Welcome back to another edition of Forgotten Heroes. This week, we will doff our caps to Nomar Garciaparra, a spark plug player during an otherwise disappointing era of Cubs baseball. Without his star power, big bat, and charisma, the Cubs would have continued to languish in mediocrity. His connections back to the Boston Red Sox organization surely had some influence in Theo Epstein heading to Chicago and saving the Cubs from a century long championship drought. I’m not saying Nomar paved the way for a championship in 2016, but his like-ability definitely helped soften the blow of the disappointment of the 2003 season (aka Steve Bartman and a tough loss in the NLCS) and bought the Cubs franchise more time to rebuild.
Before heading to the Chicago Cubs, Nomar had spent the entirety of his career with the Boston Red Sox after being drafted in the first round in 1994. He ended up finishing his rookie year with the Red Sox as Rookie Of The Year. Nomar was widely known as a hitting phenom, batting .357 and .372 in 1999 and 2000 respectively. He picked up a Silver Slugger in 1997 and a couple of All Star nods until he injured his wrist in 2001. After some struggles following his injury rehabilitation and some contract issues, Nomar’s batting stats in 2002 and 2003 cooled off a bit. To make matters worse, Nomar also suffered an Achilles’ heel injury in 2004 which significantly reduced the shortstop’s range and weighed heavily on his defensive performance.
Nonetheless, Garciaparra persevered on and managed a .321 batting average, 5 homers, and 21 RBIs in the first half of 2004. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein opted to trade Nomar in order to get a healthier and more consistently available bat. The Cubs ended up with Garciaparra as a part of a four team trade also involving the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins. Nomar joined a competitive Cubs ball club that had led the wild card in the NL until mid-September. The Cubs, in no surprise to anyone, failed to make the playoffs, but the Boston Red Sox did go on to win the World Series that year and ending an 86 year championship drought. His former teammates elected to bestow Nomar with a ring but his then current Cubs teammate could be bothered to win one themselves in the two years he was with Chicago. Nomar, unfortunately, posted some of the worse batting averages of his career in the two years he was with the Cubs but did have 20 and 30 HRs each year so the bleacher bums had something to celebrate.
While Nomar wasn’t a Cub for very long and truthfully did not bring much of an impact to turn things around, he did have a swagger and charisma that the Cubs had sorely missed since the Sammy Sosa home run race days in 1998. In either case, let’s pay tribute to a short-lived Chicago legend (who doesn’t have a Cubs-only highlight reel on YouTube).
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