Tag:John Henry
Posted on: March 12, 2010 1:12 pm

Nomar Leaves Behind a Historic Legacy

In a list of greatest players in the history of one of baseball’s most storied franchise, the names at the top of Boston’s list are Hall of Famers. Williams. Yastrzemski. Rice. Doerr. Young. So it is not everyday that a player comes along with enough caliber to crack the top of such a list.

One such player did emerge in the summer of 1997.

Nomar Garciaparra’s emerging talent preceded him. During the mid-90s, the Red Sox had a more than decent option at shortstop in John Valentin. But the prospects of Garciaparra’s bright future earned him the job for Opening Day 1997.

Garciaparra spent parts of nine seasons in Boston from his debut in 1996, but due to an injury in 2001 and being traded in 2004 accumulated only six full seasons. So how can he be considered among the greats of a franchise that has been around for more than a century?

As will likely be the case for sometime, the impact of player like Garciaparra may not be completely recognized until a later point because he played during the steroid era. At the time he was an excellent contact hitter and the star player on a star franchise.

In retrospect, he may have been the most dominant hitter in the game during his tenure in Boston.

Garciaparra’s numbers over that time certainly paint an impressive picture - .323/.370/.553, 178 home runs and 279 doubles during his time in Boston. But it is his versatility as a hitter that made him the best during that time.

Garciaparra was most naturally a gap, line-drive hitter. But he changed his offensive approach so that the team could get the most out of him. During his first two seasons with the club he hit 30 and 35 home runs, respectively, a feat that at the time had been accomplished only four other times in the history of baseball (and two, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, have been linked to steroids). He set records for RBIs by a lead-off hitter and home runs by a rookie shortstop on his way to the Rookie-of-the-Year award.

After those seasons of great power numbers, Garciaparra changed to still be able to put up good power numbers, but increase his on-base percentage and cut down on strikeouts. By his fourth season, the Sox had signed a rather well known power hitter by the name of Manny Ramirez, which took some of the burden of being a power hitter off of Garciaparra.

After that transition, he became a much more balanced hitter. He crossed the 50 doubles plateau twice, and also twice pulled off the very rare accomplishment of recording more doubles than strikeouts. He cemented his legacy as one of the most dangerous hitters by leading the league in hitting in back-to-back seasons in ’99 and ’00 at .357 and .372 respectively (Nobody has finished the season in the A.L. with an average above .372 since George Brett in 1980).

Garciaparra had the ability to do whatever he wanted as a hitter. If he wanted to hit 40-45 home runs, he could have. There were times where it seemed like he could take every single pitch he was given and bang it off of the Green Monster, something he did better than maybe any player in Red Sox history. Ted Williams, in an interview during the 1999 All-Star Game festivities in Boston, said that if any player were to ever hit .400 again, it would be Garciaparra.
Red Sox fans are well aware of the impact that Garciaparra had on the diamond for Boston’s teams in the late 90s and early 2000s. But his impact stretched much further than just that. He was drafted and signed by John Harrington and Dan Duquette, the predecessors of the John Henry/Larry Luccino/Tom Werner ownership and Theo Epstein at general manager.

The current Sox ownership saw what affect drafting quality players and revamping the minor league system could have on a franchise. In Garciaparra, the Sox not only got a great player, but someone who was taken as the fan favorite and face of the franchise.

No matter where you rank him in the “Trinity of Shortstops” of the late 90s and early 2000s (to say nothing of Miguel Tejada, Omar Vizquel and others), Garciaparra will get some votes for the Hall of Fame - and deservedly so. A player like Garciaparra exemplifies the reason why players remain on the ballot for 15 years. He is not a first-ballot player, but he will be there eventually.

He was a dominant, versatile hitter, and it is in Boston where he deserved to end his career.

Posted on: June 26, 2009 2:13 pm

Red Sox - Take a Page from the Nationals' Book

The Boston Red Sox recently completed a three game series against the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital. The Sox took two out of three against the lowly Nationals in a relatively unremarkable series – with one exception.

Thanks to the droves of the fans of Red Sox Nation that follow the Sox all across the country, the Nationals recorded three consecutive days of their biggest crowds ever at Nationals Park.

Nationals Park opened for the 2008 season and drew an average of 29,005 fans per game. Due in part to the struggling, but mostly the fact that the Nationals (in case you haven’t noticed) are really bad, attendance has dropped to 22,343 per game.

