Nomar Garciaparra retiring as a member of the Red Sox is quite fitting. Garciaparra was the face of the franchise for many years.
The shortstop established himself by winning Rookie of the Year in 1997. It was an eye-popping season in which he hit .306 with 122 runs, 44 doubles, 30 homers, 98 RBI, and 22 steals.
In the process, Garciaparra set new MLB records for RBI by a leadoff hitter and most homers by a rookie shortstop. In addition, his 30-game hitting streak also set an AL rookie record. To top it all off, he won the Silver Slugger Award that year.
The Red Sox, and the rest of baseball, knew there were great things to come from the burgeoning young star, and for the better part of the next six years he delivered.
Garciaparra won consecutive AL batting titles in 1999 (.357) and 2000 (.372), becoming just the fourth Red Sox player to accomplish this feat. He was also the first right-handed batter to win consecutive batting titles since Joe DiMaggio. His .372 average in 2000 is the fourth highest in club history.
But a wrist injury in spring training of 2001 ruined his season and was an omen of the injuries that would plague him for the rest of his career. Unknown at that time was that Garciaparra suffered from a degenerative disease that affected his tendons and made him more susceptible to injury.
However, Garciaparra bounced back strongly in the 2002 season, batting .310 with 24 homers and 120 RBI while leading the league with 56 doubles.
In 2003, Garciaparra was second in the Majors in triples (13), fifth in the AL in hits (198), and second in the AL in runs scored (120). Though his average dropped from previous highs, he still managed to hit .301.
Yet the shine was beginning to come off his star in Boston.
Following that season, the Red Sox tried to trade Manny Ramirez to Texas for Alex Rodriguez, who would have supplanted Garciaparra at short. Meanwhile, Garciaparra was to have been traded to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez. But the Rodriguez trade was aborted due to protests from the players union over the restructuring of his contract.
From that point, the die was cast; Nomar's days in Boston were numbered.
From this vantage point, it's hard to believe that there was once a healthy debate over who was the better shortstop, Garciaparra, Rodriguez, or Derek Jeter. But from 1998-2000, Garciaparra had the highest career OPS of the three, and from 1997-2003, he ranked second in the AL with a .325 batting average.
Garciaparra finished his career out-homering Jeter, 229-224, but trailed in lifetime average, .317 to .313.
The trade of Garciaparra at the deadline in 2004 is now the stuff of legend. Many believe that it was the impetus for the club's first World Series Championship in 86 years.
Once loved more than any other player by Red Sox Nation, Nomar was quickly forgotten.
But what can't be forgotten are Garciaparra's impressive stats as a member of the Red Sox.
During his nine seasons in Boston, Garciaparra compiled a .323 batting average, 178 homers, and 690 RBI in 966 games. He tallied 100 runs six times, 100 RBI four times, and 25 homers four times.
He is fourth in club history in career batting average (.323) and fifth in slugging (.553) among players with at least 1,500 at-bats.
Garciaparra also ranks among Boston’s top 15 in career doubles (ninth, 279), extra-base hits (ninth, 507), home runs (11th, 178), total bases (11th, 2,194), runs (12th, 709), and hits (14th, 1,281).
It also shouldn't be forgotten that he was voted onto five All-Star teams as a member of the Red Sox, and six in total.
Some accused Garciaparra of not being tough enough to play through his injuries during his time in Boston. But at the time, no one was aware of the disease that afflicted him.
As a member of the Cubs, Garciaparra tore the muscles in his groin while running to first during spring training in 2005. The injury effectively ruined his season. However, he rebounded strongly in 2006, winning the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Allowing Nomar Garciaparra to sign a one-day minor league contract and retire as a member of the Red Sox was a very gracious gesture and the appropriate move by the organization. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in team history.
As Curt Schilling noted after the 2004 World Series victory, if not for Nomar, the Sox might not have been in a position to win at all.
Hopefully that will never be forgotten—nor should Nomar's numerous illustrious achievements as a member of the Red Sox.
He is among the team's greats, and today was indeed a very fitting day.
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