I thought I would have better perspective on the sudden and tragic death of Oscar Taveras, 22, after a good night’s sleep. Maybe I’ll get one of those tonight.
His life and the life of his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, 18, were cut painfully short when Taveras wrecked his red Camaro on Sunday in the Dominican Republic. Early reports indicate there had been a lot of rain in the area, and that the car ran off the road and hit a tree. It’s the kind of gut-punch you only expect to get upon hearing something absurd like “Baseball has been cancelled forever.” Because the reality certainly couldn’t be true, even though it too often is: a young man and his girlfriend driving along, maybe laughing at a joke or holding hands or singing along to a song on the radio, then something happens and it’s all gone. Just like that. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it sucks, even from afar as nothing more than a fan of the team the kid played for. Potential unrealized takes a backseat to life unlived. How could this happen?
What’s worse, how could this happen again? News of Taveras’ untimely, shocking, and tragic death immediately reopened Cardinals fans’ old wounds from the 2002 death of Darryl Kile and the 2007 death of Josh Hancock. For Major League Baseball as a whole, the news rang eerily similar to the 2009 death of LA Angels’ young star-in-the-making Nick Adenhart. He also died in a car wreck. He was also 22. Those three tragedies—which, even more unfortunately, are of course but a fraction of the list of young lives ended too soon—happened in-season. As difficult as the events were, the teammates could lean on each other for support. They could grieve together in the dugout, in the clubhouse, and on the team charter. And they still had to take the field every day, using game day responsibilities to honor their fallen brother or maybe just not dwell on the tragedy for a couple hours. But this Cardinals team doesn’t get that luxury; all they have to do is sit around and think. Sure, some are playing Winter Ball, and all have offseason programs to follow to keep in shape until Spring Training. I’d guess the majority of these guys would tell you it’s not the same. That is, if they can get the words out at all.
I don’t really know what else to say. I’ve seen the tweets and the tributes and the video interviews and the footage of the story breaking and I still can’t believe it’s real. But a lot of people are hurting today. My heart goes out to the Taveras family, the Arvelo family, and the St. Louis Cardinals family.
(PHOTOS CLIPPED FROM INTERNET SOURCES; THESE PICTURES ARE NOT MINE.)
Below is my question to the group for this installment of the United Cardinal Bloggers’ Roundtable. Follow the links posted here for some great writing on the St. Louis Cardinals from a fan perspective. Also, visit the UCB website for links to previous Roundtable questions, and check back often because there’s plenty more to come…the Roundtable goes all month! And if you have any thoughts about this question, by all means share them in the comments section below. Now, on with the show…
Patrolling the Grass
No, this is not about Colorado’s new hobby. We’ve already had some great roundtable questions, and a couple of them led me to start thinking about the Cardinals’ outfield. Yes, things are pretty set for 2013–but a lot figures to happen next season that influences what the squad looks like beyond that. So I’m asking you to give me the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2014 Opening Day outfield–starters and backups, if you think the bench guys are already on the roster–and any corresponding moves you think the team will make prior to 2014 to make it happen.
“I would suspect Carlos Beltran won’t be resigned for 2014. That immediately means at least one change, in right. Who replaces him might depend on whether Allen Craig stays with the team and whether he can fend off more injuries. The other prediction I think can safely be made is that Oscar Taveras is seen at the major league level in 2013, and is ready for continuous duty in 2014. Who that displaces remains a bit of a mystery. If Jon Jay can avoid being trade bait, then he’s more than likely just excellent pop off the bench at first. I wouldn’t expect him to remain in that role for long, he’s too hot with the bat. Unfortunately, that means the inevitable: At least one trade in the OF in 2014. It would seem like Jay might be the casualty.” –Wes, Keene on MLB
“I’m taking Holliday in LF, Jay in CF, and Taveras in RF for the starters. Beltran and Schumaker are likely gone to help make room, and maybe the winner in the cage match between Chambers and Robinson stay as the true 4th outfielder. It seems like Allen Craig could see more OF time than either of those guys, but someone besides Garcia has to pinch run when Matheny goes with the double switch to take a big hitter out of the lineup in the 6th inning.” –Dennis, Pitchers Hit Eighth
“Holliday, Jon Jay, and Oscar Taveras. If Oscar is as good as they say he is, Carlos Beltran will not be resigned. It’s possible that Jay gets shifted from center to RF. Skip is signed through the end of 2013. Unless he gets traded, and I doubt he will be, next season will probably be his final year in a Cardinal uniform, even though he turns 33 in February.” –Daniel S., Redbird Rants
“One scenario no one has talked about with Beltran is him sliding to first base in 2014 if he’s still a 30/90 guy in 2013. Craig could man a corner OF spot, and Taveras spot start for him and Jay to get some quality MLB playing time. If Taveras truly is a Pujols-esque talent (as Mo referred to him as) then the team can save money, let Beltran go, and slide Taveras into RF everyday in 2014.
