On Thursday August 14, the Boston Red Sox enshrined a talented group of stars into their hall of fame. Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and longtime radio play-by-play voice Joe Castiglione were inducted into what may be the most talented Red Sox Hall of Fame class ever.
When I first began watching the Sox in 2000, Nomar Garciaparra was instantly my favorite player. As kids growing up, Nomah’s antics and dominant hitting were things we tried to emulate in the backyard. The toe taps, the batting glove adjustments, the jump throws from deep in the hole at shortstop. Nomar was a fan favorite during his time in Boston despite the way his career with the Sox ended.
In a time when the home run was dominating the game, Nomar was perhaps the best hitter for average. A .372 average in 2000 was the best in the American League since George Brett’s .390 average in 1980. Nomar was flirting with .400 until mid-August of that year when his average dipped at the end of the season. His .323 career average with the Red Sox is the 4th best in club history behind three hall of famers—Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, and Tris Speaker.
Nomar had a different approach though. A free swinging, first pitch hitter, Nomar was able to translate an aggressive plate approach into success, which has been seldom done. His .365 career average on first pitches proved that a hitter doesn’t need to take a traditional approach to be one of the best.
After winning the Rookie of the Year unanimously in 1997, Nomar hit 35 home runs and drove in 122 runs to finish second in the MVP voting in 1998. His batting titles in 1999 and 2000 further solidified him as one of the game’s elite hitters. It is a shame that Nomar was sent out of town in 2004, but he was evidently unhappy in Boston at that point and the Red Sox ended up being able to win without him.
Did Nomar do steroids? It’s very possible in this writer’s opinion. The Sports Illustrated cover of him looking jacked doesn’t help his case looking back on the matter. His series of muscle related injuries doesn’t help either, but essentially everyone playing at that time can be looked at and argued over whether they took steroids or not.
The fact of the matter is that Nomar helped turn the Red Sox from a mediocre team in the mid-90’s into the powerhouse team they became in the 2000’s. Like Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and others, Nomar’s departure from Boston wasn’t pretty, but his years in town helped shape the Red Sox culture of this generation.