This story started out as another edition of our “Wayback Machine” series, featuring former White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez, but as I was doing research I came across a potential trade involving Ordonez that almost was. From there, I went into a ‘Butterfly Effect’ like journey into some corresponding moves that did, and didn’t happen, that shaped the next decade of Major League Baseball.
I know, I know. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.
But think about this, if Nomar Garciaparra would have switched socks in the winter of 2003, the next decade of Major League Baseball would likely be incredibly different than we currently know it to be.
There’s no definitive point to this story, rather it’s just an intriguing exercise in what could, or couldn’t have been. All of which, could have been blown up with one move, the White Sox landing Nomar Garciaparra in what would have been one of the mega-deals of the first decade of the 2000’s.
The 2003 Offseason
We begin in the winter of 2003, when the White Sox almost landed Garciaparra in a trade, that the Red Sox had agreed to in principle. That trade would have sent then White Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez to Boston in exchange for the all-star shortstop.
At the time, Ordonez was a fan-favorite in Chicago, and a four-time all-star in the prime of his career. Garciaparra was a five-time all-star, with five top-ten MVP voting finishes to his name.
The deal would have been an even bigger blockbuster than the one that actually came to fruition with Nomar heading to the Cubs the following summer, but when the Red Sox’s plans to trade for Alex Rodriguez fell apart, Boston decided to hold onto Nomar for the time being.
The Rodriguez to Boston swap would have been headlined by Manny Ramirez heading to the Texas Rangers. The deal died on the operating table, when the MLBPA refused to sign off on a slight pay-cut for Rodriguez.
Had the A-Rod-Ramirez trade came to fruition, the Red Sox had a deal in place with the White Sox to send Nomar Garciaparra to Chicago with left-handed pitching prospect Jon Lester in exchange for Magglio Ordonez and pitching prospect Brandon McCarthy.
By Christmas 2003, the deal(s) were dead.
In January of 2003, then Yankees third-baseman — and current manager — Aaron Boone suffered a knee injury during a game of pickup basketball, leaving the Yankees in search of another infielder on the left side.
The Yankees sent Alfonso Soriano, and a player to be named later to Texas, and the Rangers sent Rodriguez and cash to the Bronx.
The White Sox would fill their void at shortstop by enlisting Juan Uribe’s services, and Uribe would go on to hit 23 home runs to go along with a .833 OPS for the Sox in 2004.
The 2004 Trade Deadline
With Alex Rodriguez playing third base in New York, replacing Aaron Boone — who ended the Red Sox 2003 season in the bottom of the 11th inning, when he sent a Tim Wakefield offering into the stands — the Red Sox were still in search of an answer.
At the non-waiver trade deadline, Boston shipped Garciaparra to Chicago after all, but not to the White Sox.
On July 31, 2004, the Boston Red Sox traded perennial all-star and fan-favorite, Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs in a blockbuster four-team deal.
The deal saw the Cubs acquire Garciaparra and Matt Murton, while the Red Sox received Doug Mientkiewicz from the Minnesota Twins and Orlando Cabrera from the Montreal Expos. The Expos came away from the deal with a trio of players, including Francis Beltran, Alex Gonzalez and Brendan Harris, while the Twins received Justin Jones from the Cubs.
The 2004 Offseason
The White Sox kept Ordonez the offseason prior, heading into the final year of his deal after the Boston trade died. On May 25, 2004, Ordonez tore cartilage in his knee and required surgery to repair, forcing him to miss the majority of the season. The trip to the disabled list was the first of such in Ordonez’s eight-year career at that point.
That winter, after a falling out that involved a back-and-forth between then GM Kenny Williams allegedly failing to produce Ordonez’s medical records, and Ordonez seeking medical advice in Austria, the two sides parted ways with Ordonez opting to sign a long-term deal with the rival Detroit Tigers in February of 2005.
With Ordonez departing for Detroit, the White Sox inked Jermaine Dye to a five-year deal to replace Ordonez in right field.
It’s wild to try to imagine the possibilities of what might have, or have not have been if the original proposed trades went through as planned in the winter of 2003.
Alex Rodriguez playing shortstop for the Red Sox with Magglio Ordonez in right field, Manny Ramirez roaming left field for the Rangers, and Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop on the south side of Chicago?
Cubs World Series champion, Jon Lester eventually leading the other Chicago team to a World Series?
That would have meant that Juan Uribe never comes to the White Sox. Magglio Ordonez never dons a Tigers uniform, which stained the fandom he’d accrued during his time with the White Sox, and we never get to see Manny Ramirez emerge from the Green Monster after taking a piss break during a game.
Instead, the deal saw Garciaparra depart from Boston just a mere months away from the Red Sox winning their first World Series title in 85 years that fall, and head to a Cubs team that was looking to make it back to the postseason after their historic collapse in the fall of 2003.
The White Sox ended up replacing Ordonez with eventual 2005 World Series MVP Jermaine Dye, and handing the shortstop duties over to Juan Uribe that same season, instead of Nomar Garciaparra.
The White Sox, without Garciaparra and Ordonez went on to win the 2005 World Series, their first in 87 years. The year prior, the Garciaparra-less Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 85 years.
The Cubs tried to use Garciaparra to exercise the demons of 2003. Garciaparra only played a combined 105 games for the Cubs between the mid-2004 trade and the end of the 2005 season, when he went to Los Angeles (Dodgers) as a free agent.
In hindsight, the White Sox dodged a major bullet there, as it was always Garciaparra’s intention to sign with his hometown Dodgers as a free agent after the 2005 season.
Rodriguez ended up going to the Yankees after being the apple of Boston’s eye in 2003, and eventually played in over 1,500 games for the Yankees, winning a World Series (2009), two MVP’s, and made seven all-star appearances for the Bronx Bombers.
They say that things have a funny way of working out, and this had quite the lasting effect on the baseball landscape.
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