Monday, July 6, 2009

Nomar Garciaparra Returns to Fenway Park

For the first time in nearly five years, Nomar Garciaparra set foot in Fenway Park.

Nomar played with the Red Sox from the tail end of the 1996 season until he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in July 2004. Tonight, he returned to Fenway Park in an Oakland Athletics uniform as a DH.

Nomar was greeted with a standing ovation from the Fenway faithful. He acknowledged the crowd by tipping his cap several times and clapping along with them. Nomar went 2 for 4 with a RBI as the Athletics defeated the Red Sox 6-0 on a two-hit complete game shutout by Brett Anderson.

When Nomar was with the Red Sox he was amongst the best players in MLB. As a shorstop, he was talked about in the same breath as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. After winning AL Rookie fo the Year in 1997, Garciaparra played on three AL Wild Card teams (1998, 1999 and 2003), captured two AL batting titles (1999, 2000), had four 100 plus RBI seasons and was named to five AL All Star teams.

However, a poor performance in the 2003 ALCS and injuries in 2004 soured relations with the fans and media alike. After the trade to the Cubs, the Red Sox went on to win their first World Series in 86 years. Some thought Nomar's trade was key. Hence the formula 1918 + 34 + 33 + 24 - 5 = 2004. Translation: 1918 (the last year the Sox won the World Series) plus 34 (David Ortiz) plus 33 (Jason Varitek) plus 24 (Manny Ramirez) minus 5 (Nomar) equals 2004.

Nomar's post-Red Sox career has been a decisively mixed bag. After playing well with the Cubs in 2004, he missed 100 games in 2005 with a groin injury. Nomar would sign as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2006 season. He would enjoy a resurgence hitting .303 with 20 home runs and 93 RBI and earn his first All Star selection in three seasons. Nomar was named 2006 NL Comeback Player of the Year and the Dodgers awarded him with a two year contract extension.

However, Nomar's numbers slipped in 2007 and in 2008 he was sent to the disabled list thrice missing 107 games (once for a microfracture on his hand, another for a strained calf muscle and another still for a knee sprain.) He signed a one-year contract with the Athletics this past off season as a free agent. Nomar has already made one trip to the DL this season reaggravating his calf. Nomar has played in less than half their games this season and is thus far hitting .270 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI. A far cry from his hey day here in Boston.

Nomar turns 36 later this month and one wonders if he will hang it up after his contract with Oakland expires.

But at least for one more night Nomar received the superstar treatment.

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