's contract. Smelling blood, talk radio sharks begin to circle.

June 23, 2013
Napoli strains his throwing shoulder, is out for two weeks. Team proceeds to lose 10 of 13 before Napoli comes back.

July 15, 2013
After a recent hot streak, Napoli is lauded by WEEI callers as "a lovable, gritty Millar-type." Still, with the team just over .500, others wonder if he's really a leader.

August 19, 2013
Unnamed sources in the Red Sox clubhouse (whose names rhyme with Blarry Bluccino) leak that Napoli has arrived 15 minutes late three times during the season, enjoys pizza and beer on an offday after a loss, and only tips 15 percent in restaurants.

September 22, 2013
Mired in another bad September, the knives are out for Napoli, who has hit .255/.360/.460 with 25 homers. "That's nuthin' fo-ah a fuhst baseman," they say, forgetting that Napoli caught around 40 games and that $13 million per season is the new going rate for good players, not superstars.

Make no mistake, Napoli is a very good player and a good acquisition. He's definitely a championship-caliber regular, but no superstar, especially when he's not behind the plate. He's a good right-handed hitter with patience and a lot of power, who strikes out a lot, doesn't hit for average, plays subpar defense wherever you put him, and has been brittle. He could be part of the solution in Boston, but he's not a Buster Posey or Albert Pujols, the kind of player who you can build your team around..

He is booed in his last home game.

September 29, 2013
The Red Sox end the season short of the playoffs. The Napoli signing will be criticized and picked apart for the next six months.

April 1, 2014
After a winter of writers and pundits speculating that he doesn't care enough about winning, Napoli is booed during Opening Day introductions and in all four at bats.

May 15, 2014
Napoli tears a muscle in his shoulder and is out for two months. Scribes suggest he's not working hard enough to come back quickly.

July 20, 2014
Finally back in the lineup, Napoli will be booed for the next two months, as he slams 18 homers and helps drag the Red Sox into the playoffs as the second Wild Card.

October 20, 2014
The Red Sox are finally eliminated from the ALCS. Napoli has had a pedestrian postseason, hitting .265 with two homers and six RBI.

December 15, 2015
Mike Napoli is traded. Boston breathes a sigh of relief and signs Justin Morneau to play first. The cycle repeats itself.

Michael Bates is one of SBN's Designated Columnists and one of the minds behind The Platoon Advantage. Follow him at @commnman.

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