Game Time: Nomar Retires And Heads To The Place Ballplayers Go to Die.....ESPN
I've worked several places in my lifetime, most of them in the corporate world. Easily, my favorite place I've worked is with my current employer, 1560 The Game. After watching Nomar Garciaparra's feel-good press conference this week where he announced his retirement on the heels of a one-day contract with his original team, the Boston Red Sox, I would hope that if someday 1560 and Team Pendergast (which consists of me and my goldfish, Gibby) part ways that John Granato would allow me to sign a one-day contract and retire as a 1560 personality.
Of course, to reach a place where that scenario is feasible, you have to make two assumptions:
1. You have to assume that I will someday have enough money to retire, and having crunched the numbers, with three kids to put through college and now a career in local talk radio, I have estimated that I will finally be able to hang 'em up at age 142. So in about 101 years, I can stick my toes in the sand!
2. You have to assume that the charade of the "one-day contract" means you're actually retiring as a member of whatever organization it is that decided to grant you your final press conference.
And that's where we come back to Nomar Garciaparra. I suppose, on one hand, diehard Red Sox fans would tell you that it's appropriate that Nomar leave the game with his final contract saying "Boston Red Sox" at the top of the page. He had, by far, his best years of his career as a member of their organization, and if the organization wants to let bygones be bygones as it pertains to the perception of Nomar as a moody bitch in 2004, they can do what they want. It's their playground (although reports out of Boston indicate trepidation on management's part right up to presser time this week).
On the other hand, I'm a big believer that you accept whatever your fate deals you professionally; I'm not a big fan of contrived scenarios (my love for professional wrestling notwithstanding). The facts are that Nomar Garciaparra was a rising star who, fairly or unfairly, became the face of the Red Sox post-season failures for his iterations of the team, was dealt to the Cubs in mid-season 2004 where he got a hero's welcome (I lived in Chicago at that time; trust me, Cubs fans were insane for Nomar when he got there), and ultimately watched his career die a slow death, largely under the weight of injuries.
It finally ended with his playing not even half a season for the A's in 2009, clocking in the occasional appearance at first base (when he wasn't DH-ing, which is the ultimate "last step before being set out to pasture" for players whose physical tools are diminishing). For a guy who was mentioned in the same breath as Jeter and A-Rod in the late 90's, it was a pretty ignominious career death. So forgive me, but Nomar didn't retire a Boston Red Sox; he retired a broken-down corner infielder, bumping around from team to team, collecting his checks. It's okay, there's no crime in that. But let's just say there's no scraps in my scrapbook (and I'm a Red Sox fan, mind you).
Now, the 800-pound gorilla in the room with respect to Nomar -- is he getting off lightly with respect to speculation about performance-enhancing drugs?
I know, I know, it's irresponsible to accuse someone when we don't have full-fledged proof, so to be clear, I am not accusing him of using. However, I think PED's are now baked into the historical perspective of the game for the late `90's/Mitchell Report Era, so to ignore it is also somewhat irresponsible. With all that said, I'll merely present some facts, and you the reader can determine what you want to about Nomar:
1. From 1997-2003 (age 23 through 29), Nomar was in the top 11 for the AL MVP every year that he was healthy (5 of 6 years), won two batting titles, and was over .870 OPS in every full season he played (sometimes well over).
2. In 2003, he hit 28 home runs. This is the last time he would ever reach that mark. Every year after this he was injured, a big reason he was in the single digits in home runs every year except 2006 when he hit 20 for the Dodgers.
3. He did a Sports Illiustrated cover in the late 90's that had him shirtless, greased up, and...well, quite muscular. Put it this way, if he were asked to do this shoot post-Mitchell Report, he'd have fired his P.R. guy for even bringing it up.
So now we're onto the most offensive part of Nomar's retirement, the part where he gets added to ESPN's cast of "thousands of former pro athletes who have nothing insightful to say." Seriously, 2010 is a great day and age to be a retired pro athlete -- not only do you get your pension, but if you can string a few words of English together, you have a virtual second pension with ESPN. What a country!
Some of the former big leaguers on the Worldwide Leader are really good -- like John Kruk, and...well, John Kruk. But most of them don't tell me anything that I can't get from just watching the game myself. Orestes Destrada? Eduardo Perez? Chris Singleton? I didn't give a rat's ass about them when they were players, why would I care about them as analysts, especially if I'm learning nothing from them. Hell with Nomar, at least I cared about him as a player, but did he ever have anything interesting to say?
I just think it's crazy when you hear about belt-tightening going on in certain parts of ESPN, and then they shell out whatever they plan to for Nomar (one dollar is too much). I guess the suits at ESPN know better than I do how to run their business; after all, they'll probably retire before the age of 142.
But if it were me, I'd hire my man Kige Ramsey....
I guess I'm just a different kind of consumer.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the Sean & John Show, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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