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Garciaparra to retire as a Red Sox

03.10.10 at 9:13 am ET
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WEEI.com’s Lou Merloni reports that Nomar Garciaparra will sign a one-day, minor league deal with the Red Sox and then announce his retirement as a member of the organization. Garciaparra will then commence a career as a baseball analyst for ESPN.

Garciaparra was selected as a first-round pick by the Red Sox in 1994, and reached the majors late in 1996. The next year, his first as a full-timer, he won the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award by hitting .306 with a .342 OBP, .534 slugging mark, 30 homers and 22 steals.

He went on to spend parts of nine seasons as a member of the Red Sox, hitting .323 with a .370 OBP, .553 slugging and .923 OPS. He was a five-time All-Star in Boston, and ranks fourth in franchise history in batting average, fifth in slugging and sixth in OPS. He won back-to-back batting titles in 1999 and 2000, hitting .357 and .372, thus becoming the first right-handed hitter to win consecutive batting titles since Joe DiMaggio in 1939-40.

In the process, he became not only a perennial MVP candidate but also a franchise icon. For a while, it seemed impossible to imagine him in another uniform.

However, in 2004 — his final year under contract with the Sox before reaching free agency — Garciaparra suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon in spring training. His recovery proceeded more slowly than expected, sidelining him for the first two months of the season. When he did return to the field, Garciaparra was still a formidable hitter, but his defensive range at shortstop had become significantly impaired, and his health was also a question mark.

That resulted in the decision by the Red Sox to trade Garciaparra to the Cubs as part of a four-team deal that brought both Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz to Boston. Garciaparra was left to watch the Sox’ World Series run, though he insisted that he still felt involved while watching his former team celebrate its first title in 86 years.

“I felt so much a part of it,” he said this summer. “Getting the ring. I felt so much apart of it because it was a championship season.”

He made an emotional return to Fenway Park as a member of the Oakland A’s this past summer, going 2-for-4 and being treated to a rousing ovation.

Garciaparra played for the Cubs, Dodgers and Athletics after leaving the Sox, a time that included a 2006 campaign in which he once again earned an All-Star berth. But injuries plagued him, and as Lou Merloni describes, Garciaparra realized this offseason that — even though he still wanted to explore playing opportunities — his body was failing him. That, coupled with the opportunity to take a job with ESPN, prompted his decision to announce his retirement.

The Red Sox are holding a 10:30 a.m. press conference in Fort Myers at which Garciaparra will announce his retirement. Garciaparra, 36, concludes his career with a .313 average, .361 OBP, .521 slugging mark and .882 OPS. His OPS is the second highest of all time for a player who spent at least half of his games (min. 3000 plate appearances) playing shortstop.

Here is the Red Sox press release announcing Garciaparra’s signing with, and retirement from, the Sox:

The Boston Red Sox today signed shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to a minor league contract. Immediately following the agreement, Garciaparra announced his retirement.

The announcements were made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein and Garciaparra.

“From the first day I had the thrill of putting on a Red Sox uniform and playing in front of all the great fans at Fenway Park, I have felt at home in Boston,” said Garciaparra. “While I had the privilege of playing with other legendary teams, I always saw myself retiring in a Red Sox uniform. Today I am honored to live that dream thanks to Mr. Henry, Mr. Werner, Mr. Lucchino, Theo, and this wonderful organization. I thank my family, friends, teammates, fans and all who have supported me throughout this wonderful journey.”

“Nomar will always hold a special place in Red Sox history and in the hearts of Red Sox Nation. His accomplishments on the field and in the community place him among the greatest players to wear a Red Sox uniform,” said Principal Owner John Henry. “We are very appreciative that Nomar is ending his career where it began.”

“It was always special to watch the fans cheer when Nomar came to the plate. He gave us some of Fenway’s greatest moments and will forever be a special part of the team’s history,” said Chairman Tom Werner. “We wish Nomar, his wife Mia, and their twin daughters all the best as they enter the next chapter in their lives.”

“We are pleased that Nomar Garciaparra feels such an enduring pride in, respect for, and connection to the Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Nation. I believe I can speak for our entire organization and our passionate fan base and say those sentiments are mutual; we feel the same pride, respect, and connection to Nomar,” said President/CEO Larry Lucchino.  “Welcome home, Nomar.”

Garciaparra, 36, owns a .313 (1,747-for-5,586) batting average, 229 homers and 936 RBI in 1,434 career games over 14 Major League campaigns with the Red Sox (1996-2004), Cubs (2004-05), Dodgers (2006-08) and Athletics (2009). During his nine seasons in Boston he compiled a .323 (1,281-for-3,968) batting average, 178 homers and 690 RBI in 966 games. He is fourth in club history in career batting average and fifth in slugging (.553) among players with at least 1,500 at-bats. Garciaparra also ranks among Boston’s top 15 in career doubles (9th, 279), extra-base hits (9th, 507), home runs (11th, 178), total bases (11th, 2,194), runs (12th, 709) and hits (14th, 1,281).

The right-handed hitter finished among the top 10 in American League Most Valuable Player voting five times with Boston, including four straight from 1997-2000. He is one of six players in Red Sox history to earn AL Rookie of the Year honors after hitting .306 (209-for-684) with 122 runs, 44 doubles, 30 homers, 98 RBI and 22 steals in 1997. He was voted onto six All-Star teams including five with Boston and started at shortstop in the 1999 contest at Fenway Park.

He joins Wade Boggs (1985-88), Carl Yastrzemski (1967-68) and Ted Williams (1941-42, 47-48, 57-58) as the only players in Red Sox history to earn AL batting titles in consecutive seasons, doing so in 1999 (.357) and 2000 (.372). His .372 average in 2000 is the fourth highest in club single-season history. Garciaparra owns the 19th-highest career batting average in Major League history among players with at least 200 career home runs.

He ranked second in the AL with a .325 (1,210-for-3,725) batting average from 1997-2003, including a league-best .337 (791-for-2,349) mark over the first four years of that span. During his time with Boston he tallied 100 runs six times, 100 RBI four times and 25 homers 4 times, including a career-high 35 in 1998.

Garciaparra appeared in 32 playoff games over the course of his career, batting .321 (36-for-112) with seven homers and 24 RBI. He hit .323 (31-for-96) with seven homers and 21 RBI in 25 postseason contests with Boston.

He was originally selected by the Red Sox with the 12th overall pick in first round of the 1994 First-Year Player Draft out of Georgia Tech. He was dealt to the Cubs as part of a four-team trade on July 31, 2004.

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