As one of the best Red Sox players for the better part of a decade, it’s no surprise that many Red Sox baseball card collectors covet his cardboard treasures. Number 5 looked like a surefire Hall of Famer after breaking out in his true rookie year of 1997. Of course, just seven years later he would be dealt in one of the most heartbreaking trades in Red Sox history. His career would have a couple more highlights, first with the Cubs and another good year with the Dodgers, before injuries finally forced Nomar to call it a career.
Of course, Number 5 is alive in the hobby. Plenty of people daily search for the best deals on Nomar cards. In February 2021, Google had 320 average monthly searches for “nomar garciaparra rookie card” and 90 monthly searches for “Nomar Garciaparra baseball card”. Garciaparra has appeared on baseball cards every year since 1992 through 2021. According to the Trading Card Database, there are 7,777 unique Nomar Garciaparra cards as of February 2021, including parallels and oddballs.
If he’s not worthy of a Baseball Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown, New York, then why is he so massively popular in the baseball card hobby? A while back, I concocted a “Hobby Points” formula which weighs the key baseball card numbers (HR, RBI, extra bases, and SB) heavily in order to calculate a player’s “hobby cred.” Using this formula, we find that his per game mark for these key statistics comes out at a higher mark than some Hall of Famers.
That score being so high is mostly thanks to Nomar missing pretty much all of the 2000 season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, with much of his decline being spent on the disabled list. Because of all of those missed games, Nomar’s short, but exceptional, peak is magnified in his per game stats. His 162 game averages look like those of a Hall of Famer.
That being said, how does Nomar stack up to his contemporaries? Baseball Reference has some very interesting Similarity Scores for Nomar, his most comparable being David Wright. It’s an appropriate comp, considering the third baseman Wright was an absolute monster for the New York Mets before injuries torpedoed his career, too. His high per 162-game marks just back up what an exceptional career he was having. Wright’s presence on baseball cards through 2020 proves the point of his continued interest within the card collecting hobby.
Nomar Garciaparra VS Derek Jeter in the Baseball Card Hobby
Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter is one of the biggest names in the entire baseball card hobby. As his career and Nomar’s began around the same time, many baseball fans considered him and Nomar to be “mirror images.” So, of course, we have to see how Nomar stacks up against the Yankee Captain. Ordinarily, my Hobby Points formula – which focuses on the key Hobby stats of HR, doubles, runs, and RBI – only looks at regular season play. This means we’d be ignoring Jeter’s amazing postseason contributions. Of course, Nomar had good postseason numbers, limited as they were.
By our measure, Nomar actually rates a bit better than Jeter. But, Jeter played in 2747 games, while Nomar played in just 1434 games. So, Jeter obviously scores twice as well in the long run. If you include postseason numbers, those numbers will improve somewhat in Jeter’s favor. But, even if we factor in postseason numbers, not much changes on a per game basis, actually. What does this mean?
All this means is that had Nomar played as long as Derek Jeter, he likely would have entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020. So, the baseball card hobby love Nomar gets is completely deserved. His body, like those of so many great athletes before him, let him down in his prime. Of course, because his career ended fairly early, and finishing up out of the spotlight in Oakland, his cards lost their luster. Meanwhile, even with a poor final season, Jeter played his entire career in the Bronx, and everyone knew he was destined for the Hall of Fame. So, his card sales have never lost positive momentum.
Who do you think was the better shortstop in their prime: Nomar Garciaparra or Derek Jeter?