St. Louis Cardinals: One Year Later, Oscar Taveras’s Death Remembered
In Game 2 of the 2014 NLCS, rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras delivered a seventh inning, game-tying home run that later proved crucial to the St. Louis Cardinals’ last postseason victory of the season. The future only seemed to be growing brighter for Taveras, but little did baseball fans know it would end so suddenly.
One year ago today, the St. Louis Cardinals’ highly-touted prospect died in a car accident that occurred in his hometown Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Details later revealed that Taveras was drunk during the time of the accident, which also resulted in the death of his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo.
Taveras became the third Cardinals’ player of the 21st century to pass away as an active member of the team, followed by the in-season deaths of Josh Hancock (2007) and Darryl Kile (2002).
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The Cardinals paid tribute to Taveras in the 2015 season by wearing an OT circle patch on the left side of their uniforms, five months after the franchise originally recognized the loss by shining a single bank of lights over right field. These tributes ultimately set the premises for a season defined by resiliency, as the Cardinals progressed through significant structural changes and heavy emotions to make the best of their tough situation.
Heading into the 2014 offseason, the Cardinals intended to develop Taveras into the future everyday right fielder. But Taveras’s death resulted in surprising positional void, prompting the Cardinals to acquire former All-Star outfielder Jason Heyward.
Despite a slow start to the season, Heyward strung together the most productive season of any Cardinals outfielder (6.5 WAR) in the past decade. The two-time gold glover showcased five-tool capabilities similar to Taveras throughout his minor league journey, but Heyward’s leadership relieved pressure from Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty en rout to strong rookie campaigns.
However, this acquisition came at a price for the Cardinals, who sacrificed young starting pitcher Shelby Miller in the trade following Taveras’s death. This move provided an intriguing opportunity for Carlos Martinez to step into the rotation, a close friend of Taveras in his minor league journey and a spot starter prior to the trade.
Martinez finished the 2015 campaign with a 14-7 record, 3.01 ERA and his first career All-Star nomination. The 24 year-old switched his jersey number to 18 before the season to honor the loss of his close friend, the start of a movement that helped the Cardinals cope with the loss of Taveras.
Exactly one year after Taveras’s memorable major league debut, the Cardinals honored his career in a pregame ceremony before a home game that Martinez coincidentally started. Pitching through heavy emotions, Martinez turned in one of his strongest starts of the season, limiting the Dodgers to one hit over seven scoreless innings.
Other teams and players have sympathized with the Cardinals in the wake of Taveras’s death. In particular, Kansas City Royals’ pitcher Yordano Ventura paid tribute by wearing “RIP O.T. #18” on his cap throughout last year’s World Series. The Chicago Cubs also held a moment of silence for Taveras at Wrigley Field before taking on the Cardinals in their season opener on April 5, 2015.
When looking back upon the loss of Oscar Taveras, people begin to realize that baseball is just a game. The Cardinals will never have a chance to see the outfielder’s wide grin or smooth swing again, but St. Louis will never forget how their 100-win roster united and emerged around a teammate’s career gone too soon.