The Return of Nomar Garciaparra
On Cinco de Mayo, the Red Sox brought forever Sox fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra (who is of Mexican descent) back to Fenway to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to former Sox and Georgia Tech teammate Jason Varitek before the third Sox-Angels game of the week. With wife and superstar athlete Mia Hamm on the field watching, along with good friends and ex-teammates Trot Nixon, Lou Merloni, Tim Wakefield and Brian Daubach, it was a pretty cool and nostalgic pregame celebration much like Pedro Martinez’s (surprise) pregame first pitch on Opening Night.
Good for the organization for doing that for Nomar. Now let me say this.
The Boston sports media types (Dan Shaughnessy, Steve Buckley) still think they know better than the rest of us fans, but the fact is that Nomar never wanted to stop playing baseball in Boston, no matter how frustrated and bitter at the organization he was (for trying to trade him for A-Rod and others after the 2003 season and other reasons). He was eventually traded to the Cubs in July 2004 because at the time, the Sox were playing .500 baseball and the infield needed a major makeover defensively to help out the pitching staff (enter: Orlando Cabrera, Dave Roberts and Doug Mientkiewicz). It’s as simple as that.
Though no Sox fans were comfortable seeing Nomar forced out of town at the time, they accepted the new faces that came via Sox general manager Theo Epstein’s mid-2004 trades, and watched as they helped the Sox win a historic and long overdue Red Sox championship that fall. From then on, Sox fans and the baseball world altogether saw Nomar become the Ken Griffey Jr. of the infield — in that he had Hall of Fame talent but was always getting hurt — right until the end of his career in 2009 in Oakland.
At least Griffey did enough (in the 1990s) before his string of injuries in the 2000s to get into Cooperstown. The shortstop-turned-corner-infielder, on the other hand, with his career .313 BA, 229 HR, 936 RBI and 1747 hits in not even nine relatively full seasons in 14 years of play will unfortunately not get there. But in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, he will. And that will be even more of a cause for celebration for him than throwing out a first pitch.
Recent Red Sox News
When the Red Sox, behind Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-1) beat the Angels Thursday 11-6, it was the first time since the “Impossible Dream” team of 1967 that the Sox achieved a four-game sweep against them at Fenway Park. Also a first: the whole Angels lineup taking the first 14 pitches Dice-K threw before scoring four runs in the first inning of the game.
Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield were named co-captains of the Jimmy Fund, where they will be ambassadors for the Dana-Farber charity and raise awareness and build support for cancer treatment and research throughout the country.
And in some bit of sad news, 2004 Sox stolen base hero and retired outfielder Dave Roberts revealed last week that he was diagnosed with lymphoma in spring training.
The Long Road Ahead
With an impressive 9-3 win on Mother’s Day night to avoid a humiliating three-game sweep by the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox are now 12-7 in its last 19 games. But in the most competitive division in baseball, the AL East, that’s not good enough, as they sit 6.5 games behind of Tampa Bay and six back of New York for the AL Wild Card. Then again, I should be glad the Sox are only that far behind the Rays, arguably baseball’s best team right now.
If the Sox hadn’t swept all four games vs. the Angels to start last week and somehow lost that series, the division might be close to double digits right now, causing more negativity and panic than there already is in Boston. As it is, the Sox are 2-8 against the Yanks and Rays this year, all of them at home. And the BoSox have to play them both on the road for the first time this year later this month in the middle of a grueling stretch of games where they play for 17 straight days (May 14-May 30). In fact, they only have two off days this month (May 13 and May 31).
But first, they play Toronto at home for three games, a team the Sox swept in three games in late April at the Rogers Centre. Since getting swept April 28 though, the Blue Jays are 9-2 (vs OAK, @CLE, @CHW) and are an impressive 19-14 going into its three-game series vs. Boston starting tonight. It should be fun to watch whether they can continue its hot streak or see the Sox continue their domination over them in the early going of the season. Then Boston takes its first trip to old friend-turned-foe Johnny Damon’s new squad, the Detroit Tigers (17-14) for three games. Boston’s best starters (Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and John Lackey) will take the mound in that series.