The other day, Mike Napoli started to answer a question about what it's like to play for manager Terry Francona, and he was three or four words into his answer when he held up his right forearm. "I'm getting goose bumps just talking about him," Napoli said. And he wasn't kidding.
On Monday night, Francona and his Cleveland Indians coaches stood at the third-base foul line in Fenway Park, waiting for the players to conclude their hugs and handshakes on the field in order to deliver their own. The last player to come off the field was Napoli, who bent down into the crouch of a middle linebacker when he saw Francona. The two of them laughed and Napoli embraced his manager.
Napoli is coming off a strong season -- 34 homers, 101 RBIs, .800 OPS -- and at 34, he probably could test the free-agent market and get a good deal elsewhere. But the Indians and Napoli are interested in seeing if they can work out some kind of extension that would keep him in Cleveland. He played on a one-year, $7 million deal this season, and could be part of a glut of 1B/DH-type sluggers available as free agents this winter -- Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Mark Trumbo, Matt Holliday, Pedro Alvarez, etc. -- which might tamp down his leverage on the market.
Napoli loves playing with the Indians and would love to stay, and the Indians love his production and leadership, not necessarily in that order.