I see a Jonny Gomes type as a reserve bench player in 2014, as well as Adron Chambers.” -Chris M., Birds on the Bat ‘82
“I’m going with the majority of a Holliday-Jay-Tavares outfield in 2014. Beltran will not be resigned, I believe Craig will not be a Cardinal by 2014 and Skippy is gone. Shane Robinson and Chambers will both find some playing time and be on the squad.
I don’t think Jay moves from center. Tavares has played center, and done so fairly well, but he is now and always has been projected as a corner outfielder. Shane and Chambers are good enough to be extra outfielders, though I could see the Cards picking up a free agent or trade.
Speaking of outfileders who could play first, Jason Bay, anyone? :)” -Bill, I-70 Baseball
“I believe 2014 finds Holliday-Taveras-Ramsey.
Jay will be traded and Beltran gone. The Cardinals ETA for James Ramsey is 2014 and I believe that is where he will be and likely a lead-off hitter.” -Tom, Cardinals GM
“2014 Outfield, that’s a leap and a bounds considering the health
history of this club combined with the developmental strides the org
is taking, but I’ll play ball on this one:
Holliday is locked in, for numerous reasons. Oscar Tavares will be the
starting right fielder, by ’14 at the very, very latest (upset call at
some point in 2013 for me…but that’s a later convo).
Jay, I’m not as certain of. He became a nice defensive surprise in
2012, but there’s a lot about his approach out there that needs work.
The highlights were there, but the arm is still trash and his set in
the lineup is still is a man out of place at the top of it. This is a
team that needs to get faster, especially in the style that Matheny
employs, and that along with shortstop, are the easiest places to do
so. I don’t say any of this to rag on Jay, but I think he’s the answer
to a different question…
Fourth/Fifth outfielder. He’s perfect there by profile, and I don’t
have any beefs with having a solid defender that can play all three
outfield spots and be a singles hitter coming off the pine. I will use
this to completely rag over the entire organization if Shane Robinson
and/or Adron Chambers are long term fixtures here. They’re better than
that, and at least one of them should be replaced by a veteran
right-handed hitter THIS winter.
By 2014, I’m hoping for some speed, or at least an extra base hits
threat in center by then, along with a higher talent base, or better
youngster as OF outfield mix by then.” –Matt, Cheap Seats Please
“Most everyone has hit on it, and I agree that Holliday-Jay-Taveras seems the most likely, though I have some reservations about Jay still being here at that time. I’m not sure why he wouldn’t be or where he wouldn’t have gone, but I just wouldn’t be shocked if that’s the case.
You’ll likely have one of Robinson or Chambers as a backup then, but not both. Perhaps a one-year deal of a veteran as another backup.” -Daniel, C70 At The Bat
“Holliday for sure and unless Taveras stops being awesome he’s in as well. As far as the 3rd spot Jon Jay is definitely the front runner to complete the trio. I, like a lot of folks keep waiting for Jon Jay to slide comfortably into that 4th outfielder role that’s had his name on it for the last few seasons but he continues to resist. Some of our topics leading up to today’s question could obviously factor into this with trades, available free agents, etc. but I would still go with these 3 with Adron Chambers coming off the bench. I’m not as sold on Shane Robinson still being in the mix in 2014 but I won’t even take a stab as to who else would be in the mix.” -Dustin, Welcome to Baseball Heaven
“Awesome question, Chris. This makes us think about a number of dominoes falling
properly. I love it.
The two corner positions are easy, it is Matt Holliday and Oscar Taveras. Sure,
there are plenty of questions, but for projection purposes, Holliday is likely
to still be awesome at the plate and serviceable in the field, and Taveras will
be the 2014 Rookie of the Year and winner of the Vlad Guerrero swing like a
maniac and hit the ball a mile contest.
