Well boys and girls, the time has finally come for the greatest Red Sox of them all to make his triumphant return to Fenway Park. And if there is any justice in this world, the cheers will echo through the heavens and wake God himself from his slumber.
Now, I know lots of you kids out there are probably too young to remember just how great Nomar Garciaparra was, but in my mind he is still the best Red Sox hitter I’ve ever seen.
The only way to get him out was to have him hit a line drive of somebody’s face and hope it fell into their glove. He was literally that good.
It’s just a shame that Larry Lucchino ran him out of town with a smear campaign the likes of which this city has never seen. For those of you who have forgotten, this is how Nomar’s Greek tragedy unfolded.
In 2004, Nomar turned down a four-year, $60 million offer from the Sox. Lucchino would say it was an indication Nomar didn’t want to play here and wanted to go to the West Coast.
Of course, that same off-season, Nomar bought a multi-million dollar house on the North Shore which is a strange move for a guy who wasn’t planning on sticking around.
The reality of the situation was Nomar loved it here and had every intention of staying, but this first offer was a lowball offer.
Sure, it sounds insane, but both Derek Jeter and A-Rod had much more lucrative deals, despite the fact that Nomar had outperformed both of them at that point in their careers.
So instead of signing this deal, he decided to roll the dice and play the 2004 season. He figured if he put up another Nomar-like season, he’d get a better offer from the Sox. I believe people call it negotiating.
Also keep in mind we’re not talking about Pedro or Manny here. Nomar never once complained about his contract, even though he was vastly underpaid.
He never threatened to hold out. He never said a peep.
He just played as hard as he could and did his talking in between the white lines.
Yeah, I’m sure he was bummed at the lack of respect from the new ownership group, but he didn’t let it affect him. Instead, what affected him is what happened next.
After Nomar turned down the first offer, unbeknownst to him, the Sox tried to trade for Alex Rodriguez to replace him at shortstop. Actually, I shouldn’t say they tried to trade for A-Rod—they did trade for him.
But the deal was nixed by Bud Selig on a technicality. How did Nomar find out about this, you ask? Via SportsCenter, when Kevin Millar was quoted as saying he’d rather play with Rodriguez than Garciaparra.
Hmm, hell of a way for the new ownership group to treat the heart and soul of the franchise for the past decade, don’t you think? And people wonder why he sulked that last year.
How would you like it if you’d worked your ass off at a company for 10 years, only to have some slick out-of-town used car salesman come in and stab you in the back five seconds after they arrived? Well, that’s what happened to Nomar.
Now the next part of this saga is where people get confused—and to me the most disgusting part of this whole ordeal. Nomar had a legitimate ankle injury in 2004. His production tailed way off and he had to sit out a ton of games.
Lucchino took this opportunity to leak to the press that Nomar wasn’t really hurt. That he was faking his injury to force his way out of town. Kind of like what Manny did.
And it all culminated with that game against the Yankees, when Derek Jeter dove head-first into the crowd on a routine pop up. The cameras panned to Nomar sitting in the dugout, and his fate was sealed.
Lucchino seized the opportunity to convince the public that Nomar quit on the team and needed to be traded. It was basically his way to prevent a PR nightmare for trading the team’s and region's most popular player/athlete.
What everybody fails to realize is that once Nomar was traded to Chicago, he missed 75 percent of the games the rest of the season with that same supposedly fake ankle injury.
And this is why the Manny comparisons are infuriating. This wasn’t a situation where suddenly the guy goes from half-dead to Babe Ruth after the trade. Nomar actually played less and did worse as a Cub that year than a Red Sox.
He never quit on his team. He was legitimately injured. Was he pouting? Of course. You would too if what happened to him happened to you.
The bottom line is that Larry Lucchino and the new ownership group never wanted to resign Nomar.
But they knew the only way they could get rid of him was by unleashing a smear campaign that would make Hitler blush, and that’s exactly what they did.
From the lowball offer, to trying to trade for A-Rod, to saying he was faking his injury, to never making him another offer, it was one thing after another.
It’s the worst any athlete of his stature has ever been treated by management in this town.
So in light of all that, Red Sox fans would be doing a disservice of unfathomable consequences if we didn’t give him the loudest ovation in the history of Fenway Park when he is announced tonight.
It’s the least we can do for a man who gave us so much and got so little in return.