By Jason Wojciechowski on May 28, 2009 at 2:21 PM
From Mychael Urban: "Geren said Garciaparra, who has been on the DL 14 times during a career that many expect to eventually put him in the Hall of Fame, won't travel with the team to Texas and Chicago for a seven-game trip that starts with a doubleheader Friday." (emphasis added)
Really? Let's tally it up. Nomar had a great four years from 23 to 26, although after his rookie season, he never topped 143 games. He missed about 23 games a year from 24 to 26, twenty-three games where his team had to put below-average backups on the field for him. His age-27 season was destroyed by injury, and he played just 21 games. He played full seasons at 28 and 29, but was a diminished hitter, dropping from a 155 OPS+ at 26 to a 121 OPS+ at 29. He played only a half-season at 30, the year he was traded to the Cubs. At 31, he managed just 62 games. He made a comeback with the Dodgers as a first baseman, and had a 120 OPS+, but that number isn't as impressive when you're a first baseman instead of a shortstop. He hit horribly at 33 (78 OPS+), played 55 games of 105 OPS+ ball at 34, and has been mostly injured for the A's this year, and not hitting even when he's been healthy (another 78 OPS+).
In short, I think Urban is reaching. Garciaparra's peak has been reached by very few players in history: not many shortstops hit the way Nomar did. But career record matters too, and Nomar's career record says that, by WARP, he was a nine-win player at his peak and only once better than a one-win player during his decline. Hall of Famers stay on the field and contribute to their teams. Mickey Mantle, famously the injured superstar, played 1602 games from ages 23 to 34. Nomar's played in 1345, nearly two full season's worth of games fewer. Mark McGwire played in 1517, just over a full season's worth of games more than Nomar.
No, Nomar to the Hall of Fame is merely wishful thinking by Urban, and his "many expect" language is classic journalistic bullshit. Which people is he referring to?
(The inimitable Baseball Reference allowed me to quickly and easily calculate the games played figures for Mantle, Nomar, and Big Mac above.)