Expectation is a funny thing.
To have no expectations of someone means they’ve done nothing to excite you about their potential. Do something worth paying attention to, though, and the hopes and dreams of an entire (occasionally overwhelming) fan base drop from the sky and land squarely upon the shoulders of an unsuspecting hopeful.
Thus, the burden of being Oscar Taveras.
He’s not the first. Not even close. Not even the first in recent years.
Kolten Wong is, perhaps, the most recent Cardinal to bear the burden. “He’s going to be the spark that changes things,” they said. “He’s the future… the best second baseman the Cardinals have had in ages.”
The road has been anything but that simple for Wong. It took a “demotion” that set the Cardinals world on fire to light the fuse on Kolten’s success. The expectations never faded; the pressure never subsided. It was all up to Kolten to find some balance.
Last year, it was Michael Wacha. We all know the narrative — just over a year removed from college ball, Wacha was touted as the second coming of Adam Wainwright. Who can forget “Wacha Day” as he made his first Major League start? Fair to say it worked out pretty well for the kid, you know, being a post-season hero and all. But it wasn’t that easy at first. Remember the part of the Wacha story where he struggled enough to warrant a trip back to Memphis? All the potential in the world couldn’t lessen the weight of expectations for immediate success.
Last season established insane expectations on a handful of young stars — Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness … to name a few. Matching the level of excellence that created those high hopes is often even more difficult than the performance that impressed in the first place.
So, then there’s Oscar.
He’s the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball.
John Mozeliak believes he’s the best hitting prospect since Albert Pujols.
Some say he’s a left-handed reincarnation of Vladimir Guerrero.
Fans around Cardinal Nation are desperately hoping “OT” is the miracle drug to cure all that ails the 2014 Birds.
…No, but really, they are.
— WHITE YADI (@ryan_stl1) May 31, 2014
I hope Taveras just goes full George Springer when he gets to St. Louis and tears the cover off the ball.
— High Sock Sunday (@HighSock_Sunday) May 31, 2014
Oscar Taveras will basically address climate change issues and cure cancer by the end of the month. (Not June, mind you…May). #STLCards
— Rob Christensen (@rfchristensen) May 31, 2014
— Karlemayn (@chuckkallenbach) May 31, 2014
Okay, okay. Much of the social media chatter is in jest. But the point remains.
Oscar Taveras may very well be the best player to hit the field in St. Louis in a long time. He may not be that player TODAY. And that’s okay. He’s not going to solve the bullpen problems. He’s not going to make Mike Matheny suddenly forget about double switching. He can’t hit for everyone in the bottom half of the lineup AND hit leadoff. And his defense may not be Gold Glove worthy.
Sure. The excitement could lead to a Yasiel Puig-esque run for the Cardinals. It could. It could also not. I want that to happen as much as anyone. But, more than that I want Taveras to handle the pressure, hold his own, and forge a legacy that’s independent of the pressure any comparison or expectation can bring.
He’s done plenty to get our attention, and the expectations follow. But, he’s not Albert Pujols or Vlad Guerrero. He’s Oscar Taveras. And that’s going to have to be good enough, whatever it means.
Welcome to The Lou, Oscar. No pressure.
(But really … all the pressure.)