Nomar Garciaparra debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2015 and performed just well enough, scoring 30 of 549 votes cast -- or 5.5 percent -- to merit a second chance in 2016. The question for Garciaparra at this point seems not whether he'll get into Cooperstown (he probably won't), but instead "Will this be the last time he'll appear on the ballot?"
It's not a shocking development anymore, since we've already read to the end of the book. We know how it ends: With disappointment. We've known how it was going to end by the time Garciaparra was in his early 30s. Garciaparra had a very good career overall, even a great one when compared to Average Joe MLB. To be fair to Nomar, he actually had two careers: At the start, it was great, even elite. Garcia averaged a .337 batting average and .963 OPS over his first four full seasons for the Boston Red Sox, and was a plus defender at shortstop. His raw stats were padded a bit by Fenway Park and the offensive era in which he played, but similar things could be said about a lot of players. Regardless, he was a true peer to Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (sometimes he was better than both) in a golden era of shortstops. On a track to the Hall of Fame even if it was just four-plus years in the majors.
And then came the season Garciaparra turned 27 years old, in 2001. Nomar's career didn't go off the rails, but it definitely came to a fork -- in the form a split tendon in his wrist. Garciaparra had complained as far back as 1999 about discomfort in his wrist, but it wasn't anything that appeared to hamper his swing. He won consecutive batting titles in '99 and 2000. And then came the following spring training.
Via the Associated Press:
He and team physician Dr. Bill Morgan traced it back to Sept. 25, 1999, when Baltimore's Al Reyes hit Garciaparra on the wrist with a pitch.
But Garciaparra played all of 2000 with only mild discomfort in the wrist and led the AL with a .372 average.
And last Sunday he had his normal spring training workout. Then he went to bed and, by morning, everything had changed. The wrist was swollen and he couldn't throw a ball or swing a bat.
''They tell me that's kind of important in the line of work that I do,'' he said with a laugh.
He wasn't in as good a mood last Monday morning.
''I was shocked when I woke up,'' he said. ''The reason I'm concerned is because it was something that happened a while ago and has come back.
''Since I've been here and working out and training and swinging the bat a whole lot more, it's really flared up.''
Morgan later described the damage, along with the amount of surgery required to fix it, as significant. After missing most of '01, Garcia returned in 2002 and '03 to have very good seasons -- All-Star seasons -- but his offensive output had gone from the stratosphere to something closer to Earth. He wasn't quite the same. Then came 2004, when Nomar had turned 30, and other injuries began to creep in, starting with a bad groin. He also was traded to the Cubs in the midst of what became Boston's first world championship season season since 1918. After playing in back-to-back 156-game seasons in 2002 and '03, he never again played in more than 122 games.
Garciaparra was good from 2004-2009 -- posting a .291/.343/.446 slash line -- and while he was a useful player, he had stopped playing shortstop. He was much more like an Average Joe in the final six seasons of his career, and he was done at age 36.
Garciaparra, at his peak, was a Hall of Fame shortstop in theory. His peak just didn't last long enough.
It's hard to say what effect the purge of the BBWAA electorate will have on Garciaparra's results; we only know for sure that about 475 ballots were sent out this season. According to one expert's opinion, about 450 ballots will be cast. If it's exactly that many, Garciaparra would need 23 votes to eek out another year on the ballot. The only thing that remaining on the ballot for another year would accomplish is the regurgitation, for another year, of how Garciaparra's career wasn't quite good enough to be called immortal.