Nomar Retires

The first day of August 2004 brought with it an interesting array of baseball storylines. The Chicago Cubs were hosting the Philadelphia Phillies. Greg Maddux was on the mound. Surrounded by young arms like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood and intriguing throwers like Carlos Zambrano and Matt Clement, at times it seemed like Maddux was the boring option in the rotation. The vanilla option so to speak. Today though, was supposed to be his day. This was his first chance at win number 300.

Naturally Maddux would be overshadowed. See, this was August 1st, the day after the trading deadline. The day after the Cubs went out and acquired Nomar Garciaparra. The Nomar Garciaparra. The Cubs’ faithful gave Garciaparra a standing ovation in warm-ups on this Sunday that lived up to its name. The Cubs’ lineup looked wholly competent now too. Prudent maneuvering had the Cubs fielding an offensively strong lineup, one that featured Michael Barrett, Derrek Lee, Todd Walker (or Mark Grudzielanek), Aramis Ramirez, Moises Alou, Corey Patterson, and Sammy Sosa. Now, writing Nomar instead of Ramon E. Martinez must’ve been a feeling of ecstasy for fans and manager Dusty Baker alike.

Of course this isn’t the memory most fans have of Nomar. He is a Boston legend. Even re-watching the DVD I have of this game leaves the entire scene with a surreal sense, and it’s not because the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air preceded the pre-game show hosted by Chip Caray. This isn’t the Nomar most of us know, but somewhere in Massachusetts, there’s a five-year-old child who has no idea why Nomar Garciaparra retiring is a big deal. That’s startling. Here are some of the more interesting Boston-related tidbits about Nomar:

After hitting 30 and 35 home runs in his first two full seasons, Garciaparra never reached 30 homers again. He hit a homer in about 5% of his plate appearances those two seasons; only 3% the rest of his Boston career.

It seems like there’s a legitimate case to make that Nomar should’ve won the 1998 A.L. MVP. Nomar’s wRC+ was 143 which falls a little below Juan Gonzalez’s 149, but Nomar played shortstop and Gonzalez was a right fielder. You could make the case for Ken Griffey Jr. too, who had a comparable amount of RBI (146 to Gonzalez’s 157), more homers (56 to 45), and an OPS only 20 points lower while playing center field. Alex Rodriguez has a really strong case too.

Amongst shortstops with at least 1,000 career plate appearances, Nomar’s wOBA ranks eighth all-time.

Someone else is going to put what Nomar meant to the Red Sox into better terms than I can. Whether that person is Joe Posnanski, Peter Gammons, or even Marc Normandin is anyone’s guess. The only thing I can harp on is that Nomar is a Boston legend. In nine seasons he hit .323/.370/.553. After being traded, he hit .287/.338/.440. Not having the monster to bang doubles off, not having complete health, or not having amigos Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez around to push him; whatever it was, he was just never the same.

He’s yours again, Boston. But I guess he always was.




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23 Responses to “Nomar Retires”

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  1. Bradley says:

    Wow! Great article, RJ. You almost got me teary about a Red Sox player.

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    • TerryMc says:

      The biggest error he ever committed…turning down the contract extension from the Red Sox. Wow, way over-estimate your own position and walk away from a LOT of money.

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  2. John says:

    As a Cubs fan, 2004==Ouch. It would have been nice to have even 80% of Sox Nomar for a couple of years and have had a decent shortstop for a little while.

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  3. Evan Kirkwood says:

    Absolutely loved this article RJ, the last line summarized it all.

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    • KeepinItFresh says:

      LOL @ “He’s yours again, Boston. But I guess he always was.”

      On the contrary, I thought it was a pretty damn good article UNTIL the hyperglycemic rush of the last sentence. The appeal to emotion didn’t really work on me, I guess.

      Good stuff though.

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  4. neuter_your_dogma says:

    He also was a Trenton Thunder legend.

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  5. Xeifrank says:

    I will always remember him for the icing on the cake HR he hit in the infamous 4+1 game (Padres vs Dodgers). A truly amazing baseball moment.
    vr, Xei

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  6. Joe R says:

    It’s a shame Nomar got hurt. Check out the first 6 seasons (excluding an injury plagued 2001) for Nomar in terms of WAR vs. Ernie Banks:

    Nomar: 5.9, 7.3, 6.5, 7.3, 6.7, 6.7
    Banks: 2.5, 8.1, 5.7, 6.7, 9.7, 10.0

    -2.3 marginal wins off Banks. Had he declined with any grace, and not so suddenly and painfully, he would’ve been a lock Hall of Famer. Sad.

