BOSTON, Mass.–The looming return of beloved former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra drew strong feelings from fans this past week.
A key member of the 1998, 1999 and 2003 playoff teams, Garciaparra returns to Boston as a player for the first time since being traded in July 2004 on Monday when the Oakland Athletics visit for a three-game set.
Passing through Kenmore Square on Thursday while wearing a red-colored bracelet indicating his membership in ‘Red Sox Nation,’ Peter O’Malley, 20, of Sturbridge expressed visible anger. “I can’t believe he’s gonna show his face here again. After what he did trying to ruin the 2004 team? You gotta be kidding me. The minute he left town and Orlando Cabrera came in was the minute I started believing. I bet Nomar was real pissed off when Dave Roberts stole that base.”
Mary Richmond, 48, of Manchester, N.H. shared similar bewilderment at his popularity. “He was a clubhouse cancer and never cared about the fans. I used to scream my lungs out until I was hoarse cheering for him. And God forbid he ever stop eating dinner long enough to sign a napkin or one of my boobs. What did Nomar ever do for the community? This current group of Red Sox is a much more likable team with guys like Josh Beckett running that annual bowling tournament–what’s it called–Beckett Bowl?”
Sporting a “Coco 10” jersey tee, Diana Timothy, 52, of Winchester, similarly suggested Nomar’s fidgety routines and malcontent status grew tiresome. “Even the local media turned on him by the end and he’s white..ish. That tells you something right there.”
Sitting in a Land Rover SUV outside Twin’s Souvenirs with her two young sons, ages 3 and 6, 34-year-old Matilda Mattern of Wellesley had little to say about the former All-Star shortstop’s prowess a decade ago. “Nomar Garciaparra…You mean Mia Hamm’s husband? He was on the Red Sox, wasn’t he? That was like, 15 years ago or something. Do you know if it’s going to be sunny outside tomorrow?”
Joseph Zimmerman, 35, of Brookline, took the jilted lover’s route when asked to analyze Garciaparra’s impact on him as a fan. “Most likely Nomar goes his way and I go mine,” he responded quickly without breaking stride as he walked down Beacon St.
“I’m sorry, I really don’t think I can talk about it,” said ‘Jeff White,’ a season ticket holder from Cambridge who asked that his real name be withheld. “I gave my seats away for the three games against Oakland.”
After walking away, White circled back and began reading off Garciaparra’s statistics, which he had drawn up on his iPhone. “Look at his wOBA from 1998-2000. And his isolated power stats in the late ’90s and early 2000s read like Jason Varitek’s monthly batting averages over the last couple years. Look at it! Win Shares, Runs Created, RAR, Wins Above Replacement …”
White began to choke up reciting the last stat and, blinking away tears, quickly walked away after threatening violence and a defamation lawsuit if his real name were used for this article.
Derek McCormick, 29, of Lynn, lamented Garciaparra’s less-than-sociable reputation within the clubhouse, as reported ad nauseum by the Boston media in his final days as a Red Sox.
“Dustin and Francona are always playing dominoes together before games and having a good time pulling pranks on each other,” said McCormick. “I don’t think Nomar even knows how to play dominoes or put a teammate in a playful headlock. He just didn’t fit in anymore I guess.”
McCormick, however, didn’t rule out a return to the Red Sox for Garciaparra later in his career as a utility man.
“If the money’s right and he learns how to play dominoes and is willing to Irish jig to ‘Shipping Up to Boston,’ I think it could make sense. How cool would that be if he came back? They’d have to put those Coke bottles back up over the Monster so he could dent them with his home runs. Geez, just thinking about that gives me chills…”