As the Boston Red Sox prepare to return to Fenway on the heels of the current 9 game road trip, a quick check around the infield in terms of player longevity should be cause for mild concern among card-carrying members of Red Sox Nation.
Will Middlebrooks has settled in at third and looks to be a fixture there for seasons to come. Barring injury, Dustin Pedroia seemingly has 5-to-7 solid seasons ahead of him in a Bosox uniform. Proving that it’s “Hip” to be Cool, Mike Napoli is good through the 2014 season at 1st and perhaps a bit beyond, and then there’s the shortstop slot, which has been a glaring hole in the fabric of the Red Sox since, well since Nomar Garciaparra departed in 2004.
And to tell you the objective truth, shortcomings at shortstop appear to be staying with the red Sox for the foreseable future. Stephen Drew is on a short leash with a one-year contract, and could possibly be trade bait this year the closer the July trading deadline draws. And despite some diamonds being polished down on the farm, help may be a season or two away at best.
No need to talk about the fielding accolades of 23-year old Jose Iglesias. His glove is slick as goose poop. Problem is, after a couple of tastes of the Big Leagues, he’s shown little ability to hit much of anything besides a fastball. Iglesias showed some early season promise through the first three weeks of this season, hitting .406 while filling in for Drew while Drew was recovering from a concussion. But since being sent back down to Triple-AAA to play daily and work on a few things varsity manager John Farrell wanted him to improve on, he has regressed offensively. In 32 games with the PawSox, Iglesias is hitting a blistering (sarcasm) .209. He was even benched a few games recently for “failing” to work on the things he was sent down to work on. Xander Bogaerts, actually, is having a more prductive season at Double AA where, through 36 games, he his hitting .284, with a pair of home runs, 8 doubles, 4 triples and 17 rbi. And if he continues on that path, it would not be shocking to see Bogaerts beat Iglesias to the Big League roster on a permanent basis.
But this season’s problems at shortstop are nothing new. And in a reflective manner, they date back to the bittersweet departure of Garciaparra during the 2004 season when he was dispatched to the Cubs, and eventually rebounded following injuries with the Dodgers, before eventually retiring in 2007.
How much do we miss a player like Garciaparra in the all-important #6 spot on the diamond?
Just take a look at his career stats, the bulk of which were complied during his career with Boston, which spanned from his late season debut in 1996, through the 2004 trade, to the conclusion of his career.
Nomar appeared in a total of 1,434 games as a Major Leaguer, collecting 5,586 ABs; scored a total of 927 runs; collected 1,747 career hits, including 370 doubles, 52 triples, 229 home runs, 403 BBs, 554 Ks, stole 95 bases during his run and closed with a career batting average of .313; a career OBP of .361; career slugging percentage of .521 and career OPS of .882.
All-in-all, pretty respectable numbers for a major league shortstop. But his contribution as a Red Sox was even more significant, considering the majority of his accomplishments came while in a Boston uniform. Let’s not forget that among his accomplishments while in beantown, Garciaparra was named an American League All-Star in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003. He was named American League Rookie of the Year in 1997, the same season he won the Silver Slugger award for American league shortstops. He notched three Boston seasons of 25 or more homeruns in ’97 with 30, ’98 with his career high of 35, and in 2003 with 28 round-trippers. He collected at least 90 rbi in six of his major league seasons, including a career high of 120 rbi in 2002. And just to show he still had some gas in the tank after being traded by Boston, Nomar knocked in 93 runs for the Dodgers in 2006 while being selected as the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year.
In the nine years since his departure, no less than 21 players have started at shortstop for Boston in an ever revolving, revolving door. In no particular order, those names would include notables such as Orlando Cabrerra, Alex Cora. Edgar Renteria, the lovable Marco Scutaro, as well as obscure names like Chris Woodward in 2009, and Nick Green in the same season. The complete list of 21 who filled the role includes the above mentioned as well as: Mike Avilles, Pedro Ciariaco, Royce Clayton, Cesar Crespo, Stephen Drew, Alex Gonzalez, Ricky Gutierrez, Jose Iglesias, Jed Lowrie, Alejandro Machado, Hanley Ramirez, Angel Sanchez, Ramon Vazquez and Gil Vazquez. Did I leave any of the Vazquez family out?
Yep, scrambling to fill the hole during the 2009 season Red Sox fans got Nick Green at shortstop. In his retirement, Nomar got soccer hottie Mia Hamm. Any argument about who got the better end of THAT deal?
Nomar, come back. We miss you.
- Bosox Fans: “My Kingdom for a Catcher” (baseballtrashtalkin.org)
- Are The Red Sox Mismanaging Their Shortstop Position? (mlbreports.com)
- Boston Red Sox: Will Boston Move Jose Iglesias Away from Shortstop Long-Term? (bleacherreport.com)