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Desperately in need of a right-handed batter that hits well against left-handed pitching, the Oakland A’s signed former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to a one-year deal.
Garciaparra, 35, was reportedly contemplating retirement. In his injury-riddled 12-year career, Nomar has played over 140 games just five times.
Nomar was a mainstay at short for the Red Sox from 1996-2004, but has battled injuries over the last few years, bouncing around from the Cubs, to the Dodgers, and now to the A’s. How did this happen? Wasn’t he supposed to retire in a Red Sox jersey?
Well, if you start at the beginning… no no, before he was drafted by the Sox. Go three years earlier to June 3rd, 1991, Nomar was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 5th round following his last year in high school. However, he did not sign with the club. If he did, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. Instead, he opted to attend Georgia Tech and play college ball with future teammate Jason Varitek. Because he didn’t sign with the Brew Crew, Nomar was eligible to re-enter the draft. On June 2nd, 1994, taken in the 1st round (12th pick overall), Garciaparra began his legend.
By late 1996, Garciaparra won the starting shortstop job from John Valentin, who was displaced to second base and later third base to make room for Nomar. As a rookie in 1997, he hit 30 home runs and drove in 98 runs, setting a MLB record for RBIs by a leadoff hitter. His 30-game hitting streak set an AL rookie record. He was named Rookie of the Year by unanimous vote, competed in the Home Run Derby, and finished eighth in AL MVP voting.
From 1998-2000, Garciaparra emerged as the one of the best hitting shortstops in the league. He finished with 35 home runs and 122 RBI in 1998, and placed as the runner-up for AL MVP. Garciaparra led the American League in batting average for the next two years, hitting .357 in 1999 and .372 in 2000, finishing in the top ten in MVP voting both years. He is one of the few right-handed batters to win consecutive batting titles, and the first since Joe DiMaggio.
So what the hell happened? Well, before the 2002 season, a new ownership group led by John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner arrived and the culture around the Red Sox changed. Players under the prior ownership (Pedro Martinez, Nomar, Manny Ramirez) all had a difficult time adjusting to a new era.
Nomar felt especially distraught at the team’s attempts to trade him and Ramirez in separate deals to land Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. He felt he was not wanted, and without expressing his feelings, everyone knew it anyway.
In a shocking and gutsy move, Theo Epstein traded Nomar in a four-team deal at the trade deadline in 2004, landing SS Orlando Cabrera and 1B Doug Mientkiewicz. As we all know, the Red Sox won the World Series, and Nomar hasn’t won anything.
Had the discussions with Alex Rodriguez not become public knowledge, then perhaps Nomar would not feel his team didn’t want him. Perhaps he’d still be here. Perhaps…he shouldn’t have turned down the 4-year, $60 million contract extension offered by the Red Sox before the 2003 season, that would’ve kept him in Boston until 2008. Oh, what could have been.