Being a fan, it is quite easy for me to forget that only half of Baseball is a game where players get out on the field and try and win game after game. It is quite easy for me to forget that the other half of it is pure business.
And when a player is traded away from a team he has spent his entire career with, the player may show resentment or anger towards that club. This certainly wasn't the case for a particular player.
Red Sox fans got to see something this season that you hardly ever see in the game any more; a ceremony for a player who, six years ago on July 31, 2004, was sent packing to the Chicago Cubs, ending a 12-year relationship and being left off the team that eventually won the World Series.
May 5, 2010 marked the date the Boston Red Sox showed tremendous class as they honored shortstop Nomar Gaciaparra in front of thousands of Red Sox fans. A day where fans could appreciate the site of Garciaparra donning a Red Sox uniform for the first time since July 30, 2004 and could simply say "Welcome home Nomah".
Lets revisit the mixed-up day that was July 31, 2004:
The Red Sox were lingering in the playoff hunt, sitting in second place behind the New York Yankees by a decisive margin. A fairly young Theo Epstein was looking to provide some extra depth to the club, as he was looking for a left handed bat to complement Kevin Millar ar first base and was looking to improve the defense in the middle-infield.
With then 29-year-old Mark Bellhorn and the 31-year-old Garciaparra holding second base and shortstop respectively. In the end, the older Garciaparra had to go in the mind of Epstein.
Just before the 4 p.m. trade deadline, that is indeed what happened as he traded Nomar and single-A prospect Matt Murton to the Cubs in a deal that brought them 29-year-old Orlando Cabrera from the Montreal Expos and 30-year-old Doug Menkevich from the Minnesota Twins.
This is a mixed day, as both of these players acquired did contribute somewhat to the World Series win in 2004 as Cabrera started at short for the World Series and Menkevich recorded the final out in Game 4, giving the Red Sox the World Series they hoped for.
This famous trade gave the Red Sox some extra bench help and excellent defense at shortstop with a platoon of Cabrera and Pokey Reese. But with this gain, it made the 31-year old Garciaparra go back into the locker room and take off his Red Sox cap and jersey, change into street clothes, and say goodbye to his teammates and an organization that he has known since he was a mere youngster.
Just a few quotes from teammates via a Boston Globe article on August 1st 2004:
"We just traded away Mr. Boston, a guy that meant so much to the city, and just like that, he's gone,"
-Johnny Damon, Red Sox center fielder
"For some reason, I just feel like Nomar's part of the tradition in Boston," Martinez said. "I'm so used to seeing `Nomah!' and hearing the people go, `Nomah!' and No. 5 all over everybody's back. For some reason, I just framed him as a Bostonian, as part of the team. I think a lot of people are going to be sad in Boston."
-Pedro Martinez, Red Sox starting pitcher
"You've got to keep it going, man," Ramirez said in hugging Garciaparra in their final goodbye.
"The good thing," Garciaparra replied, "is if we play each other in the World Series, at least one of us will get a ring."
-Emotional conversation between Manny Ramirez and Nomar Gaciaparra
The Red Sox decided that they needed to upgrade their defense as they ranked near the top of the league in unearned runs, having allowed 74 at that point. The Red Sox also feared that they would lose Garciaparra to free agency, so they decided to move his contract to Chicago, but were unable (and are still unable) to find a replacement that could fill the shoes Nomar did at shortstop.
Nomar acheived a lot in Boston as he was a five-time All-Star, two-time batting champion, and won the rookie of the year in 1997, his debut season in a Red Sox uniform. However something that cannot be documented in statistics is that he won over the hearts of many in Boston and developed into a fan favorite.
Nomar had his best seasons with the Red Sox in his career as he only hit under .300 just once in his injury plagued season in 2001 including the 1999 and 2000 seasons where he hit .357 and .372 respectively. He averaged about 100+ RBIs a season, which is incredible for a shortstop.
Nomar established himself as one of the best, if not the best shortstop in Red Sox history.
Nomar meant so much to the organization as prior to the trade, the relationship between him and Red Sox drew many comparrisons such as Derek Jeter to the Yankees, Chipper Jones to the Braves, Michael Young to the Rangers, and Luis Gonzalez to the Diamondbacks. Players you just simply could not see donning another uniform.
Nomar returned to Fenway in May where he was given a standing ovation by Red Sox fans, was greeted by former teamates Lou Merloni, Brian Daubach, and Trot Nixon, and was given the honors of throwing out the first pitch.
In spring training, he signed a contract at age 36 in order to say he retired as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
"From the first day I had the thrill of putting on a Red Sox uniform and playing in front of all the great fans at Fenway Park, I have felt at home in Boston," Garciaparra said in a statement that belied the ugliness that accompanied his departure. "While I had the privilege of playing with other legendary teams, I always saw myself retiring in a Red Sox uniform."
Nomar's career officially ended as it should, walking off the diamond of Fenway Park in a Red Sox uniform accompanied by former teammates bidding farewell to the Red Sox fans that fell in love with him as a 22-year-old rookie; and him being allowed to return the love.
A moment that truely defines what baseball is, and will forever be one that Red Sox fans and Nomar Garciaparra will never forget.