â†µNomar was one of the best players in an entire generation of ballplayers for Boston – and part of the triumvirate of shortstops, along with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, who is credited with changing the way the position was played (Barry Larkin starts twitching every time someone writes that, by the way). Nomar is also the star player the Red Sox traded away just three months before they won their curse-breaking World Series in 2004. â†µâ†µ
â†µBy and large, Nomar was beloved in Beantown, so it was an extremely classy move that he was asked to come back and retire with the Sox. Nomar shared his thoughts on why retiring with Boston was so important: â†µâ†µ
â†µâ‡¥"I was not lying when I said I would always have a dream. This is where I started, this is where the dream to play baseball in the big league started here, with the Red Sox. Once I got to play in front of all these fans, and the way this city and all these fans embraced me, I mean, I always just felt that connection. Like I said, for me, I always said I truly wanted this to be the last uniform I ever put on. And today, I get to do that. And that's why it's so important to me." â†µâ†µWell, darn it if that didn't just jerk a tear or two out.
â†µEven Theo Epstein, the man who traded him in 2004 to bring in Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz – two very important cogs in the Sox World Series run – had a little bit of sentimentality at the presser, telling reporters: â†µ
â†µâ‡¥"I grew up a Red Sox fan and even through I was already in baseball when he became a player, I knew what he meant to Boston and to the fans. When his agent contacted us about doing this, I thought it was great. He should go out as a Red Sox because he was such a great player." â†µâ†µNomar was one of those odd middle-of-the-pack superstars in baseball history. He was clearly one of the best in the game right out of the gate, being named Rookie of the Year in 1997, followed by a .323/35/122 year in 1998, which earned him a runner-up spot in the MVP voting. In 1999 he hit .357 and then hit an insane .372 in 2000, averaging 100 RBI, before his career went off the tracks a bit when he had a wrist injury in 2001. He was productive in 2002 and 2003 for Boston, but clearly Epstein saw something needed to change and shipped him out to Chicago, where he subsequently bounced around the league for the next few years. He was great, but not great enough for long enough. And while he never appeared in the Mitchell Report, there were constant rumors about his name being included, which (perhaps unfairly) saddles his career a bit. So his baseball legacy may become somewhat of a lost commodity, stuck in an era of speculation and saddled by the circumstances of his last five years. â†µ
â†µThere was little surprise Nomar joined the team at ESPN, the primary focus being an analyst on Baseball Tonight. Quite frankly, it's surprising it took this long for ESPN to fill the giant pro-Red Sox void left by Peter Gammons. Nomar should fit in comfortably, as ESPN does a good job of bringing on former players who lack a lot of television experience and turning on the polisher. I assume ESPN has a giant machine – heretofore called The Polisher – that scrubs and shines new talent to be TV-ready. â†µâ†µ
â†µESPN linked to a clip of Nomar's appearance on Baseball Tonight from February, and while he sounds rather dull and predictable, he did show a solid grasp of TV timing and camera awareness. ESPN can probably fix the rest…presumably using The Polisher. The release also indicates that he'll make "select appearances" as a game analyst for the network. â†µâ†µ
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