Greatest Red Sox players who should have stayed in Boston
By Drew Athans
Nomar Garciaparra was without a doubt the most popular Red Sox player of the late 1990s and early 2000s. As a member of the Holy Trinity of American League shortstops alongside Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, Nomar was easily the best hitter of the three. While Rodriguez hit for more power (chemically assisted, as it turned out) and was probably the best defender of the three, Nomar was a superior defensive shortstop to Jeter and combined hitting for average and power better than either of the others.
Garciaparra spent nine seasons with the Red Sox and helped to revolutionize the shortstop position. He hit .323 with 178 home runs and 690 RBI in a Red Sox uniform and won back-to-back batting titles in 1999 and 2000. His .357 mark in 1999 was impressive, but Nomar flirted with .400 in 2000, hitting .403 as late as mid-July before finishing the season with a .372 average. That holds the record for the highest batting average by a right-handed hitter in the post-WWII era.
He was also the first right-handed hitter to win consecutive batting titles since Joe DiMaggio, but it never got as good as that again for Nomar. Early in the 2001 season he hurt his wrist and he was never the same. He battled wrist ailments for the remainder of his Red Sox career and while he hit over .300 for his final four seasons in Boston, it forever affected him. His mood also turned sour toward the end of his time in Boston.
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The team tried to trade him for Alex Rodriguez after the 2003 season, a deal that was nixed by the player’s union when they found out Rodriguez was willing to give up some of his money to make it happen. Rodriguez ended up going to the Yankees while Nomar took it personally. He battled an Achilles injury in 2004 and was grumpy throughout, most memorably refusing to play in a series against the Yankees. Cameras caught him stewing in the dugout in the same game that Derek Jeter famously dove headfirst into the stands to catch a foul ball.
The Red Sox ended up trading Nomar to the Chicago Cubs at the July trade deadline in 2004, receiving Orlando Cabrera in return. Cabrera fit right in and helped the Red Sox avenge their loss in the 2003 ALCS as they vanquished the Yankees in seven games and ended their eighty-six year drought by winning the 2004 World Series. Nomar played for three teams over the final five years of his career, constantly battling injuries.
While he was great during his time in Boston, one can only imagine that he would’ve ended up having a better career than Jeter’s had he stayed healthy and in a Red Sox uniform for its entirety.