photo by Sam
In good times and bad, Garciaparra was unnecessarily difficult in all interactions with the media. It made no sense, given the fawning coverage he received (and deserved) for the first seven years of his career. Fans needn’t care which players give good sound bites, but no one was more unhappy than Nomar, and it infected the workplace.
It’s forgiving of the Sox to bring him back, but there’s no need to reinvent history in the process. Sox fans are too smart. It’s insulting for Epstein, Lucchino, and Garciaparra to insist that this relationship has always been good.
In yesterday’s sorry spirit of disingenuousness and hypocrisy, Garciaparra announced that he has taken a job with ESPN. This makes him a member of the media, which is like Sarah Palin telling us she is going to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Garciaparra is the one who had a red stripe put down in front of lockers in the Sox clubhouse. Woe was the scribe who crossed Nomar’s line of death. Now he is a credential-wearing media guy, groveling for free food, Marriott points, and a few seconds with 20-year-old Casey Kelly.
While I still find Shaughnessy easily as disingenuous and, what was it, "unnecessarily difficult"? as Nomar ("I hate to be the fly in the punch bowl here," he writes before laying into Garciaparra with all the venom in his pen -- my ass, you do), at least when it comes to his announcement he plans to work for ESPN, I admit my eyebrows were raised.
And while it was easy to get caught up in the sentimentality of yesterday -- I maintain most of us were thinking not of Nomar and his potential hypocrisy but of ourselves, our emotions about him in 2004 (and let's not forget, five years ago, today's 18-year-old "adults" were 12 and 13 year old kids), where we were when we heard he was traded, waxing nostalgic about how things used to be -- I also found myself Tweeting, "Fame's no longer such a burden when it's gone, eh, No. 5."
While, as I said, no Sox uniform has been heavier than the one Nomar wore, and no post-World Series star will ever know the kind of pressure he was under, it is true that his exit was messy, he was a bitter pill for most of that last year, and Shaughnessy knows better than I how he was with press in the clubhouse. Plenty of players might snub Shaughnessy himself, but I've heard about that red line before, and something like that doesn't discriminate between hacks and noble scribes. Something like that says, get away from me, all of you. ALL of you.
If you want to know the truth, if I had to assess Nomar's mental state right now, it would be, to quote the old hair band tune, "You Don't Know What You've Got Till it's Gone." I believe he has regrets, about the way he acted, about what he didn't know, about how the rest of his career has turned out. He went from a god in this town, an icon, to a utility guy in the National League. He's had his fill of his antisocial solitude -- and, I believe, has realized just how careful you should be about what you wish for. And yes, he now has to figure out a new way to make a living.
It did make me chuckle, hearing Nomar look back with such fondness on his time with the Red Sox -- and it is, of course, a reversal of his attitude when he walked out of that clubhouse in Minnesota in July 2004.
"It’s downright fraudulent to deny or ignore how bad this relationship was at the end," Shaughnessy harps.
But I don't know that anyone's denying or ignoring, is the thing, at least among those of us out here in the peanut gallery, whom the CHB, as always, completely underestimates. And I wonder, what's the harm in this forgiveness? What does it cost us, if we all acknowledge that once upon a time, what was between us and this player was nothing short of a love affair? What's the harm in this fleeting acknowledgment for a player who, in the end, will probably neither see his number retired or his face on a plaque in Cooperstown? Should we really let him retire from the game without even a tiny nod to what he once meant to the team and the town? And if so, for what purpose?
Shaughnessy looks at Nomar and sees a certain manipulativeness, which I can't necessarily argue with. He looks at yesterday's sentimentality and sees cheesiness, which I also can't totally deny. But where he's wrong is when he looks at the fans who embraced him yesterday as naive, stupid and / or in denial. What we're doing, that Shaughnessy can't or won't, is acknowledging how good it was once, how badly it ended, appreciating the closure...and moving on.