1992 Topps Traded Nomar Garciaparra
My favorite, and maybe only tolerable, Red Sox of the past fifteen years. Nomar Garciaparra was also a pretty fun player to watch and one of those players who you wouldn't mind seeing win something. Unfortunately, the Red Sox traded him before they won they title in 2004. Would have made that pill a little easier to swallow. Anywho, Nomar's rookie card showed up in the 1992 Topps Traded set as a USA Baseball player. This was a really cool, and slightly pricey card back in the day, but has lost much of its luster nowadays. A really easy find on Ebay for a couple of bucks. You can also check out the 1993 Stadium Club Murphy which has the added bonus of being sold in a set that comes in a giant plastic model of Jack Murphy Stadium.
Nomar was part of the big three AL East shortstops in the late 90s with the other two being Derek Jeter and Miguel Tejada. Garciaparra has always been second fiddle on that list to Jeter with baseball card collectors and it appears it is kind of permanently etched that way at this point. Garciaparra is still plenty popular though. In my opinion, he was the face of the Red Sox from late 90s through the early part of the 2000s.
Even after he was traded, he remained a popular figure with Red Sox collectors. Topps has put out several Nomar cards including autographs and relic cards since his retirement from baseball in 2009. My key to find good Nomar cards goes like this: remember that Nomar played for the Cubs, Dodgers, and A's, now go find his Red Sox cards. The Red Sox traded Nomar for a good reason and the later years of his career were not really reflective of the type of player he was for much of his time on the Red Sox. Well, maybe 2006 with the Dodgers.
Nomar has plenty of cool cards out on the market largely due to the fact that he was a great player, a popular Red Sox, and just a cool player to watch. Collectors have their choices with plenty of cool base cards, inserts, and short prints to nab. If I had to add one Nomar card to my collection though, I would save my money up and buy one of his autographs. Like this one:
2000 Topps Stadium Club Nomar Garciaparra Lone Star Signature Autograph
Nomar has a great signature which has changed very little over the past fifteen years and is a great add to any collection. Many of his early Red Sox autographs are on-card signatures (Dodgers and Cubs tend to be stickers) and can be had for between $40 and $50. A little bit more than the average autograph, but the popular Red Sox factor drives up the price a bit.
On The Field Impact-
As mentioned before, Garciaparra was apart of the big three shortstops in the AL East during the late 1990s. The American League also had Alex Rodrgiuez at the time making the position quite deep. Don't tweet me about Omar Vizquel. For the time being I am just going to focus on Jeter and Garciaparra. ARod was better than both Jeter and Nomar, and despite spending half his career at third base, ranks as a top 5 shortstop all-time on several different lists. However, I really despise those who think that Jeter was really better than Garciaparra during the late 90s. Lets look at some numbers.
Let's start by look at their WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for the years 1997-2000. That would be Garicaparra's first season through Jeter's fourth World Series title. According to the court of public opinion, I would guess that many would place Jeter ahead of Garciaparra, but math doesn't lie.
In fact, if you look at the 7 year-peak WAR used for the JAWS rating, Garciaparra is still higher than Jeter despite the fact that Nomar's seven seasons are diluted by injury shortened seasons. It's one stat, but there are others we can compare too...
Let's take a look at one more. Here are the two shortstop's OPS+ from the same four year stretch.
Garciaparra has a clear advantage in this stat too. While Jeter is shown to be an above average player, though 1997 he's rather pedestrian, he is below Garciaparra in three of the years and be large amounts. The one year that Nomar is not ahead of Jeter, they are just even.
Really the only thing Jeter has going for him in an argument against Nomar Garciaparra is longevity and his World Series rings. Although it would probably pain Yankees fan to know that Garciaparra has a higher postseason batting average. If Nomar had played twenty seasons and been manning shortstop in 2004 and 2007, maybe this season too, nobody outside of New York would even debate the better shortstop.
Garciaparra could be a Hall of Famer. Still really popular as witnessed below.
My favorite part of watching Nomar play was watching him hit. He could hold his own in the field, but he was a great hitter. He was really busy while he was up at the plate and had the same busy routine before every pitch. Here it is while he was in AA
The pre-pitch routine was cool, but the guy could hit. I have always enjoyed the cards of Nomar batting more than the cards in the field, so I am going with this one as my favorite.
2002 Upper Deck Vintage
This appears to be somewhere during the foot shuffle/stomp part of the pre-pitch routine. Really good photograph by Upper Deck.