It looks like Mike Napoli really wants to earn his extra $8 million in contract incentives this year for the Boston Red Sox.
After having his $39 million contract voided because of an injury, the Red Sox first baseman was instead given a one year, $5 million contract, with the possibility of making $13 million with incentives. All he has done is put the Red Sox on his back while leading all of MLB in RBI.
On Monday night, Napoli was the difference maker as his grand slam and five RBI put the Red Sox up for good and helped carry Boston to a 9-6 win over the Oakland Athletics. Napoli is currently on pace to hit 213 RBI, which of course he won’t do. However, since World War II, the only Red Sox player to match Napoli’s 25 RBI through only 19 games was Mo Vaughn, who went on to win the 1995 AL MVP. Although 213 RBI may seem far fetched, it is not unrealistic to think that he could hit 130 while hitting in front of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino all year.
Perhaps a more appropriate name for the Athletics would be the 2010 Red Sox. The Oakland lineup includes several members of that team, including Jed Lowrie, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and Brandon Moss. Only Reddick could muster a hit against Red Sox starter Felix Doubrant though. Doubrant was by no means great, but he was serviceable and gave them the six plus innings they needed. He gave up only three hits, but walked five while striking out eight, and was supported by a three-run home run from Will Middlebrooks in the fifth inning.
The bullpen continues to be a strength for Boston. Although Clayton Mortensen struggled, Junichi Tazawa and Napoli’s AL co-player of the week, Andrew Bailey, continued to be rock solid. Tazawa put out a small fire that rookie Alex Wilson started in the eighth inning before Bailey came in to close out his fourth game in the ninth while striking out two batters.
Can Mike Napoli make a serious run for MVP this year? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments to keep the conversation going.
Follow Aidan Kearney on Twitter @aidanfromworc