Fond Memories Surround Nomar’s Return to Boston


Jul 7, 2009

Fond Memories Surround Nomar's Return to Boston He gained respect in Boston for his AL Rookie of the Year Award, his two batting titles and his five All-Star selections.

He gained popularity for his skill at the plate, his smooth play at shortstop and … OK, his odd first name (skip to 3:10 in). He is … “Nomahhhhhh.”

As you no doubt know, longtime Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra
returned to Boston on Monday for the first time since his trade prior
to the deadline in 2004. He received a thunderous, lasting standing
ovation from the Fenway faithful before his first at-bat and went
2-for-4 as the A’s spanked the Sox 6-0 behind a complete-game shutout from rookie lefty Brett Anderson. Sox hurler John Smoltz got slapped around a bit in his Yawkey Way debut, too, allowing 10 hits and five runs as he fell to 0-2.

But with the Red Sox bats clearly not showing up, Nomar’s return
took center stage (which seems only fitting given that his two knocks
tied the Sox’ total on the night).

I admit it, I shrugged a wry smile when he stepped out of the
batter’s box in between pitches and did his trademark unfastening and
refastening of his batting gloves. I enjoyed watching his vicious cuts
at the plate. I was proud of Red Sox Nation for the positive reaction
they had for this returning hero.

But seeing it all brought me back to that day: July 31, 2004. Nomar, the Red Sox’ heart and soul, was traded to the Cubs.
“He was the face of the Red Sox, a superstar in the mold of the
legendary Ted Williams whose indelible achievements will endure in the
memories of generations of New Englanders,” wrote the Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler. “And now he is gone.”

How could Theo Epstein do it? In the midst of a pennant race,
it defied logic — mine, at least — to get rid of your best all-around
player. And to do it for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz? Really? What on Earth are they gonna do to help the team in the playoffs? It just didn’t make sense.

Of course, that’s why I’ll never be a major league general manager.
And that’s why Theo is probably baseball’s most successful executive of
the last decade.

Nomar had a ton of success during his seven-plus seasons here in the
Hub, and he was the spearhead of those Red Sox teams that looked oh so
close to breaking the mystique and reversing that God-forsaken curse.
In fact, it seems criminal that he wasn’t around to finally beat the
Yankees and see that blight on Boston’s sports vista erased for future
generations. Yes, he eventually got his Red Sox World Series ring, but I can’t help thinking that it would have been that much more special with him celebrating on the field in St. Louis.

But it’s hard to argue with the Red Sox’ success since the deal. You
also can’t help but notice Nomar’s relative drop-off. Well, OK, he hit
.303 with 20 homers and 93 RBIs in winning the Comeback Player of the
Year award with the Dodgers in 2006, but aside from that. In
the other three full seasons since his trade out of Boston, he’s
averaged.279, eight home runs and 39 RBIs in just 79 games a year.

This year, as with others, he’s missed time due to injury. At 35, he’s been diagnosed with a chronic injury that affects his calves.

He’s obviously not the spry, young 23-year-old who debuted for the
Sox on Aug. 31, 1996. But he’s still Nomahhhhhh. And he’ll be
remembered fondly in this town for a long time.

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