Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Last Hurrah for Nomar

Sometimes, the Red Sox are weird. Really, that's an understatement: they do odd things all the time, but those odd things usually have some sort of competitive purpose behind them, rich in statistical reason but a bit baffling to the average fan's sense of logic. They'll acquire a guy like Mike Lowell, for example, in a move that looks like agreeing to take out someone else's garbage so you can have their Ferrari - after you've already thrown in your Porsche, of course - and then that garbage will turn out to consist almost entirely of gold bars and stock options to Berkshire Hathaway.

That might be the most complicated metaphor I've ever written on this site.

Point is: sometimes they do things that are weird and out of character with their straitlaced competitive style and more of a throwback to the nostalgic view of the Yawkey years. Like letting an old man sit in the dugout because he's a living symbol of dedication, or naming a foul pole after a guy who hit a particularly dramatic home run. Or, today, signing a one-day deal with an iconic shortstop so he can retire as a member of the Red Sox.

Six years later, the Nomar relationship - such as it is - is less complicated. As Francona commented today, explaining, in essence, why this return full circle makes sense, "He was kind of Boston-ed out." I can understand why: as a fan base, we're overbearing and obnoxious. We care too much about our pro sports teams, we put the performance of every athlete under a microscope, and we're not afraid to express admiration or disgust - or to vacillate the public face between the two at lightning speeds. I'm not sure I'd want to play in Boston.

But time and distance seem to change things. Garciaparra had one last blaze of glory with the Dodgers in 2006, but he no doubt realized his best years were in Boston. Unlike Manny, who did his best to become a person non-grata when he became Boston-ed out, Nomar didn't incur fan ire when he left, and the crowd approval on his return to Fenway last April was tremendous and touching to watch. So Nomar likely lost most of the bitterness that made him want to leave. In the same article announcing his retirement, Theo noted that the two men had maintained some sort of relationship after the trade, and clearly got to the point where they separated business and personal. They were able to work out this unusual deal, and the tall, thin guy from California with the OCD batting rituals and the infield acrobatics came back to the Sox one last time. And really, as odd as it is as a concept, it's pretty cool way to go out.