Red Sox: What if Boston didn’t trade Nomar Garciaparra in 2004?

BALTIMORE - JULY 26: Nomar Garciaparra #5 of the Boston Red Sox lunges for a ball during the 3rd inning against the Baltimore Orioles July 26, 2004 at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE - JULY 26: Nomar Garciaparra #5 of the Boston Red Sox lunges for a ball during the 3rd inning against the Baltimore Orioles July 26, 2004 at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

What if the Boston Red Sox never traded Nomar Garciaparra?

This may seem like a really novel question and downright foolish to some of you, and I can understand that argument. Many will say if the Red Sox didn’t trade Nomar Garciaparra then the team wouldn’t have won in 2004, I understand that argument as well. But plenty will forget that Boston didn’t go on a wild tear right after the trade, in fact, they went 8-6 for the first half of August. So what if that trade never happened?

Well, to really break things down we have to see just what Boston got in return. The deal was a four-team agreement including the Cubs, Twins, and Expos. Nomar went to the Cubs while the Red Sox would get Doug Mientkiewicz from the Twins and Orlando Cabrera from the Expos. It may not sound like a great haul for one of the best players in Red Sox history, but each played their part in what would happen in October.

Mientkiewicz has also been a reliable player and after spending the first half of his career in Minnesota, he’d bounce around the league for his final years. While with Boston he’d only post a .215/.286/.318/.603 line with 1 homer and 10 RBI.

On the other hand, Cabrera would be one of the catalysts to the Red Sox winning their first World Series crown since 1918. He’d hit .294/.320/.465/.785 for Boston during the regular season with 6 dingers and 31 RBI.

When the postseason hit Cabrera was more of a factor with 69 plate appearances in 14 games while Mientkiewicz only saw the plate 10 times in 11 games. It would explain why his numbers are astronomical (.444/.444/.556/1 RBI) compared to OC (.288/.377/.356/11 RBI).

The Cubs wouldn’t make the postseason in 2004 and Nomar wouldn’t see October baseball again until 2006 with the Dodgers. He wouldn’t be much of a factor though only hitting .222/.222/.333/2 RBI. By that time the injuries continued to pile up for Garciaparra and though he’d have some strong seasons in 2007 and 2009, his best days were behind him.

So, now that we have the players in the game, what would’ve happened had Boston not traded Nomar in the summer of 2004?

How would Nomar impact the 2004 Red Sox World Series title?

I have never once shied away from my love for Boston’s famed No. 5. Garciaparra was my first favorite player and the reason I loved to play the game. When he was traded that summer I was heartbroken. Granted I was a teenager but for as long as I could remember, Nomar was my guy. To see him wearing another team’s jersey was devastating to my 14-year-old brain, but as an adult, I more than understand what Theo Epstein was doing.

Having just missed out on the World Series the previous fall, Epstein may have felt some pressure to make a move to get over the hump. Boston would lose their game on the day Nomar was traded bringing them to a 56-46 record on the year. Moving their franchise player in order to spark something may have been drastic, but the Sox are kind of getting used to shipping off generational players.

Garciaparra had a hell of a second-half with the Cubs hitting .297/.364/.455/.819/4 HR/20 RBI. His full 2004 campaign is something that most players would kill for as he finished with a .308/.365/.477/.842 line with 9 homers and 41 RBI. It was clear that his power numbers were down as his doubles, triples, and homers were down significantly from previous years, but he was still one hell of a player.

Fans will talk of Nomar as if he was a broken toy that should’ve been discarded right away. He was still very much on top of his game and could’ve been a major asset to Terry Francona that October. Obviously, by removing this trade from history we could also be removing that championship, but we could also be adding more banners to Fenway. There’s no way to know. In my opinion, even if the team hadn’t won in 2004, they would’ve had 2007 locked in, that squad was beyond nasty.

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Having been involved in the postseason several times since he made his Red Sox debut he could’ve been another strong veteran voice in a clubhouse full of great vets. His name is rarely ever tied with any true negativity, that is unless you work for the Globe and have a “special assignment,” to write. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with many that have made their exit from Boston, some media tossed mud onto his name.

When I look back at 2004 I have no choice but to smile. What a time to be a member of Red Sox Nation! Finally winning the World Series after 86 long and exhausting years. Generations had come and gone in that span but there were many that were lucky enough to see that final toss from Keith Foulke to Mientkiewicz.

The only thing in my eyes that could’ve made it better was to have Nomar in the lineup. He and Pedro had fought their hearts out each and every year just to miss at the final moment. At least Pedro was able to get that closure of finally winning it all, but he’d soon be gone as well.

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Had the Red Sox not traded Nomar Garciaparra the team’s trajectory may have changed forever. I believe they still would’ve won in 2004 and definitely in 2007, and Nomar would go down as a legend. The tensions wouldn’t have increased to the heights that they did his number may have been retired by now. We can’t go back in time and change what’s already been done, but sometimes, it’s really fun to ask “what if?”