The inevitable was approaching whether we wanted to believe it or not and Ted William‘s frozen head must have spun inside that liquid nitrogen-filled container when the news broke. After ten years in the organization and seven-plus years with the parent club, the face of the franchise was sent packing in a four-team deal and a sad chapter closed the book on the relationship between the Boston Red Sox and shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. Whereas no one ever expected a few years ago that he would play anywhere but here, the relationship had cooled – perhaps had even become colder than an arctic breeze – and there was no getting around the fact that a break up was necessary. So the Red Sox sent employee number five to Chicago and that was that… or so it would seem.
It’s been less than a week to this point and, already, I’m tired of reading the he said/she said commentary that has been given considerable space in the sport sections of the local papers. The Red Sox organization blames Garciaparra’s agent who told them that his client deserved no less than $16 million per season when Boston had offered roughly $15 million instead. Boston sportswriters, known for being a rather vicious bunch that loves to make mountains out of pitching mounds, tell us that Garciaparra faked the extent of his injury in an attempt to stick it to the organization. They also claim that the organization did everything that it could in the final weeks before the deadline to try and mend fences, only to have it thrown back in their faces and told that he wanted out, whether it was now or after the season ended.
The truth is that we will never really know who is to blame for this mess or if there is any blame to place. The facts were that Garciaparra was coming to the end of his current contract and it was apparent that the two sides could not agree on a new one. It is also fact that Garciaparra will play at least the rest of the 2004 season with another team looking to bring a championship to its city for the first time in many, many years. What is also important is that we put the matter behind us so that we can concentrate on the other fact: that the team that takes the field now is the one that we are counting on to try and help end this championship drought. Whether we agree with the trade or not, there are no do-overs; what’s done is done and we must move on.
There is no question that Garciaparra was, for the most part, a fan favorite during his tenure in a Boston uniform. He dazzled us with his amazing ability to snare ground balls and then whirl around to fire a bullet to first for the out. He peppered the field with hits all over the park, never fearing to swing at the first pitch he saw, and came through in the clutch in opportunities that were too plentiful to count. Most of all, whether he was happy or not with his situation off the field, he played 100% on the field, never doing less than what he felt the fans deserved to see from him.
My most vivid memory of him comes from an October night in 1998 when, following the end of a loss to Cleveland that eliminated Boston from post-season play, Garciaparra came out of the dugout and began clapping his hands in a gesture to show his appreciation for the support that the fans had given his team all season. While the rest of the team, including a soon-to-be-departing Mo Vaughn, quietly filed back into the clubhouse, but the young shortstop was not about to let another disappointing season spoil the chance to let the Fenway faithful know that he considered them the tenth player for that team.
Hopefully, in another week, the sting will be gone and everyone involved will have moved on, as is the business of baseball. Players come and go and it’s never easy to see a fan favorite depart, perhaps for greener pastures. Although it doesn’t feel right to not see employee number five taking the field for Boston, we must not let the bitter taste of what was an ugly divorce ruin the memories of what was a great stretch of time to be a fan of the Red Sox.