Tales from two cities
Garciaparra, Sox offer differing views on pre-trade events
CHICAGO -- On the first day he wore Cubbie blue with an alien "8" on his back instead of his familiar No. 5, was accorded a 35-second standing ovation and heard -- for the first time in the big leagues -- a packed house chant his name while pronouncing both syllables the way they are written, Nomar Garciaparra momentarily set aside his elation over his fresh start and let some bitterness toward his former employers seep through.
The most stinging remarks were directed toward principal owner John W. Henry, with whom Garciaparra and his agent, Arn Tellem, had a major falling out last December after Garciaparra learned the Red Sox were trying to trade for another All-Star shortstop, Alex Rodriguez, and Tellem accused Henry of being "disingenuous." Garciaparra said he had not heard from Henry either before or after the four-team trade Saturday in which he was sent to the Cubs, with the Sox acquiring shortstop Orlando Cabrera from the Montreal Expos and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz from the Minnesota Twins.
"No, it doesn't surprise me," Garciaparra said regarding the lack of contact from Henry. "I haven't heard from him all offseason and during the season, so I don't expect to hear from him now.
"This is something I had no control over. Boston was the place I bought a home in, thinking I'm going to be setting up shop here and spend the rest of my career here.
"I didn't trade me."
The Garciaparra trade not only represents the departure of a franchise player, the rare type who many envision playing for one team his entire career, but also is emblematic of a failure, on the part of the Sox and to a lesser extent Garciaparra, to find a way to reconcile the hurt, distrust, and anger between player and team. The Sox explored the A-Rod trade last winter in part because they were uncertain whether Garciaparra wanted to stay long term. They elected to part with Garciaparra not only because they assumed, in the aftermath of the A-Rod dealings, that he definitely would leave as a free agent after the season, but because they had serious doubts about how much Garciaparra would play the rest of this season.
The Cubs traded for Garciaparra even after being informed by Sox general manager Theo Epstein that Garciaparra expressed fears that he would have to go back on the disabled list because of his sore right Achilles' tendon, and was uncertain about how much he would be able to play the remainder of the season. One Cubs official, who asked to remain anonymous, praised Epstein for full disclosure of Garciaparra's medical condition, and said trainers from both teams spoke Saturday morning to discuss Garciaparra, hours before the deal was finalized.
Cubs manager Dusty Baker said yesterday he expected Garciaparra might need to miss one game a week, which is a much sunnier scenario than the one Garciaparra presented to Sox officials in recent days, according to those officials. And none of the Cubs executives who spoke about the Garciaparra negotiations expressed fears they were gambling that Garciaparra would remain healthy for the balance of the season.
More than three weeks ago, according to multiple sources, the Sox had spoken to the Cubs about a potential three-way trade in which they would have acquired Arizona ace Randy Johnson by sending Garciaparra to the Cubs, with the Cubs sending prospects to the Diamondbacks. But the Cubs and Sox learned quickly that deal wasn't going to happen, with Johnson having no interest in coming to Boston -- first, because he only wanted to go to a team he considered a shoo-in for the playoffs, and second, because he was not eager to reunite with Sox ace Curt Schilling, with whom he'd shared a co-MVP in the 2001 World Series.
The Sox then turned their attention to Cubs righthander Matt Clement, but the Cubs weren't willing to part with the pitcher. For a time, there was talk about an expanded deal in which the Sox would have traded Garciaparra and pitcher Derek Lowe to the Cubs for Clement and shortstop Alex Gonzalez, but the Sox weren't eager to take Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, the Cubs, unconvinced the Sox would part with Garciaparra, were pursuing a separate trade for a shortstop with Montreal, focusing on Cabrera in exchange for prospects. But on Saturday, according to direct participants in the talks, the deal shifted to one in which the Cubs would acquire Garciaparra and flip Cabrera and Mientkiewicz to the Sox after making separate deals with Montreal and Minnesota, respectively.
The Sox also threw in less than $1 million to the Cubs and Single A outfielder Matt Murton, who at one point was ticketed to be part of the package the Cubs were sending to Montreal for Cabrera until the Expos elected to take another player instead.
The Sox' focus changed to Cabrera in the final days before Saturday's deadline, according to multiple sources, after Garciaparra told team trainers and manager Terry Francona that he would have to miss extended periods of time the rest of the season, and might have to go on the 15-day disabled list. Indeed, between games of the day-night doubleheader with Baltimore just before the All-Star break, Garciaparra underwent an MRI on his Achilles'. The results, according to the Sox medical staff, were encouraging, but Garciaparra, according to team sources, complained of ongoing soreness and at one point expressed a fear that he thought the tendon "would blow."
"There was a lot of uncertainty," Francona said yesterday in Minnesota. "It's not his fault. He came back from an injury that was probably more serious than people knew. His availability was definitely in question a lot, probably a lot more than we let on. And it was probably going to continue that way. It was a tough situation for Nomar, too. He was carrying a lot of weight."
