Red Sox: Nomar Garciaparra and how he almost made the Hall of Fame

Jun 30, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers former player Nomar Garciaparra before the game against the Cleveland Indians at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 30, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers former player Nomar Garciaparra before the game against the Cleveland Indians at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

After receiving only eight votes (1.8%) the former Boston Red Sox shortstop and Rookie of the Year, lost his spot on the Hall of Fame ballot.

After weeks of speculation and PED debates, the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame were introduced earlier this week. Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. will be inducted in July and Mariners and Mets fans will celebrate as we did with Pedro Martinez in 2015. However, there’s a Red Sox icon that fell off the ballot this year: Nomar Garciaparra.

This was Garciaparra’s second year on the ballot, receiving 30 of 549 votes on his first one. To the average Red Sox nation member or even any baseball fan, it was kind of obvious that Garciaparra wasn’t going to be a Hall of Famer. Although this was not always the case.

Garciaparra was drafted by the Red Sox on the first round of the 1994 draft and quickly gained the attention of media and fans. He unanimously won Rookie of the Year in 1997 after posting a phenomenal offensive season of a .306/.342/.534 line with 30 home runs and 98 RBIs, and instantly became a star in Boston. His rookie season had many highlights, some of them being a 30-game hitting streak and competing in the Home Run Derby. He even finished eighth in MVP voting. Before David Ortiz came into the equation, Garciaparra was supposed to be the guy that would break the Curse.

1997 was supposed to be a sign of things to come, and it was until 2001. From 1997 to 2000, Garciaparra hit .339/.389/.580 and averaged 28 home runs with 80 RBIs per season. He led the League in batting average in 1999 and 2000, an even Ted Williams said that Garciaparra was the perfect candidate to be the next .400 hitter, but everything went downhill in 2001. 

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It was reported on April 1st, 2001 that Nomar had surgery on his right wrist, which he injured back in 1999 after a hit by pitch. The fact that he got injured in 1999 and still came up with an impressive .372 batting average in 2000 says everything we need to know about how promising Garciaparra’s future seemed to be, and how incredible was his status as a ballplayer. He was supposed to come back in June, but he ended up playing only 21 games in 2001.

Garciaparra had a bounce-back season in 2002 hitting a solid, but low to his standards, .310 with 120 RBIs, but we all knew that he was no longer the player he was before the injury. His numbers didn’t lie, but it seemed that something was off. In 2003 he had another decent year, but it wasn’t what Garciaparra had accustom us. He didn’t seem comfortable at the plate and his swing didn’t look the same.  His strikeout ratio began to significantly increase (from 6.6% in 1999 to 9.1% in 2002), while his walk-ratio decreased almost by half from 10.2% in 2000 to 5.4% in 2003. He was still an above average shortstop, but Garciaparra was always more than just that.

After another injury in 2004 and a underperfoming first half, the Red Sox traded Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs and acquired Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera, who both played a signifacnt role in the 2004 Championship run. Even though the Red Sox finally broke the Curse that year, it felt weird that Garciaparra wasn’t there.

The former Red Sox shortstop only played 105 games for the Cubs thanks to injuries, and in 2006 he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he had a decent bounce-back year. In his first year with the Dodgers, Garciaparra hit .303/.367/.505 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs. His solid perfomance in 2006 won him the NL Comeback Player of the Year and even though today that would be considered an excellent season for a shortstop, we are talking about the guy that was supposed to be the next Ted Williams for the Red Sox.

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After 2006, Garciaparra never reached the .300 line and only played more than 100 games in 2007. After  failed stint with Oakland, he signed a one-day deal with the Red Sox in 2010 to retire with the team and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2014. We can still see Garciaparra hanging out with the team when there’s a celebration going on.

Garciaparra was 36 years old at the age of his retirement, but his Hall of Fame opportunities vanished since that 2001 injury. Interestingly enough, even with all the injuries he is the all-time leader in OPS (.882) among shortstops.

His legacy and impact will always be remembered in Boston, but his injuries are the main reason he didn’t finish what he started. He only managed to play 506 games after turning 30 and retired way too young. We will always remember his clutch moments and imagine what the story would be if Al Reyes hadn’t hit his wrist back in 1999.

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Besides being inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame, Garciaparra will only have the respect and gratefulness from the fans. He will never get a plaque in Cooperstown, but we will always remember him wearing a number 5 in his back and taking too long to adjust his gloves.