Manny’s Gone, Napoli’s On Waivers; Neither Is A Shock
For Manny Ramirez, it was the perfect goodbye to the Dodgers. Getting thrown out of the game after one pitch of a pinch-hitting appearance.
Manny being Manny, right to the end.
His waiver deal to the White Sox, with no player returning to the Dodgers, is supposed to be official some time Monday. It tells you how happy the McCourts and Co. were to be relieved of the final $4.5 million or so of his contract to just dump him without getting even a borderline prospect back.
It was hardly a surprise. Ramirez hasn’t been the same player since coming back from his suspension for taking performance enhancing drugs last year. The Dodgers still have plenty of problems, but they were clearly a more relaxed and focused team this season when Manny wasn’t around.
On the same weekend the Dodgers rid themselves of Manny, the Angels reportedly put Mike Napoli on waivers. Supposedly, the Red Sox claimed him, but the feeling seems to be that a deal won’t be consummated.
For some reason, the news about Napoli stunned a large share of Angels fans. It shouldn’t have.
Even if his 21 home runs led Mike Scioscia’s otherwise sleep-inducing offense, Napoli is someone who didn’t figure to be around come 2011. You have to understand some of the background here.
Scioscia, the ex-catcher, is super critical of those that play the same position for him. He has never been a fan of Napoli’s defense, or lack thereof. Why else would he continue to start Jeff Mathis, who’s barely hitting .200 with no power, instead of Napoli, who always has projected to hit 25 to 30 home runs if given 500 at-bats?
When it comes to catching, Scioscia wants defense first. He wants someone who is athletic back there, with a solid arm and the ability to handle a pitching staff. He always has believed Mathis excels in all those departments in comparison to Napoli.
Naturally, Napoli doesn’t agree. He’s never said it on the record, but it’s been clear that he thinks Scioscia’s scrutiny of his defense has been over the top. Those close to the club have felt Napoli would leave as soon as his current contract is up, which is the end of next season.
Despite Napoli’s 21 home runs, his batting average with runners in scoring position has been awful this year, and while he has made a valiant attempt to learn how to play first base, his inexperience at the position has become more evident of late.
Add all that together with the fact Mark Trumbo, a first baseman, and Hank Conger, a catcher, soon will be called up at the end of their Triple-A seasons, and you can see why Napoli was expendable.
Trumbo, in particular, will be interesting to watch. He is the best power hitting prospect in the Angels’ system, and he seems to have made some serious improvement this year at Salt Lake City. He is hitting .298 with 30 home runs and 106 RBIs. Maybe just as important, scouts say he has become more selective at the plate in the past couple of months.
Peter Bourjos, the Angels’ new center fielder, was being groomed to be the team’s leadoff man of the future. But inexplicably, he had only 24 walks in 414 Triple-A at-bats before being called up. Trumbo, on the other hand, has 54 walks in 497 at-bats.
Trumbo’s problem, like that of most power hitters, is that he strikes out a lot. He struck out 117 times heading into Sunday. But he also had a .557 slugging percentage and a .365 on-base percentage.
You can bet that he’ll be plugged into first base as soon as he arrives. Conger, too, should get a long look behind the plate and maybe as a designated hitter, as well.
With the Angels out of the race in the AL West, this is a perfect time for them to observe how two of their top prospects handle the big leagues.
The Dodgers likely will call some kids up, too, in September. But for now, Scott Posednik playing a solid, energized left field feels a lot better than a seemingly half-interested, unfocused Manny.
So wave goodbye to Manny, and don’t expect Napoli to be around much longer.
If you still find either of these moves shocking, well . . . maybe you weren’t paying close enough attention.
— STEVE BISHEFF