Did Garciaparra indicate to the team he had to go on the DL? "That I don't know if I'd be comfortable saying completely," said Francona. "First of all, the conversations I've had with Nomar are supposed to kind of stay between me and Nomar. I mean, we'd talk a lot.
"There were some concerns about him and this trip especially, being on turf, and then going forward."
Yesterday, Garciaparra evaded answering questions about those assertions directly. At first, he said he could not respond because he did not know what the team had said. He then said that what was said was between him and the trainers, then emphasized that to date he only had missed a game or two at a time since coming off the DL.
" I was playing," Garciaparra said. "I was happy to be back. I took a day off on turf, then was in the lineup [Saturday]. Draw your own conclusions. I took one day because of the turf. Some things were discussed between me and the trainers, but nothing had changed. I knew it was something that was going to linger all year. I understood that rest was going to heal it, and I was going to rest in the offseason.
"I really haven't hid anything from you guys [reporters]. I told you why I sat down on certain days."
Garciaparra, who batted second and singled home the final run of a four-run seventh in which the Cubs rallied for a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday, charmed his new constituency with both his play and the terms of endearment he used in describing the nervous excitement he felt in performing for the first time in a major league uniform that said neither "Boston" nor "Red Sox."
"My first game, the ovation I got, things like that you never forget -- I know I won't," Garciaparra said.
The trade to the Cubs reunited Garciaparra with second baseman Todd Walker, who played with the Sox last season and is one of Garciaparra's closest friends.
"I'm extremely excited, more for personal reasons than business reasons," Walker said. "I love Nomar. I love his family."
Walker said he first heard about the possibility of Garciaparra coming to the Cubs about a week and a half ago.
"I called him," Walker said. "He had no idea. Neither did anyone else. Just the thought of it was exciting."
Asked if he thought Garciaparra felt a sense of relief in the aftermath of the trade, Walker said: "I'm not sure if it's a relief, but he's definitely excited, and you can read a lot into that. Take that for what it's worth."
Walker rejected any suggestion that Garciaparra was a problem in the Sox clubhouse, calling him a "great teammate. I was only there for a year," Walker said, "but ask guys like [Jason] Varitek, [Derek] Lowe, guys who've been around."
Garciaparra said no one in the Sox organization told him about the possibility that he would be traded until Francona called him into his office in Minnesota Saturday afternoon to inform him that the deal had been consummated. Sox CEO Larry Lucchino did not call him, Garciaparra said, until he was back in the team's hotel, talking by phone to his parents, as he packed up in advance of his trip to Chicago.
"Honestly, I was watching TV to see if I'd been traded," he said. "I thought that was the only way to find out. I didn't hear one word from them until Tito [Francona] called me in. That's the only time I heard about it, as far as them talking to me."
Garciaparra and agent Tellem met with Epstein, Henry, and Lucchino July 24 before the Sox and Yankees played at Fenway Park, though the player's recollection of the purpose of the meeting and the club's sharply diverge.
"We talked about the team," Garciaparra said. "They didn't talk about me. They asked me what did I think about the team. I said, `What's the difference between our record now and a year ago? Look at it. One game. What are you worried about? Ride it out.' There was nothing about me."
The club's version: The meeting was called specifically to address whatever concerns Garciaparra had, and what the club could do to make him less unhappy than he appeared.
But by then, it was evident there was no repairing the damage done the previous winter, when Garciaparra insisted he knew nothing of the club's pursuit of Rodriguez until his honeymoon, and dismissed the club's claims that they were interested in re-signing him by saying that they had not made him another offer until after he'd called WEEI from Hawaii and complained of the A-Rod hunt.
On the contrary, the club said. They had notified Tellem in early November of a new four-year, $48 million contract proposal, citing a "market adjustment" to explain why they were offering $12 million less than they had in the previous spring. At the time, club sources say, Tellem dismissed the offer and said it wasn't even worth passing on to Garciaparra.
Talks went nowhere again this spring, with the Sox barely increasing their offer by around a half-million dollars a year, while structuring the deal so that it would include deferred payments, some of which wouldn't kick in until 2025, according to one Garciaparra confidant. Garciaparra then missed the first 57 games while recovering from the Achilles' injury he sustained in a workout early in spring training, an injury Sox doctors originally projected would sideline Garciaparra for a day or two.
Garciaparra said he and Henry spoke just once during the season.
"I saw him a week after I got back [from the DL]," Garciaparra said. "He said, `hello.' "
"My actions speak louder than my words," Garciaparra said. "I go out and play hard. What words did they say? I don't know their actions. You can draw your own conclusions between the words and actions on their part. "I don't have any regrets. What do I have to regret? Going out there, playing the game I love, as hard as I can? I respected the uniform. I was proud to represent it on and off the field.
" I know what I've done. I like what I see in the mirror, what I've been about."
Bob Hohler of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Minneapolis.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.