I don't know how good Nomar Garciaparra is going to be in 2006. Give me all the statistics, hand me all the scouting reports, slip me the x-rays and doctor reports and a note from the nurse and I'll still wonder if Nomar will be, A) Really, really good next season, a cinch for the Comeback Player of the Year award or B) Limping off the field in excruciating pain again, a shadow of his former, fidgety self.
And you know what? I'm not alone in this. Yankees manager Joe Torre, no matter how many wooing phone calls he makes to Nomar, can't know either. Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, even if he remembers Nomar from back in the day, only has hunches. The Dodgers are guessing. So are the Astros. The Twins, also said to be interested in Nomar, have no clue.
Nobody in baseball, or out of it, has any idea as to whether Garciaparra, a former Rookie of the Year, a two-time batting champ, a five-time All-Star with the Red Sox, has anything left. Or if he has everything left.
So how is it that Nomar, 32, is one of the hottest names in the Hot Stove League right now? Garciaparra's agent, Arn Tellem, told the New York Times that his client has narrowed his choices of teams he will play for in '06 to four, with the Yankees being one of those gamblers. Now, Nomar's an intriguing guy, to be sure. He could answer a lot of questions for a team with a need, maybe even help one get over the playoff hump. He could be the missing piece to a lot of puzzles.
But just as surely, he could cause a lot of headaches. He could be a money pit, a payroll drain. He could create a hole in a lot of puzzles.
So many things could go right for a team that signs Garciaparra.
So many things could go wrong.
If Nomar's on -- if he's the guy that he was in Boston from, say, 1997-2000, when he was maybe the best shortstop in the game -- he's worth everything he's asking. Back then, in that four-year span, he had a higher batting average and a better OPS (combined slugging and on-base percentage) than any shortstop in baseball. And he was good in other years, too. In 2002 and 2003 he hit above .300, averaging 26 homers and 113 RBIs.
Ah, but then there's the scary side of Nomar. If he's not the player he was in those years -- if he's the injured Nomar of 2001 or 2004 or 2005, if the wrist or the Achilles' heel or the groin tear that he so horrifically suffered last year catches him again -- well then, the buyer best be aware. The Cubs paid Garciaparra more than $8.2 million last season. He played in only 62 games.
So those are the questions surrounding Nomar. Can he play like he used to? Is it worth the risk to find out?