Opening after 34 years without baseball in D.C., Nationals Park was a $611 million investment made to bring America’s Pastime back to the capital. While the Nationals organization is currently in very dire straights and could glean a great deal from observing how the Red Sox operate, they have one thing that the Sox should pay close attention to.

A shiny, new ballpark.

There are a great deal of baseball purists who relish the antiquity of Fenway Park, the last remaining mainstay from old-time baseball. Every Red Sox fan knows the tale of the historic landmark.

It opened in 1912, just days before the Titanic sank, and has housed baseball legends for nearly a century. The list of Hall-of-Famers is as remarkable as the park they played in.

And in the large picture, Fenway Park remained very much unchanged. Only recently, since the John Henry/Tom Warner/Larry Luccino partnership bought the Red Sox, has the dynamics of the park changed. Yet with all of the changes and face-lifts, Fenway remains one of the smaller parks in the league, but with more demand for tickets than any other city.

I have only been to one other park besides Fenway (where I have visited about a dozen times), and it was the Nationals Park in Washington. The stadium is absolutely stunning, and not just because of the flat-screen televisions that are scattered at every turn.

Nationals Park features everything that fans and players would put into a “suggestions for improvements” box at Fenway. In addition to a much more clean and spacious interior, the concessions and restrooms are more modern and much more available. The walkways, entrances and exits are designed to get massive amounts of people in and out of the ballpark as quickly as possible.

Almost the entire Sox roster had never been to Nationals Park before, and all were taken by the modernity of the place. Some were saying that the visitors’ clubhouse was bigger and better equipped than the home clubhouse at Fenway.

I appreciate the nostalgia of Fenway Park as much as anyone, and nothing can replace the memories of the old stadium. But it is time that the Red Sox put the Friendly Confines to rest and build a stadium that reflects two recent World Series titles and a bevy of young talent.

The Sox recently sold out their 500th straight game at Fenway. The popularity of the Red Sox has stretched so far that there will always be a demand for the tickets, and as soon as John Henry & Co. add more seats, they immediately get bought up and sold out.

The Sox plan for a new ballpark should be centered on opening in 2013, which means that the original Fenway will be in operation for exactly 100 years. The new stadium can have more seats and concessions, but with roughly the same dimensions of the old park, including the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole.

If the new park had only 5,000 more seats, that would mean that over 400,000 more people would be able to see the Sox play. We all love Fenway, but it is not going to last forever, and they should take advantage of the 100 anniversary as a was to market a new park and show the fans that they truly appreciate Red Sox Nation.

Posted on: March 25, 2008 4:50 pm

Sox Japan Schedule Makes You Scratch Your Head

As everyone on both sides of the Pacific Ocean knows, the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics are playing a two game series in the middle Major League Baseball's most recent escapade into the other parts of the world who are baseball-crazy. Commissioner Bud Selig as well as the owners of all 32 teams are licking their lips at the prospect of sending the most dominant team of the decade overseas to strut their stuff for the people of Japan, who they view as no more than a collective, burgeoning representatives of an economy where the sky's the limit.

Because baseball does not have a salary cap, we rarely hear about the "business" end of things the way we do about other sports, particularly the NFL, where teams can, and do, cut players who are not proving their worth. But this entire week, we have seen in great clarity, the business side of baseball, where as long as fans are buying jerseys and hot dogs, the number of wins rarely matters except in appearance only. It so happens that, for most baseball markets, the number of wins over the short term directly correlates to the number of foam fingers and plastic helmets that faceless fans shell out immensely too much money for.

The fact is that, and I am not crying about my favorite team being taken advantage of, but these two teams are going to need a long time to recover from the traveling. The Red Sox's ultimate road trip is going to cover three, yes three, countries! The players seem all for the trip, but ask them off-camera and see how many of them, besides Hideki Okajima and Dice-K, about how much they want to travel more than 10,000 miles in two weeks. And even though the coaches got the extra money, what is $50,000 to Manny Ramirez and J.D. Drew. As Manny said to the $10,000 that he earned from being player of the game of the first game, "That will be gas money." The players are being forced to go along with something that is going to do nothing but line the pockets of the already wealthy owners who control the best teams, while the small-market teams have nothing to offer, and will get nothing to gain.
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