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Red Sox shortstop's future remains in doubt

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2003

BOSTON The red ''B'' on Nomar Garciaparra's cap is as much a part of him as his toe-tapping, glove-tugging routine before every pitch he faces.

Soon, that letter may change.

''It remains his hope it's always been his hope to stay with Boston. We're committed to trying to achieve that goal,'' Arn Tellem, his agent, said Wednesday.

Garciaparra's passion for the game matches that of Red Sox fans. But the team is exploring trading left fielder Manny Ramirez to Texas for AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, and the Red Sox would be unlikely to keep two star shortstops.

If Garciaparra leaves, fans are likely to be upset that a two-time batting champion drafted by the Red Sox drafted in 1994 won't be part of the team if and when it wins its first World Series since 1918.

''I think the fans are crazy about Nomar,'' Johnny Pesky, the Red Sox 84-year-old spring training instructor, said Wednesday. ''He plays hard. He hits a ball back to the mound, he still runs hard.''

In Texas, general manager John Hart said Wednesday that he and manager Buck Showalter had said ''many, many times'' that they envision Rodriguez staying with the Rangers.

''We've been saying all along this thing has taken on a life of its own and has been a runaway fire,'' Hart said.

Henry and Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

The Red Sox should get a better idea of whether they'll get Rodriguez and trade Garciaparra when baseball's winter meetings begin a four-day run Friday in New Orleans.

While Tellem sounded a conciliatory tone Wednesday, that apparently wasn't the case earlier this year.

The Red Sox offered Garciaparra a four-year deal last spring worth $60 million, according to sources quoted by The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, but Garciaparra rejected it and sought a longer deal worth as much as $17 million a year.

''We have made credible offers,'' Henry said Tuesday in the Dominican Republic where he attended the opening of the Red Sox baseball academy. ''The reason we have continued in the manner in which we have, is that his agent has given us a very clear indication that there is no common ground. He seems to believe it is still the winter of 2000.''

Since then, the market has declined.

Henry also said Tuesday it was ''the height of hypocrisy'' for Tellem to accuse the team of betrayal even though Garciaparra rejected the team's long-term offer.

Garciaparra told the Herald and WEEI radio that he wants to stay with the Red Sox. Tellem told the Globe that efforts to acquire Rodriguez are ''a slap in the face.''

Garciaparra can become a free agent after next season, and the Red Sox would get only draft picks as compensation if he leaves.

And they need money to sign their other free agents after next season pitchers Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, catcher Jason Varitek and right fielder Trot Nixon.

So will fans at Fenway Park keep chanting ''No-mah'' in their Boston accents for seasons to come?

''I love Nomar,'' Pesky said. ''I think he's a heck of a kid. I hope he finishes his career here and does it in grand style.''



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