Thursday, June 10, 2004

6 Innings of Nomar

Well, he was back last night. And he swung at the first pitch. Wouldn't have been right if he didn't. Nomar bounced a nice single through the left side on the second pitch he saw, then in his next at-bat, ripped a ball to left field. It was caught, but it was one of those lasers that only he seems to be able to hit. He later made one of his trademark plays in the hole, but Hands Dominique couldn't pull the throw out of the dirt. Or avoid tossing the ball in the stands immediately afterwards. You've just been Dominiqued! Garciaparra's most notable moments however, happened before he put the uniform back on.

At 4:15 yesterday Nomar held a little press conference about getting back from the injury, and it was carried in and outside of Boston. He answered questions about what he was expecting that night, how much he would he play, what delayed his comeback, even if he was trying to stick it to the Sox management. Some goofy questions, but mostly standard stuff. Would've been easy enough to give some pat answers, smile to the writers, and get on with preparing for the game. But Nomar didn't do that. No, instead, he put on his most passive aggressive smile, his most subtly sarcastic laugh, and went about scolding the men who wanted his information. It wasn't Barry Bonds or Carl Everett territory, but it was almost as obnoxious. Nomar is too smart, and, honestly, too polite, to overtly demean a reporter or insult him, so he takes the edge off. He pretends like he's having a good time, like he's enjoying a playful back and forth, and peppers each of his remarks with a forceful laugh. "Nomar, did you feel like you took your time coming back?" "Ha ha, no no, were I to have taken my time, old chum, I wouldn't have returned 'til frightful late August! What a predicament that would have been, eh?" That's what he wants us to hear, but it's not what it sounds like. There's a tension in his voice and an anger in his tone. Rather than "hey friend", he seems to be expressing more of a "shut up jerk." The constant subtext is, "how dare you ask me that?". But he's subtle about it. He talks in such a manner that if ever called on being unpleasant, he could simply note that he was laughing and had a smile on his face. Yes, he's technically filling his role as a helpful ballplayer, but the animosity is so palpable you feel sorry for the reporters. Not an easy feat. You know Nomar hates having this conversation, and he's going make the writers pay for putting him through it. It's very awkward, and more than a little childish. It seems from his reaction yesterday and his comments in the past that Garciaparra genuinely cares for the fans of Boston, but can't tolerate their emissary, the reporters. It's an understandable stance, but it's one that might eventually steer him out of the city. Don't you think? How do you agree to stay in a place where you know you'll have to have a daily root canal? That's what yesterday's press conference sounded like, and it was no worse or better than the questions he must face everyday. So while it was nice to have Nomar back between the lines, the live glimpse we got of him outside them was far more significant. We've heard before that he doesn't like it here, but yesterday we got to see it. Too bad really, could've been a fun day.