St. Louis Cardinals: Remembering the Great Oscar Taveras

Apr 13, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals teammates watch a tribute video to memorialize former Cardinal Oscar Taveras before the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals teammates watch a tribute video to memorialize former Cardinal Oscar Taveras before the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Two years ago on this day, St. Louis Cardinals mega-prospect Oscar Taveras lost his life in a car accident. Today we remember the man, the player, and all that could have been.

Before young Stephen Piscotty, and before the Jason Heyward trade, the future in right field was clear for the St. Louis Cardinals. Not just clear, but vibrant. The Cards signed Dominican outfielder Oscar Taveras when he was just 16 years old back in 2008. It didn’t take long before St. Louis knew they had struck gold.

In six minor league seasons, Taveras batted .321 with a .519 slugging percentage, and he quickly moved up the prospect rankings. By the time Taveras made his debut in 2014, he was considered one of the elite prospects in all of baseball. At 21 years-old, Oscar collected the first hit of his career in his second at-bat, when he launched one over the right field fence at Busch stadium.

Believe it or not, that moment is easily forgotten—or at least overshadowed—when remembering Taveras’s short career. Just 4 months later, he topped himself with an even bigger home run on one of baseball’s biggest stages. In Game 2 of the NLCS against San Francisco, Oscar was called upon to pinch-hit in the 7th inning. Down 3-2, Taveras added to his already growing legacy with a game tying bomb.

It was not a matter of “if” this young man would blossom into a star, but “when.” With two signature moments in his young career, Oscar seemed destined for greatness. A destiny that seemingly could not be derailed, until suddenly, and tragically, it was.

The Cardinals would go on to lose that series and Taveras flew home shortly after. Friends and family greeted him as he returned to the Dominican and he was treated as not a loser, but a hero. Despite falling short of a World Series, Oscar had much to celebrate—but that celebration didn’t last long. Soon after returning home, his nation, as well as Cards nation, had much to mourn and much to reflect on.

On October 26th, Oscar was driving a Chevy Camero at an extremely high speed. His girlfriend, Edilia Arvelos, only 18, was sitting next to him when he drove the car off the road and into a tree. There’s nothing to gain by placing blame in such a tragedy, but ultimately and unfortunately, we learned that Oscar was responsible for his own death, and his girlfriend’s as well.

On November 12th, a spokesperson for the Dominican Republic Attorney General’s Office released the toxicology report—revealing that he was driving while under the influence. Under the influence and well, well over the legal limit. Oscar’s BAC was .287 at the time of the crash. That’s five times the legal limit in the Dominican Republic.

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This was just 12 years after the tragic loss of pitcher Darryl Kile. Once again, the St. Louis Cardinals organization had to figure out how to deal with the loss of a human being, and a player on their roster. The latter may seem insignificant or even inappropriate against a backdrop of tragedy and the loss of a life, but it’s a reality for those in the front office.

Oscar was the team’s future in right field, one they felt safe banking on. They expected to have not just an everyday outfielder, but a perennial all-star. Just like that, he was gone. There was no trade, no loss in free agency with a compensation pick—just loss.

The ramifications are stunning when you think about it. Taveras in right means no trade for Jason Heyward. That means Shelby Miller could have stuck around, which likely would have prevented the Mike Leake signing. As Brandon Moss and Matt Holliday depart, the question concerning left and center field would probably be dissolved. Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, and Taveras would have made a formidable outfield for years to come.

But I digress, as this loss reminded us all that life and death are bigger than our favorite game. Just as the loss of Darryl Kile did in 2002, and again this year when we lost Jose Fernandez.  How Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak recovered from the loss of a player is an interesting question, but it has to take a backseat to how those on the team, and in baseball, recovered from the loss of a friend.

Next: Lessons Learned in World Series Game 1

We remember him every time Carlos Martinez takes the mound and writes “OT” in the dirt behind him. We remember him on this day, the second anniversary of his passing. While we as fans could never relate to the pain and the loss suffered by his teammates, his friends, or his family—we too mourn his loss. R.I.P “OT”.  We miss you.