The Rise and Fall of Nomar Garciaparra

Growing up in New England and playing baseball all through my childhood and into high school I saw a lot of players wear number 5.  I also saw a lot of batters  adjust and readjust their batting gloves several times before stepping into the batter’s box.  Once inside the batter’s box those same batters would tap their toes against the dirt several times and await the pitch.  Everyone my age wanted to be the next Nomar Garciaparra.

“Nomah”was Boston.  In a time when the Celtics were atrocious, the Patriots were not quite in their dynastic stage, and Harry Sinden was busy making sure the Bruins wouldn’t come close to the Cup, Boston was all about their homegrown shortstop.  He arrived to Fenway in 1997 after soaring through the Red Sox farm system.  While in Boston he hit above .300 every year except for one where he hit .286 but played in just 21 games. Nomar was a 5 time all-star as well. 

I will best remember him as carrying the Red Sox past the Cleveland Indians and into an ALCS matchup with the Yankees.  It was 1999 and Nomar was so feared at the plate that the Indians walked Nomar intentionally with runners on base.  Even doing so one time to load the bases. Troy O’ Leary made them regret that decision twice however.  Nomar was on a team that featured Darren Lewis, Troy O’ Leary, Mike Stanley, and Brian Daubach as everyday players.  With some help from Pedro, Nomar made Boston a contender.

Nomar was once regarded as the best shortstop in the game, ahead of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. That in and of itself speaks volumes to how popular Nomar was in Boston.  We all know that if you are talented and play hard the fans are undying in their love for its athletes.

But the marriage ended just like most do nowadays.  Out of nowhere Nomar started accusing the media of hassling him with negativity.  To this day, it is a mystery as to what Nomar could be referencing. At the time criticizing Nomar would be the equivalent to speaking bad of a man named Brady in these parts.  You just don’t do it. 

At the end of 2003 much was made of Nomar rejecting a 4 year 60 million dollar deal from the Sox.  As all good General Manager’s do, Theo Epstein saw the need to improve his team.  Nomar became moody and showed he wasn’t going to sign a contract that was market value for him at the time. Theo moved to trade Nomar and Manny Ramirez in separate deals that would have brought in Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez.  The deal eventually fell through after the player’s union rejected A-Rod’s request to restructure his deal. And Nomar was still a Red Sox.

Then in June, the Sox were playing the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in what might be the most memorable regular season baseball game I can think of.  It was then that Derek Jeter sacrificed his body, diving into the stands and making an incredible catch, and essentially breaking his face in the process.  The sharp contrast in the two shortstops was shown that night as Nomar took himself out of the starting lineup and when summoned by Terry Francona to pinch hit in the late innings he refused.  ESPN had a camera shot of the dugout in which it showed all the players on the Red Sox on the top step of the dugout rooting on their team, and Nomar sitting by himself on the bench.  The fans had officially turned on Nomar.  Instead of praising his every move, Sox fans mocked him imitating Joe Castiglione’s voice of “Swing and a pop up.” Or simply by calling the once proud son, Nomar Garciapopup.

It was then that Theo made moves yet again and this time they worked.  Nomar was shipped to Chicago and the Sox brought in Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.  The marriage ended and it was ugly.  But the Sox were the true winners of this divorce as the trade promptly turned their season around and the Sox went on to win the World Series in 2004 and in 2007.  In those years since 2004, Nomar has been a mere name in the game and nothing more. He had one good year with the Dodgers in 2006 but that was it.

Last week, the Red Sox did the public relations move of signing Nomar to a one day contract so he could retire as a Red Sox.  It was hard for me to have any kind of emotion with Nomar coming back.  Sure he got his ovation when the Oakland A’s came to town last year. And what an ovation it was!  But Nomar was my hero as a kid and I remember feeling like he stabbed me in the back from 2003-2004.  Clearly its something that I haven’t gotten over. The truth be told, I could care less about Nomar and his legacy as a Boston athlete.  He was once the toast of this town but now an after thought.

He was our last link to the “Curse-Era” which is a large part of Red Sox history. I will always appreciate the years he gave us and I’m grateful that Nomar gave me reason to be a Red Sox fan at a young age. The retirement press conference was a public relations production that was in good taste for a fan base that will always have a sour taste in its mouth from Nomah.

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One Response

  1. nice post

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