As you know, this is where the boilerplate comes in. You probably could recite it by now, the part where this review is about a player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office, etc., etc.
It just didn’t seem right to do that for Oscar Taveras. As we know, he’s never going to meet with Mike Matheny, at least not on this earth. He’s not coming into camp next season, not working hard this offseason. Taveras was taken from us much too soon as we are still coming to grips with that. Calling it an “exit interview” also seemed a bit macabre for my taste.
However, it also didn’t seem possible to leave him out of this review series either. Taveras was a part of this team, much more so than folks like Jorge Rondon or Greg Garcia who got their own time in the spotlight. We have to get to the point where we can talk about Taveras the player instead of dwelling on Taveras the tragedy.
So we’ll do that, with a few modifications.
Player: Oscar Taveras
Season stats: 80 games, 248 PA, 18 R, 8 2B, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 12 BB, 37 K, .239/.278/.312 65 OPS+
Hero/Goat: Hero 3, Goat 4
Overall grade: C+
Positives: Made his major league debut and made it memorable, homering for his first hit….had a knack for coming up with a big base hit, hitting .353 in 17 pinch-hit opportunities, driving in five runs….thrived in high-leverage situations, hitting .313/.333/.313 in those at-bats….never did more than pinch-hit in the postseason but still hit two home runs, including his last hit in Busch Stadium.
Negatives: Couldn’t quite hold on to the right field job, first being blocked by Allen Craig, then seeing Randal Grichuk get a bulk of the playing time in September….hit only .215 away from Busch Stadium….was the last hitter of the Cardinals’ season, grounding into a double play with the score tied in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NLCS.
I’ve still not worn this since the accident.
At the time of Taveras’s passing, it was in the laundry. A few days later, it was waiting to be hung up and I just looked at it. Do you wear it to honor the player, but know that it can pick at the scab of loss each time? Do you retire it in the closet, mixing it in with all the others so that you don’t necessarily see it? I’ve written before, mainly tongue-in-cheek, about what the name and number on your back says about you. This time, though, does it carry a meaning? Is it a salute to the good times or an unnecessary reminder of the bad?
Because Taveras gave us some good times. Not as many as we would like, not only because he only played one season but also because Matheny’s use of Oscar seemed to be befuddling and frustrating to most any fan. We wanted to see him out there more, we wanted to see him get into a rhythm and be the player that we felt he could be.
Will Matheny wonder if he should have given Oscar more time? I don’t doubt there were good reasons for his lack of playing time, though it didn’t seem so at the time. There was talk after the season that he needed to be more diligent in his conditioning. He needed to be more willing and excited about playing defense. There were flaws in the diamond that needed polishing.
To Taveras’s credit, he didn’t sulk when presented with these criticisms. He didn’t wonder (at least publicly) what he had to do to get on the field when a guy like Grichuk passed him up. He smiled, he cheered his teammates, and he promised to spend the offseason getting in shape and trying to be the best he could be for 2015.
How we wish that could have happened! How we wish we could point out his flaws going forward or watch as he improved himself. Instead, he’s gone way too soon and we have only our what-ifs, which is not what we want at all.
Godspeed, Oscar. We already miss you.