Center field is where things get fun. I will go out on a limb here and give
that spot to Adron Chambers. I think he is that spark that is missing from the
every day lineup. His defensive skills are improving (showed of a pretty
impressive arm) and he could be a terror on the bases, with some coaching from
Lou Brock or Ozzie Smith.
So, the outfield bench – that’s where things get tough.
Schumaker and Jay are both gone. Tommy Pham is still on the minor league
disabled list. That is a joke – the poor kid has had a rough time. Chris
Swauger will be my dark horse for the outfield bench spot. He will hit just
enough in Memphis next year to get a shot at the bench in 2014. With that much
youth, I could see the Cardinals opting for a free agent as the final spot over
Shane Robinson. Somebody like a Preston Wilson.
A good question, lots to think about.“ -Bob, On the Outside Corner
“In 2014, the starting outfield will be Matt Holliday in left, Jon jay in center and Oscar Taveras in right.
Backing up that group will be Mike O’Neill (after another top-notch season in the Cardinals’ system in 2013), Matt Carpenter and Ryan Jackson (converted from infield to outfield as Kolten Wong starts at second and Asdrubal Cabrera starts at short).” -Mark, Retro Simba
“I really wish I had some sort of bizarre diversion from the most well-traveled path, something like Ken Griffey Jr. receiving cyborg transplants and playing center, but I sure don’t. I’d assume that 18 months from now we’ll see Holliday, Jay, and Taveras; that’s a good thing, though! Holliday is one of the better players in baseball, Jay has found ways to blend defense and sneaky on-base ability, and Taveras loves making baseballs hurt.
As for the reserves, I sure hope they’re sexier than the current choices. Adron Chambers has speed and minor league OBP success on his side, and Shane Robinson has a nice enough glove, but there certainly isn’t any thump. An injury to a starting outfield member in 2014 could be deadly without change. Perhaps we should get on that cyborg Griffey thing.” -Brian, StanGraphs
“I’m with the hivemind. Holliday, Jay, Taveras. Beltran will not be re-signed to play outfield or otherwise. I am also hopeful that Mo can pick some low hanging fruit to back up the outfield, or someone breaks out. I am not comfortable with Adron Chambers or Shane Robinson as a starting outfielder in any prolonged capacity.” -Nick, Pitchers Hit Eighth
“Late to the party, but it’s hard to disagree with Holliday in LF, & Tavares in RF. Jay is obviously a solid plus defender, but his home/road splits remind me of Jamie Garcia. If Jay is to remain, he’ll need to improve in some of the road numbers & spend more time getting on base in ballparks not named Busch Stadium. I’m not saying he’s out, or won’t/can’t be the everyday CF on this team for the next few/several years. But when I look at the 3 spots, I think we can all agree that the contract keeps MH in LF, the club is going to find a way to get Tavares’ bat in the lineup and RF is probably how, but Jay might not be such a solid lock. Maybe. Who knows. Maybe he will. Just a thought.” -Dathan, Cards Tied For First
Well, there you have it. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how varied the answers would be but I thought it a pertinent question based on Matt Holliday’s long contract, Carlos Beltran’s short contract, and the Cards’ significant depth when it comes to outfielders. The members of the UCB rarely disappoint, however, and today was no exception. They gave me a lot of similar answers and a lot of different ones. Can’t ask for much more out of a roundtable discussion.
My thoughts about the 2014 are somewhat incomplete. I like what Jon Jay has done with the glove in centerfield, but his arm is not that of a centerfielder. Matt Holliday also has a wet noodle attached to his shoulder. If Oscar Taveras does indeed have a cannon and can patrol center close to the way Jay does, I’m fine with the Cards moving Jay. And I don’t necessarily mean to right field—l mean, moving him to the bench or trading him, because Taveras is on the team by 2014 regardless. But you also want a strong arm in right field to gun down those fools who think they can go first-to-third. Does Allen Craig have that arm? Does Matt Carpenter? It’s hard to say. As for the fourth and fifth outfielders, I like Adron Chambers because of his speed and I like that Shane Robinson can play center. If they could morph into one guy—and that guy learned how to hit—he’d be a great weapon off the bench. But that’s not the case. I’d like to see Chambers continue to develop and I’d like another outfielder to be picked up via free agency. It doesn’t have to be a solid glove guy, either. But the Cardinals’ bench is woefully inadequate from the right side. They need a presence that will keep the other manager wondering when Mike Matheny will stick him in to pinch hit—kind of like Carpenter. They currently do not have that on the right side. That is how they need to find their fourth outfielder.