Posted on: March 12, 2010 1:12 pm
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.
Tags: Alex Rodriguez, Bobby Doerr, Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski, Cy Young, Dan Duquette, Derek Jeter, George Brett, Jim Rice, John Harrington, John Henry, John Valentin, Jose Canseco, Larry Luccino, Mark McGwire, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciappara, Omar Vizquel, Ted Williams, Theo Epstein, Tom Werner
Posted on: February 8, 2009 9:57 pm
The dust still has not quite settled yet from the Alex Rodriguez fall out over his positive steroid tests in 2003. While baseball fans are deciding whether or not to be surprised by this, Major League Baseball once again has a very hot issue they wish they never had to handle.
Commissioner Bud Selig will not be able to suspend Rodriguez, but his is likely currently in deep debate with the MLB player's union to decide how to handle this issue, and what to do with the other 103 names who tested positive.
In the end, it is likely that most of the names that fans care about will be leaked, sooner rather than later. Selig and MLB will be forced once again to merely pick up the pieces, sweep up the dust, and try to move on as though nothing happened.
So, since we are crunching as close to rock-bottom as possible, why not try this out:
Lift the ban off performance-enhancing drugs.
Yes, that's right, I said it.
Selig, despite what his $17.5 million salary might indicate, is not exempt from the economy's downturn. Fewer and fewer fans are purchasing seats, jerseys, and, incredible to fathom though it may be, beautifully hand-crafted Bobble-head dolls (gasp!).
In 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa almost literally held the defibrilaters to baseball and shocked new life into the game. New fans were introduced to the game, and old fans were brought back. It was a glorious time.
Until it became too good. With the "end" of the steroids era came a decrease in the number of 50+ home run seasons and 20 game winners. The fringe fans (we call them "Pink Hat Fans" in Boston) lost interest.
Baseball lost revenue.
So, Mr. Selig, why not lift the ban on PEDs? What do you have to loose? You will now have an easy way to dismiss why the best players under your reign as commissioner were all cheaters and give the fans what they want to see: longer home runs, faster pitches, and a widening of the gap that separates great players from mediocre players.
The players will bring in the guinea pigs, and you will bring in the money. After all, that's what professional sports is all about, right?
Posted on: February 7, 2009 1:36 pm
Their names have been run through the mills countless times over the last five years in connection with the seemingly epidemic use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. We already know them:
Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens. Jose Canseco. Mark McGwire.
And the list goes on.
Although his public appearance has been skewered since he began his tenure with the New York Yankees, who are hated by many merely on principle, Alex Rodriguez was once looked upon as the best all-around player of our generation. His ability to combine speed and power to become the youngest member of baseball's elite 40 home runs/40 steals group elevated his fame and promise to become the eventual home run champion.
Today, however, SI.com is reporting that in 2003, during his first MVP season, and last season with the Texas Rangers before being traded to the Yankees, Rodriguez tested positive for illegal substances twice.
Four different sources have independently reported the positive tests to SI, and the substances are reported to be testosterone and a designer anabolic steroid called Primobolan.
These tests were part of MLB's 2003 anonymous drug testing, which is a slight misnomer. The tests were anonymous only to the extent that the actual names of the players (of which there were 104 in 2003) were not released.
However, with the impeding trial against Bonds and BALCO, those lists and other related documents were unsealed to determine whether or not Bonds had perjured himself to federal investigators. Bonds is not being tried for steroid use, but only for lying. If admitted, this list will be used to help determine whether other players knew of Bonds alleged steroid use at that time.
With the opening of these documents comes the fallout for Rodriguez. While Canseco mentioned that the sequel of his first book Juiced would include a section detailing Rodriguez's steroid usage, many dismissed this claim.
Over his career, Rodriguez has been able to stand beside the fact that he has been remarkable consistent over his career, never achieving too far over or too far little of his career averages. With the fact that four sources have independently confirmed this news, it will be difficult for Rodriguez to side step the issue as when Canseco accused him.
Rodriguez will not be punished by MLB because of his positive test because there was no penalty for a positive test in 2003, as the tests were supposed to be anonymous. A suspension from MLB, however, is likely the least of Rodriguez's worries at this time.
Posted on: January 22, 2009 10:28 pm
It could be worse for Mark McGwire.
He could be Barry Bonds.
Look up "scapegoat" in the dictionary and find a picture of Bonds.
Look up "Pete Rose" in the dictionary and find a picture of McGwire.
Mark McGwire revitalized America's National Pastime, picking it up in the 1998 season by smashing the home-run record when the bitter taste of the strike-shortened 1994 season still lingered about the sport. He became a household name in the late 90s. However, his sparkling public imagine was soon muddied when the accusations of steroid use began leaking out of St. Louis.
He was never convicted of any steroid use, likely because most of what he was alleged to have done was not in fact illegal in Major League Baseball at the time. Nor has he admitted to any steroid use, mostly because his public appearances have been few and far between.
So when McGwire appeared in front of the House Government Reform Committee on March 17, 2005, it was the first time many had seen him since his retirement following the 2001 season. It was here that McGwire cemented the skepticism that now surrounded his career with the following statements:
"My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself. I will say, however, that it remains a fact in this country that a man, any man, should be regarded as innocent unless proven guilty."
And let's not forget what was, at the time, the most famous one-liner of the conference (since surpassed by Rafael Palmiero's "I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period"): "I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject."
Though heavily criticized for these comments, which left few believe that he remained clean for his entire career, McGwire has since stuck to his guns (pun intended), never admitting to using any performance-enhancing substances. Because of what was permitted at the time, he may be able to skirt the issue forever, leaving his involvement up to speculation.
But, with the release of a book in which his brother essentially takes credit for permanently marring his career, it is time for McGwire to attempt to win his baseball career back. Unfortunately, he has gone the way of Pete Rose, who stubbornly refused to admit to betting on baseball until decades after his banishment from the sport.
With the wounds of McGwire's choices still being relatively fresh on baseball, he may be able to slowly garner some acceptance from baseball fans. While clearly one of the most high profiled athletes involved, McGwire is by no means alone.