Welcome to Boston.com’s Sports Q, our daily conversation, initiated by you and moderated by Chad Finn, about a compelling topic in Boston sports. Here’s how it works: You submit questions to Chad through Twitter, Facebook, and email. He’ll pick one each weekday to answer, then we’ll take the discussion to the comments. Chad will stop by several times per day to navigate. But you drive the conversation.
Who was the better Red Sox player, Fred Lynn or Nomar Garciaparra?
Continuing in our ongoing, organic Who Was Better? series here at the Sports Q, today we’ll compare a couple of Red Sox stars who did not play the same position, but were both beloved by Boston fans at their peak, played the game with style and flair, and should have had happier endings with the franchise.
It’s Freddie vs. Nomaaahhh. The tale of the tape:
Lynn (1974-80): 828 games, .308/.383/.520, .902 OPS, 141 adjusted OPS, 124 home runs, 944 hits, 217 doubles, 521 RBIs, 1975 AL MVP, 1975 AL Rookie of the Year, six All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, fourth in 1979 AL MVP race, 1979 batting champion, played hard but often hurt, graceful at the plate and in the field.
Garciaparra (1996-2004): 966 games, .323/.370/.553, .923 OPS, 133 adjusted OPS, 178 home runs, 1,281 hits, 279 doubles, 690 RBIs, 1997 AL Rookie of the Year, 1998 AL MVP runner-up, six top-11 finishes in MVP balloting, 1999 and 2000 AL batting champion, five All-Star appearances, played hard but often hurt, seemed to hit a rocket every time up from 1998-2000.
Man, that is awfully close. Nomar was here a bit longer and has a small but clear advantage in overall offensive numbers. He was also a better postseason player (.323 with a 1.016 OPS in 25 games to Lynn’s .306 with a .794 OPS in 10 games, all in ’75).
But Lynn was the best defensive center fielder the Red Sox had until Jackie Bradley Jr. came along, while Nomar regressed defensively during his time with the Sox as injuries robbed him of flexibility and range.
Under better circumstances, both should have been Red Sox lifers, but Lynn – who hit .347/.420/.601 lifetime at Fenway — was traded to the Angels for something like a fungo bat and three bags of Big League Chew after the 1980 season by the inept Haywood Sullivan.
Garciaparra, of course, turned sullen during his time here, and was traded during the 2004 championship season. His departure, and the arrival of reliable shortstop Orlando Cabrera, was a factor in the team’s surge en route to ending the 86-year championship drought.
I think for that reason – the bitterness of Garciaparra’s final days here – the nod has to go to Lynn, who has always acknowledged he would have been better off staying in Boston. He was the better defensive player, his ’75 season is the stuff of legend, and his ’79 performance (39 homers, league leader in batting, on-base percentage, and slugging) remains one of the most underrated dominating seasons in Red Sox lore.
But what does everyone else think? Who was the better Red Sox player, Fred Lynn or Nomar Garciaparra? I’ll hear you in the comments.
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