Cleveland Indians slugger Mike Napoli went from a beloved figure in town to an expendable player as the team prepares for 2017.
It is crazy how one win can define an entire season. For the Cleveland Indians, that one win never came, as it would have clinched the team’s first World Series title since 1948.
As we all know, the Indians had three chances to win it all, only to fall to the Chicago Cubs in seven games.
Losing in Game 7 does not take away the magic fans witnessed all year long, but it does cast a dark mark over the season, leaving a reminder of a job unfinished.
The 2016 season had many heroes, and Mike Napoli was one of them for most of the season. The 34-year-old finished the regular season with 34 home runs, giving the Indians a power bat the team had been seeking for so long.
Every big hit he had called for a “Party at Napoli’s.” Then came the postseason.
Napoli finished with one home run in 15 postseason games, striking out 21 times and finishing with a .173 batting average.
All the love for Napoli turned to wishes for him to turn it around during the first two rounds, when the team was cruising. But when things got tough, and Napoli continued to struggle, the joys of the regular season faded away and the frustration surrounding the slugger set in.
He went 0 for 5 in Game 7 of the World Series, finishing with three strikeouts. If the team would have won the game, the anger toward Napoli wouldn’t be as prevalent. Yes, he did not do much in the postseason, but he was a valuable part of the team during the long haul of the regular season. He could have left to join another team and would forever go down as a legend of the 2016 Cleveland Indians, receiving a loud ovation whenever he returned.
But a loss now has the Indians considering if Napoli is worth a large contract in 2017. The answer is likely no, as he will be getting lucrative offers from big market teams. And fans will likely be fine with letting him walk, opting for a first baseman who strikes out less and can hit for a higher average.
Napoli will always be remembered for his contributions in 2016, but the lack of a championship also associates his name with the disappointment surrounding the year.
He may still return to the team in 2017, but the parties at his place will be much more subdued.