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  7. Luis says:

    Been a Sox fan all my life and Nomar Garciaparra will always be one my favorite Red Sox players.

    Glad that he decided to make this move and retire as a member of the team

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    • Joe R says:

      Glad to see the weird sour grapes toward Nomar is gone, too. And glad he still identifies with the Sox despite how we unceremoniously dumped him to bring in mediocre-but-healthy parts.

      I’m willing to say Nomar was the greatest SS the Red Sox ever had. Cronin’s CAREER was better, but he was better in Washington than Boston (his glove pretty much left him in Boston). Nomar was an elite offensive AND defensive SS. He was H-Ram with a vacuum cleaner glove. He was a joy to watch growing up.

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  8. Steve says:

    He’s yours again, Boston. But I guess he always was.

    well, except for the time the entire Boston media turned on him and vilified him for “pouting” during the “Jeter diving into the stands game” and then unceremoniously dumped him a few weeks later, all the while publicly denigrating his defense.

    and except for when they tried to trade him to the White Sox before the 2004 season for Magglio b/c they thought they had an A-Rod deal done, to the point where Kevin Millar was already celebrating his new teammates.

    except for the stuff that actually happened, it’s as if he never left.

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    • Joe R says:

      Yeah, we did treat him like crap on the way out. Not a proud point in my Red Sox fandom.

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    • Jonathan says:

      Its the red sox way to trash any player pubicly when they need to be traded

      i cant wait to hear the stuff they said about ortiz when they dont pick up his option next year

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      • JoeR43 says:

        Wrong, it’s more “we do what the media does”

        Example: look at the longing for Jason Bay.
        Seriously, when Nomar, Manny, Clemens, Boggs, left town, they were a-holes (even though 3 of those 4 were via trade)
        JASON BAY is not re-signed, and now suddenly we can’t understand why.

        But my guess will be that the media will go with calling David Ortiz a .280 hitter who struck out a lot.

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      • B N says:

        I don’t know, I think if you’re not actually in the Boston area it’s very easy to get a distorted view of how people actually view players who have been kicked out the door. The media and the front office definitely have some collusion going, and the spin is generally one that supports GM decisions. On the other hand, a large body of Red Sox fans around Boston are (shocker) not dumb.

        I grew up in Boston and was going between CT and MA in 2004 and I knew about two fans out of hundreds who actually turned on Nomar. Admittedly, I may associate with a slightly higher class of fan than the guy in SRO guzzling beer and shouting “YANKEES SUCK” at a Twins vs Orioles game, but still. Most people, especially once he was traded, just shrugged and figured it was because he was injured and they needed a healthy SS to win.

        So definitely, Nomar got trashed on the way out but I think people need to make a pretty strong distinction between media bias and actual fan opinion. A lot of people never stopped liking Nomar, it’s just that those weren’t the opinions that got the press.

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      • B N says:

        With that said, Manny is pretty universally hated at this point. I knew some people who hated him for years even before the trade, and they’ve come off looking like Nostradamus. Then again, you don’t exactly need to have a crystal ball to tell that the player that asks for a trade every offseason might eventually actually try to force his way out the door.

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    • PL says:

      Manny had like a 2 week slump and everyone thought his career was over.

      They really should change their name to the Boston Overreacting Sox.

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      • B N says:

        Wrong. Manny wasn’t slumping, he was the best hitter on the squad when he was shipped out. The issue was that he clearly just could care less about the team performance. The guy didn’t get traded due to underperformance, he got dumped for insubordination and being a huge drag on morale from what I could see.

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  9. As a Dodger fan, I don’t have fond memories of him after 2006. My favorite Nomar memory was during the 2008 season when Joe Torre decided it was the kids’ turn to play and all those weak old men sat the bench. He had a great career in Boston but was too brittle to have a fulfilling career elsewhere. As far as steroid suspicion, I don’t really trust him but, then again, he won’t be considered for the HOF. He retired a year too late.

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  10. djp says:

    I’d be surprised if 5-year-olds knew anything.

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  11. MBD says:

    Memorable Nomar moments: the 2-granny game, the 3-homer game on his birthday, the game-winning 4+1 Dodger homer mentioned above, his early postseason against Cleveland, any of those tailing side-armed throws to first. He was a joy to watch in his day.

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  12. Kyle says:

    A-Rod when asked about the rivalry of the three said, “I’m the youngest, Nomar is the best, Jeter is the richest.” This was like… before the Rangers-Rodriguez signing.

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