Retrospect 2004: Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs
I'm not saying that the Kearns/Lopez/Wagner will be the move that propels the Reds to the World Series but good GM's make tough deals that don't always make sense to the fans at first.
BOSTON -- No more Nomar.
Trade rumors finally turned into reality when the Boston Red Sox sent five-time All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs in a four-team deal Saturday shortly before baseball's trade deadline.
Wrigley a short hop
Nomar Garciaparra, who got on a plane to Chicago on Saturday night, might make it to town in time to play Sunday.
The Cubs trail St. Louis by a wide margin in the NL Central, but still think they can get to the playoffs.
"It's kind of a reaction of disbelief when you get a guy of that quality, it's not every day you're going to pick up a Nomar Garciaparra," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said after a 4-3 loss to the Phillies.
Baker said he would go home and put a pencil to some projected batting orders and see where Garciaparra, a .323 lifetime hitter, fits in his lineup with Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.
"It's tough on one end to lose one part of your family like Gonzo, but you're getting a heck of a player," Baker said. "And you know, you're getting a guy who plays shortstop and a lot of offensive production and a guy who is used to winning."
Both the Red Sox and Cubs were mere outs from making the World Series last season before they faltered in the league championship series. Both teams have a history of playoff difficulties, both play in aging ballparks and both are followed by rabid fans.
"There's no harder place to play I would think than Boston. To come over here in this high pressure situation, having been through it already, he's going to do well," said Cubs infielder Todd Walker, who played last season with the Red Sox.
Garciaparra was not happy after the Red Sox tried to make a series of moves last year, hoping to trade him away and get Alex Rodriguez.
"I can't tell you he was happy-go-lucky in Boston, but at the same time he spent his whole career there and he loved the fans and the people I know," Walker said. "I think it will be same here, very similar, that's why I'm saying he will do great."
-- Associated Press
Montreal shortstop Orlando Cabrera, Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez and Minnesota first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz also moved in a trade so big that it caught the attention of big leaguers all over.
"I can't really picture him playing anywhere else," New York Yankees star Derek Jeter said of Garciaparra. "You think Red Sox, Nomar's the first name you think of."
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was gleeful to get him.
"When I got out of the car this morning about 7, I think, I was prepared for a real big day for the Cubs or I would be in here hanging my head a little bit today," he said. "You never go to work thinking he's going to be available."
Garciaparra was in the final year of his contract, and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said he wasn't confident the team would be able to re-sign the two-time AL batting champion. Garciaparra was dressed in his Red Sox jersey, preparing to play at Minnesota, when he heard about the trade.
"My initial reaction was 'wow,' " he said.
"If it was in my control, I'd still be wearing a Red Sox uniform, because it's the place I know, I love. All of those fans, I'll always remember. But I'm also going to another great place. I'm going to a phenomenal city with great tradition as well, phenomenal fans, great organization."
And he added: "Hopefully, we'll see them in the World Series."
The Red Sox wound up with Cabrera and Mientkiewicz, both Gold Glovers.
"I thought there was a flaw on the club that we couldn't allow to become a fatal flaw, that the defense on this team is not championship caliber," Epstein said. "In my mind we were not going to win a World Series with our defense the way it was."
The Cubs got Garciaparra and minor league outfielder Matt Murton. Montreal acquired Gonzalez, pitcher Francis Beltran and infielder Brendan Harris and the Twins got minor league pitcher Justin Jones.
"It was complicated -- so many teams," Twins GM Terry Ryan said. "I can see why things get bogged down. I don't know if deadlines are a good thing or not, we were real close."
The Red Sox were close to dealing Garciaparra last winter after he rejected a four-year, $60 million extension.
Boston tried furiously to acquire Alex Rodriguez from Texas to play shortstop and although it would have been Manny Ramirez going to the Rangers, the Red Sox would have then shipped out Garciaparra, possibly to either the Chicago White Sox or Los Angeles.
Instead, Rodriguez went to the Yankees and Garciaparra stayed and stewed. Confessing that his feelings were hurt, he said he still wanted to finish his career with the Red Sox.
Boston Red Sox
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI R SB AVG
38 5 21 24 2 .321
But the good feelings didn't last through spring training. After eight hitless at-bats, he injured his Achilles tendon and missed 57 games with an injury that was supposed to keep him out a week.
Garciaparra, 31, is batting .321 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 38 games this season.
"When you have a player of that stature, that has spent his entire career there winning MVPs, All-Star game after All-Star game, you really are subject totally to what Theo Epstein decides to do, whether he wants to move him or not," Hendry said.
"I don't think Theo was going to make a deal just to move Nomar because you heard he wanted to leave or he was unhappy. I don't think that was the case at all," he said. "To be truthful with you, I didn't know for sure if he would ever move him."
In the end, Epstein was willing to deal.
"[Nomar] was surprised but he had said that Chicago was a place he would like to go, and he tried to stay in contact with Arm Tellum, his agent, so he wasn't taken completely by surprise," Epstein told ESPN Radio. "... We just thanked him everything he has done for the organization and wished him and his family all the best and good health and good fortune going forward. And Nomar, as always, was a class act."
The Cubs hoped to have Garciaparra available Sunday at Wrigley Field to play against Philadelphia.
Cabrera, a former Gold Glove winner, is batting .246 with four home runs and 31 RBIs. The Expos' future is uncertain, and they've often been forced to trade their best players for young, inexpensive talent.
"Just the fact that I didn't sign back with the team, you can tell from there that I don't like the situation," Cabrera said.
"I'm really excited. I'm going to a contending team. They're fighting for the wild card right now," he said. "Obviously, I have to fill some big shoes with Nomar."
Gonzalez has been injured for much of the season. He's hitting only .222 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
"I think (Cabrera) expressed that he wanted to move on and explore the free-agent market," Montreal GM Omar Minaya said. "We just felt that it was best for us to go out there and try to at least not get nothing for him."
Mientkiewicz is hitting .246 with five homers and 25 RBIs. A crowded roster made him expendable for the AL Central leaders.
Mientkiewicz was in his Twins' gear at the Metrodome several hours before gametime, talking to reporters, when bench coach Steve Liddle interrupted the session and took him away.
A little later, Mientkiewicz was dressed in a Red Sox uniform, getting ready to start against the Twins. He got a rousing ovation from his old fans when he was introduced, and his picture on the scoreboard already had him in a Boston hat and jersey.
"It's a little awkward right now, but I think it's better for everyone," he said. "The situation over there was a rough one. They gave me an opportunity in the big leagues, and what the Twins are all about is they give the young guys chances."