Younger fans might remember Nomar Garciaparra by name, but forget how good he was when he broke into the Major Leagues for his first full season in 1997. The shortstop, who played in the same division as another young phenom, Derek Jeter, quickly proved that the battle for the best young shortstop in baseball had a new name to consider.
Nomar won Rookie of the Year in 1997, leading the league in hits (209) to help him bat an impressive .306/.342/.534 with 30 home runs and 98 RBIs. The rookie shortstop won the Silver Slugger Award and finished 8th in MVP voting.
Over the next several seasons, when healthy, he was one of the premier hitters in baseball. He won the batting title in back-to-back seasons in 1999 and 2000, hitting .357 and .372, respectively. Between 1997-2003, he batted .325/.372/.557 with 169 home runs and 653 RBIs, along with 77 stolen bases.
Yeah, Nomah, as they called him in Boston, was pretty darn good.
Unfortunately, by the time he turned 30, injuries started to slow him down. After recovering from a wrist injury that cost him most of the 2001 season, an Achilles heel injury sidelined him for much of 2004. The injuries started to pile up, forcing him to miss all but 62 games in 2005.
Then the Dodgers signed him.
Garciaparra’s 2006 season in Los Angeles resurrected his career. After two straight seasons spent mostly on the disabled list, and many worried his career was over, he played 122 games in his debut season with the Dodgers, batting .303/.367/.505 while hitting 20 home runs and 93 RBIs.
He did all of that while adjusting to a new position, first base, where he committed only 1 error over his first 588.2 innings of wearing the different sized glove.
Garciaparra was named the 2006 National League Comeback Player of the Year.
Nomar would play two more seasons in blue and white. He proved steady again at the plate in 2007, before the injury bug caught him again in 2008.