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.”
All the promise, the potential, the possibilities … gone.
That’s the thing about expectations. They come without warning, or boundaries. And they’re attached to everything we do. Every little thing.
We expect the sun to come up early each morning. We expect our cars to start when we turn the key. We expect our latte to taste just right, and our coworkers to greet us with smiles. We expect big things, too. Important things like growing old with the ones we love, or reuniting with dear friends after surviving months apart. As baseball fans, we expected a young talent to become a perennial hero. That thought made us smile.
Oscar loved to smile. And boy, were there ever expectations of him. Big ones.
Even after a season that didn’t quite live up to those early predictions of grandeur, there was endless hope for the future. The conversations had already turned from what Oscar didn’t do in 2014 that he had to do in 2015. And just like that, the anticipation of greatness started over again.
We expected a battle of wills – Mike Matheny’s versus John Mozeliak’s. We predicted the occasional burst of power would become a consistent and game-changing force. We imagined the second coming of Vlad or Albert. The promise was that this was only the beginning.
Therein lies the unfair reality: we get comfortable with expecting what might be and forget that it just as easily — and quickly — might not. And when it doesn’t, when the big things go so horribly wrong, it shatters us.
Oscar was going to be a superstar. It was as much of a sure thing as there ever is in baseball. Only, there are no guarantees.
It’s one thing for a kid to simply not live up to expectations. It’s another thing entirely for him to not even have the chance. It’s not fair. He was too young. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. That’s all true. It seems impossible that baseball will never know the legend that Taveras should have become. And far worse, that his family will not share in his story unfolding. The same can be said of Edilia Arvelo. Their lives were cut far shorter than there was any reason to expect.
And that jolt of reality hurts.
It’s hard to find words for something I never imagined writing about. My heart aches for his family and friends, and for hers.
I read Matheny’s statement this morning and cried. I got to the office and pulled out a stack of game DVDs from Oscar’s 2011 season with the River Bandits. I cried again. I read the story of Juan Perez in Game 5, and I broke down all over again. I spoke with friends of Oscar. I shared my grief with fans of Oscar. I never knew him personally, but that didn’t dispel my grief. It didn’t soften the blow.
The world merely got a glimpse of Oscar Taveras, and that will never seem right, no matter what anyone manages to say.