The Five Books of Nomar
More than five years after he was unceremoniously dumped by the Boston Red Sox at the 2004 trading deadline, Nomar Garciaparra signed a ceremonial one-day contract with his former club, and then retired from baseball.
No doubt there exists a collective consciousness that associates ‘Nomah’ with the Red Sox, and the Red Sox with the 2004 World Series championship, the first for the club in 86 years. But the transitive property is no help to Garciaparra here. For despite being the proverbial ‘face of the franchise’ for nearly a decade, it is widely believed that the July 31 jettisoning of the disgruntled slugging shortstop spurred the Sox to a glory they would not have otherwise achieved. Which included winning 22 out of 25 in August, and, of course, a miraculous comeback from three games down to the Yankees in the ALCS.
One could be forgiven for thinking that winning the World Series in 2004- and again in 2007- changed Red Sox culture. How could it not; for what are Jews to do when the Messiah comes- become Christian? Cultures accustomed to waiting and hoping don’t take to success without an identity crisis.
The religion analogy runs deeper. As an expert in analogy, Dr. Micah Goldwater of the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center of Northwestern University had this to say of a parallel between Nomar and Moses.
Each led their tribe to the Promised Land, but were not allowed to enter because they were from a previous generation that only knew slavery. Nomar was the last of a continuous line of our star players being a homegrown Red Sox. Williams, Yaz, Lynn/Rice, Clemens, Vaughn, Nomar. It took free-agent stars for us to finally win one. (Or two).
Despite his greatness, Moses was never allowed to win the big one. He had sinned. But the Israelites had sinned as well; they had worshipped a Golden Calf. And Red Sox Nation had its golden calf moment. The Red Sox traded for false idol Alex Rodriguez in the 2003/4 offseason; he was to displace Garciaparra as shortstop and leader. Though the transaction was nixed, and Nomar remained. And then, in July, just weeks before the trade, Red Sox Nation did the unthinkable; they worshipped hated rival Derek Jeter. As Dan Shaughnessy recalls, in a Biblical narrative,
then came the nationally televised midsummer game at Yankee Stadium, when Nomar refused to play while Derek Jeter saved the game with a face-first plunge into the stands behind third base.
Whereas Jeter was a gamer, a real leader, Garciaparra was an illusion, a sulking and selfish quitter. Red Sox Nation had given up on Nomar, and coveted Jeter, the Yankees’ own golden boy. Yet Red Sox Nation was given the promised land, and Nomar was left to die on the banks of the River Jordan, in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland.
Citing the numerous injuries that have (10) plagued Garciaparra’s career, and the SI cover photo of a frame bulking beyond its natural contours, one could be forgiven for thinking Nomar sinned against the commandment banning performance-enhancers. But Moses was able- at the age of one hundred and twenty- to climb a mountain in order to die; that can’t be natural either.
Let’s end with a song, lyrics by Barry
When Nomar was in Yawkey Land
Let my people go
He fiddled with his bat glove hand
Let my people go
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