Adding injury to insult

Updated: April 22, 2005, 5:55 PM ET
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

Athletes say they don't look back, ever.

Athletes lie.

Thus, it is safe to theorize the demons doing wind sprints in Nomar Garciaparra's head right now. Starting with, "Man, I'm glad I got married, otherwise the last 18 months would completely suck."

Nomar Garciaparra
Speculation over steroid use continues to surround Nomar Garciaparra.
Thursday, Garciaparra got the cheery news that he'll miss at least the next two months with a groin muscle tear. This, after starting the season hitting .157. After watching the Boston Red Sox get their World Series rings. After watching the Sox win the World Series. After being shipped out of Boston because of a case of advanced misery caused by the Sox's run at Alex Rodriguez.

I mean, it wasn't that long ago that he was considered among the top three shortstops on the planet. Now, he not only looks up at Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, but Miguel Tejada, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Rafael Furcal, David Eckstein, Clint Barmes, Cesar Izturis, Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, Carlos Guillen, Michael Young, Julio Lugo, Angel Berroa, Alex Cora, Orlando Cabrera, Marco Scutaro, Royce Clayton, Omar Vizquel ... even Khalil Greene, who is currently just as inactive as Garciaparra.

The latest bit of bad news, dreadful as it was for the Artist Formerly Known As No-mahhhh, has been par for the course for Garciaparra. From learning that his employers really wanted A-Rod and were willing to pay three times his own spectacular salary, then going on the disabled list for two months with Achilles tendinitis (which hurts as much as it sounds), to getting shipped to the Cubs, to going back on the DL with a strain to the same nasty groin muscle, to starting the new season in batters-box vapor lock, to this ... well, completely sucks really doesn't cover it, now, does it?

Not to mention the fact that The Next Big Contract may never happen for him now. In Boston, he would not only have his ring, but all the idolatry and "we couldn't have done it without him" currently being enjoyed by every Sox player down to and including Bronson Arroyo. And in our crass materialistic world, idolatry leads to bigger, better, longer contracts – perhaps as much as half an A-Rod, maybe even three-quarters of a Jeter.

Not now, though. Today, Garciaparra is a thrice-injured shortstop two years removed from his last big season. He'll never see another offer like the four-year, $60 million deal he turned his nose up at when he was with the Sox. He is making $8 million and roughage from the Cubs this year; his next deal is likely to be half that, if not less.

And endorsements? Gone, too. As far as the shortstop trade goes, Tejada is essentially commercially invisible as the best in the game (A-Rod having been moved to third and all), and he's still at the top of his game.

In other words, Garciaparra's fall has been both precipitous and comprehensive.

Of course, this run of buzzard's luck has been attributed to the Curse of the Bambino, in that Garciaparra unwittingly packed it when he cleaned out his locker last July 31.

This is the kind of reference that inspires people to look at the Flat Earth Society with new admiration, but this is still quite a run of seven-deuce for the man.

And the question must surely follow, in our wacky determinist world, just what did Nomar Garciaparra do to deserve this?

Do you really get this many points off for moping about your team's interest in a higher-profile player at your position? Have the Red Sox suddenly done a deal with God that allows them to win the Series and punish its waywards with such swiftness and persistence?

And if they have, and if it's really binding, shouldn't the rest of us be incredibly frightened?

I mean, Theo Epstein is smart and young and moderately engaging and all that, and Fenway Park is a nice place to watch a game. Still, that kind of influence-peddling would make Tom DeLay cringe.

But pardon the digression. We just want to say, on the off-chance that the Red Sox actually do possess this new throw weight, that they could probably let Nomar Garciaparra off the hook now. Fourteen months of almost unremitting baseball misery is plenty for anyone.

And even if this is someone else's work rather than that of the Sox, or even nobody at all, Garciaparra says "uncle." He's paid whatever dues he owed to whomever he owed them, with loan-shark interest. Whoever you are up there, down there, or out there, you can let him up now. He'll learn whatever lesson required of him, commit it to memory, and recite it on request.

At least in a couple of days, anyway. Right now, he probably needs a little time to grouse about his present, and then look back and wonder what might have happened if only ... if only ... if only.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com

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