Nomar Garciaparra was supposed to have #5 retired up on the right field facade of Fenway Park, like Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Yaz, Ted Williams, Jim Rice, and Carlton Fisk before him. He was supposed to be his generation's Hall of Famer. The guy who gets 3,000 hits for the home team, outlasts Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. You get the idea.
Well, that didn't happen. Nomar broke down, and his magical career ended much sooner than anyone expected. Despite the unfulfilled dreams, Nomar will forever have a place in the hearts of Red Sox fans who saw him crushing the American League in his peak. For five years after he was traded away from Boston, no other player wore number five in a Red Sox uniform.
That changed when the "Woonsocket Rocket", Rocco Baldelli, arrived in Boston in 2009, coming off a World Series appearance with the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Baldelli was a member of the Rays going back to their days as the last place stumbling team known as the Devil Rays. In a lot of ways, Baldelli was the face of the transition between the last place laughingstock Devil Rays and upstart Not-Devil Rays. By the time the 2008 post season rolled around, Baldelli's ailments were already catching up with him. That didn't stop him from cranking a postseason home run against the Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS. Baldelli's ties to New England made it a lot easier to see someone besides Nomar Garciaparra wearing number five. That doesn't mean Allen Craig should be wearing number five, but it does mean that perhaps it's not as big of a deal as it was when no one wore it for five years.
In a twist of pathways, Rocco Baldelli ended up spending just 2009 with the Red Sox(blasting his first and last Red Sox homers versus the Rays), before returning to the Rays in 2010. Though he retired in the 2010 off-season, Baldelli can be found hanging out next to first base at every Rays game. He was named the Rays first base coach prior to this season.
Rocco Baldelli is one of just three players who have only played for either the Red Sox or Rays. He's clearly best, as the others are Mark Malaska and Ryan Rupe.
It's unclear if the Rays have high hopes for the 2015 season, with Joe Maddon taking his talents to Chi-Town. It's too early to tell if we can start busting out "Rocco Baldelli Ain't Walking Through That Door" jokes, but hopefully we'll find out early and often that the Red Sox offense can take care of business.