"Funny that Garciaparra, who has had more rules than the White House for when, how and with whom he would do interviews, called a Boston radio station during his honeymoon last week and expressed his desire to stay with the Red Sox.
That call, coming after his agent criticized the Red Sox and while the Red Sox surged forward in pursuit of Rodriguez, fits under the heading of learning how to say hello when it is time to say goodbye."
--The New York Times
Okay, okay, already. I've fought long and hard to keep from blogging about this, but I give up. Here's my $0.02 about Nomar and A-Rod.
A-Rod is the best player in baseball...supposedly. Nomar, on the other hand, is among the best players in baseball, and he's given us here in Boston close to a decade of quality, on and off the field. In stark contrast to media-guzzling prima donnas like Roger and Manny, Nomar is an All Around Nice Guy (tm). In a way, he's been the face of the Red Sox for a public that has often had to search for reasons to keep believing.
Of course, Nomar also slumped in the clutch, batting an inestimably damaging .105 in the postseason, including in the ugly series against the dreaded Yanks. (Let me take this moment to note that no matter what, they still suck.) As a shortstop, Nomar was adequate, but he wasn't A-Rod...evidently. And while there are many other teams that might benefit from a nice, adequate shortstop, if Boston is to realize its championship dreams, let's face it--we need a nuclear weapon between second and third. So, as much as I love Nomar, A-Rod is probably the man for the job...I guess.
Here, now, we return to that familiar wrenching territory we last visited during the Lawyer Milloy debacle. It comes down to the terrible horns of a fan's dilemma: do you follow a team? Or a player? Back when Teddy Ballgame was playing left field, it was a nonissue. Now that Manny Ramirez is in that same position, it's clear that times have changed. Lest we forget, ol' No. 9 also won precisely as many World Series as today's Red Sox have: zero.
Players come and go. Especially in the money-drenched, cutthroat business that is baseball, athletes have become little more than mercenaries. The warm and fuzzy chemistry between players and fans--where it still even exists at all--often crashes up against the singularly insensitive business of contract extensions, trade talks, and that most barbaric of modern sports concepts, free agency. The attachment that stubbornly continues to form between individual players and their fan base, even in the hostile environment of the modern sports machine, has taken on a new and disparaging name: binkyism.
"Binky", coined, as far as I know, by the sports talk radio personalities here in Boston, is a word for a player to whom a fan becomes thus foolishly attached. It's also, in the common vernacular, the word for a child's pacifier, and an apt term when applied to the sports concept, given that an attachment to a player past his prime in this modern world is about as useful as chewing on a piece of plastic. It speaks also to the irrationality of that attachment--and the ways it might hold you back from bigger and better--and, let's face it, more dignified--things. And finally, it covers the irresistibility of habit that's involved as well.
So, yes, Nomar is my binky. I like his big nose and his big teeth and his sloppy grin. I like the way he does his little ritual in the batters' box. I like the way he seems like the kind of guy who'd let you shake his hand. I also like his batting average (most of the time) and his RBI record. I like how disciplined he seems in a world of pampered multi-billionaires. Nomar, as a baseball player, is the last of a dying breed, something even Ted Williams was heard to remark upon. I even like the photo-ops I see of him with Mia, and how starkly they contrast with, say, Jen and Ben. He's a superstar, but he's a real guy.
Of course, he's also a real guy who turned down $60 million to stay last spring, and then resorted to calling talk radio to plead his case as trade talk began to center around him getting the bum's rush out of town. That was a disingenuous little stunt, to say the least. And at the end of the day, Nomar gets paid to be popular, but he's also a man who gets paid a ridiculous amount of money to play a child's game. So what's more important to me? One very, very rich man's desperate attempts to save his own stardom, much as I've bought into it over the years, or the chances of my beloved, long-suffering hometown team to finally, finally win the fabled Series?
I think you know the answer.