Anytime a baseball player who had a good career retires, the debate begins on whether or not they belong in the Hall of Fame. Most of the time, the answer is no, and the topic should not even be brought up. The Hall of Fame is for the best of the best, not the most popular.
But in the case of Nomar Garciaparra, I think the answer is yes.
When the question was first asked, my initial reaction was no. But looking at his stats, it is hard for me to leave him out.
A .313 lifetime batting average, 229 home runs, 936 RBI, and 1747 hits seem very pedestrian at first glance. But when you take into account his traditionally light-hitting position of shortstop the batting average especially jumps out at you.
Although Nomar doesn't have the totals that some other Hall of Fame players have, he was an elite player for the better part of his career.
His first four full seasons he averaged 28 home runs and 105 RBI, batting .337 over that span, including back-to-back batting titles in 1999 and 2000.
After missing most of 2001 with a wrist injury, he was back to his old form. Over the next two seasons he hit 52 home runs and drove in 225 runs, hitting .305 along the way.
Once he turned 30, though, his career started to head downhill as he become plagued by injuries. He lost his home run power, posting just one more double-digit home run season (20 in 2006).
However, his average was still strong. In his first 10 full major league seasons, he hit .300 or better in nine of them.
A six-time All-Star, Garciaparra put up numbers that were almost unheard of from the shortstop position. He had seven seasons that were Hall of Fame-quality seasons.
The Hall of Fame is reserved for the best players in baseball, and Nomar Garciaparra was one of the best players in baseball. The best shouldn't be determined by who played the longest and racked up the best stats, but who displayed they were in fact the best on the field.
There was a time when Garciaparra was routinely mentioned in the same sentence with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, both first ballot Hall of Famers. Had Nomar stayed healthy, maybe he still would be on the same level as those two. But either way, they should all end up in the same place: Cooperstown.