I'll admit that I was going to make my triumphant return the other night. I had what the world really needed which was yet another blistering hot take about Joe Maddon, but thankfully I left it unfinished before going to bed. Sadly I was busy during game 5 of the World Series, and so I went to bed without hearing about the tragic passing of Oscar Taveras.
It is a weird mix of emotions to learn about the death for someone whom is so disconnected yet such a part of one's consciousness for so long. Sahadev Sharma's article at Baseball Prospectus does a nice job of explaining who that guy was. Taveras was going to be a star. His unconventional swing producing unique results, a Javier Baez like situation but with a higher ceiling at the plate. Taveras delivered moments despite struggling to find consistent playing time behind a surprisingly veteran reliant Mike Matheny. Taveras did hit a pinch hit game tying home run to help the Cardinals tie the NLCS at 1-1.
Oscar Taveras was the third best prospect in baseball prior to this year according to Baseball America. He was going to be the face of the team that crushes my team's hope. There it is. That first hint of cold, detached, unfeeling thinking about baseball as merely a thought exercise. I began to think of what if situations as the lost production of Oscar Taveras was comparable to Rick Ankiel losing all sense of command or Mark Prior not falling apart physically just a few years later than 22. I am not sure how long I allowed myself to think about it, but I was able to snap myself out of that ridiculous dehumanizing thought exercise I engaged in to momentarily calm my brain.
The end thought which caused that snap back to reality was Oscar Taveras's age at death of 22. Some silly coincidence in numbers helped snap my mind back to human thinking about people involved in baseball, and that was the fact that Oscar Taveras was born in 1992, a full ten years later than me. I think about what I was doing with my life and the decisions I was making at that age. I look back at that time in my life and well I think Christopher Titus can explain better than me my thought process. You can listen to the whole thing which is a classic, but when he talks about falling into a bonfire is the part I thought of when writing this.
You can watch the whole thing, but the spirit I was looking for was included in that clip right before the part about the bonfire. You have to age the character about five years to hit a similar point in my own life. I shudder when I take an honest accounting of the things I did as an early 20 something. I did not have a bonfire moment of clarity, but I did manage to survive a decade longer than Oscar Taveras. And I was aware of the reality of the loss of two young human beings with a lifetime of possibilities ahead.
I do quickly switch back to the cold calculating brain that begins to wonder what might have caused the accident. I am sure news will drift out slowly about the causes, but I can't help but think about previous tragedies in the Cardinals organization with Josh Hancock and Darryl Kile. My previous transgressions certainly make me ponder one of the three most likely causes of the accident of speed, weather, driving under the influence. The mourning that took place during the Tigres del Licey and Águilas Cibaeñas game was in rain delay at the time of the news breaking.
Oscar Taveras might represent a Josh Gibson like what if player denied a chance to deliver on his tremendous gifts as a baseball player. The what if game that will follow in baseball lore will likely be greater than anything in comparison to the Cubs. Kenny Hubbs is the closest Cubs parallel that I can think to draw. And yet while his baseball promise will be unfulfilled it feels like a hollow, shallow part of the story right now.