MLB Quick Pitches: Nomar Garciaparra Bows Out

Pat DeCola@Pat_DeColaCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2010

What I’m Reading

• A sad, yet proud day in my life. Nomar Garciaparra has retired as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

• Chipper Jones thinks the Braves need Jason Heyward in the Opening Day lineup. Hard to argue with that. Unless, of course, the Braves plan on teasing their fans by keeping him on the farm for nonsensical arbitration reasons . This is what I don’t like about baseball.

• Due to Joe Nathan’s teetering on the edge of Tommy John surgery, the Twins are suddenly without a closer. There are some available options, however – in places you wouldn’t expect , no less.

• Just how much money is a 5’11, 270+ lb. Home Run Derby champion worth to the Brewers? We’ll find out soon enough.

What I Think About It


“The dream to play baseball and the big leagues started here with the Red Sox,” Garciaparra said at a late-morning press conference in Fort Myers. “Once I got to the big leagues, once I got to play in front of these fans, the way the city embraced me, I always just felt that connection. For me I always wanted that to be the last uniform I ever put on. And today I get to do that.”

For several years in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, a great debate existed among baseball enthusiasts regarding the league’s best shortstop. Was it the power-hitting Alex Rodriguez? The ever-clutch Derek Jeter? Or the business-as-usual Garciaparra?

Unfortunately, the debate fell apart because of an injury-triggered collapse by Nomar and a position change/alliance formation with Jeter for A-Rod, but if I was to man-on-the-street ask people around the streets of Boston who the greatest of the three was, regardless of numbers the answer would unquestionably be Nomar.

From homering in his first Major League game, to bringing a .403 average into July, to crushing three home-runs in two innings on his birthday, to even rescuing two women from drowning in Boston Harbor long after he had been traded, the legacy of Nomar Garciaparra grew and grew.

In all likelihood, “Nomah” won’t be selected as a member of the Hall of Fame when his time comes, but sometimes there are far greater accomplishments to an athletes’ career to look back on.

He set a precedent of excellence and determination for millions of Boston Little Leaguers, a foundation of fearlessness and hard work for millions of Boston baseball fans, and most importantly set himself aside in the hearts of a city of people that needed something to rely on and he answered the call.

Jason Heyward

Does the city of Atlanta want to see Jason Heyward in the lineup on Opening Day? Of course.

Will they? Well, that is still up in the air.

Heyward can undoubtedly help this ball club from the get-go, but upper-management is becoming hesitant to include him on the initial 25-man roster.

Much like how they handled rookie standout Tommy Hanson last season, if the Braves keep Heyward at AAA Gwinnett to begin the year, a few options begin to open up.

If he’s in the minors for a few weeks to begin the season, he won’t be a free-agent until the end of the 2016 season instead of 2015. OK, well that makes sense.

And if he’s on the farm until the end of May, he won’t be arbitration-eligible until the end of 2013, not 2012. Hard to argue with that, too.

Yes, in the long run those two reasons far outweigh the amount of productivity that he’s likely to have over the first two months of 2010, but the kid is ready.

The fans are ready.

Heck, even Chipper is ready.

“We want to leave out of here with the top 25 guys in camp, and he’s certainly one of them,” Jones said of Heyward, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

I just feel that this is one of those examples of baseball being more of a business than the classic game we know and love; where financial numbers garner more attention than what truly made this sport America’s Pastime—hot dogs, beer, historical significance, nostalgia, and rookie phenoms who shouldn’t have to wait to play when they’re  ready and everybody wants them to.

Granted, that last one is a new addition to the list, but it fits.

Joe Nathan

Sorry, Minnesota. I feel for ya.

I feel for me, too. My early sleeper pick for 2010? The Minnesota Twins, of course.

But now that Nathan is sidelined, I may have to re-evaluate. However, help may be on the way for the Twins.

Mid-March is usually a time when any free-agent signed is just to fill out a roster spot or something even less-significant. Truth be told, there generally isn’t much to pick from.

And with closers? Forget it. The market for a good closer is already tighter than the friendship between the two Coreys in the '80s.

Alright, that may be a less-than-stellar example, but I promised myself I’d make some semblance of a reference to this in today’s column. I hate to be insensitive, but is this the least surprising celebrity death we’ve ever seen? Has to be.

Back to baseball. I should stop intentionally side-tracking myself.

If I had to think of one guy out there right now who would be able to at least sufficiently bridge the gap between now and when Nathan returns this season, if at all, it’s simple.

John Smoltz.

He’d like to remain a starter and stay in the National League, but it’s hard to argue Minnesota being a realistic option for him.

He at least will get to pitch in the semi-watered down AL Central and re-live his reliever days. From 2002-2004, he had three extremely successful seasons as he transitioned to the bullpen by closing games for the Braves.

Minnesota has to be on his radar.

Prince Fielder

Unfortunately for Milwaukee, they won’t have a shot to win this giant teddy bear by throwing baseballs at glued-together cans at a carnival.

They’re going to have to lump together quite a bit of pocket change for Prince Fielder.

And he’ll be worth every penny.

Fielder won’t be a free-agent until after the 2011 season, but as inflation continues and his numbers carry on with their upward pattern, the Brewers are smart to approach an extension now. He’s a cornerstone of a franchise on the mend and if he was to get away from Milwaukee, I’d expect one heck of a beer-soaked uproar from the fans to ensue.

The Brewers had an initial discussion with Fielder’s agent Scott Boras (ever heard of him?) but no financial numbers have been discussed publicly yet.

However, once all is said and done, he’s expected to be making around the $20 million mark for seven or eight years.

Quite a hefty sum for quite a hefty player. But once again, it’ll be well worth it.

Fielder has emerged as one of the premier sluggers in the NL and has even been known to flash the leather at times.

Over the course of this contract, he’s likely to be looking at a few MVPs, too, if that guy in St. Louis ever decides to slow down.


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