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Only The Good Die Young

And we're never ready for it.

Jason O. Watson

This is a crappy, clichéd statement, and Billy Joel wrote a song about it.  Obviously, there are good old people that die, and bad young people who die.  The phrase is probably completely overused, but to me the term "only the good die young" resonates when I think about someone who has passed too early.  Someone who has passed before fulfilling his or her purpose in life.  An individual that had the potential to do good in the world, and make the people around him or her better.

On Sunday night, if you were a baseball fan you were probably watching the Royals and Giants in Game 5 of the World Series.  Maybe you were like me and you were hitting the back button between baseball and football.  Sometime before that game 22 year old, uber prospect of the St. Louis Cardinals, Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend lost their lives in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.  In mere moments we went from enjoying a Sunday night of World Series baseball to realizing we had lost another good one too soon.

The news started to slowly drift in on the Twitterverse around the first and second innings, and Taveras' agent and other members of the baseball media quickly confirmed it.  Suddenly, the game didn't seem important anymore because honestly it wasn't.  I can't even tell you who won the game, and had to look it up while writing this article.  When I heard the news I went into shut down mode.  I was still chatting with the fine folks of RR, making my jokes, and being snarky, but I felt numb.  Like most, I can't wrap my mind around things like this.  There are young people in the prime of their lives and all of the sudden they are gone.

Even though he was a St. Louis Cardinal prospect, (maybe because he was a St. Louis Cardinal prospect) I followed Taveras' minor league career pretty closely.  He was one of those five tool players that every one drooled about, and had one hell of a sweet swing from the left side of the plate.  He was considered one of the few up and coming superstars in the prospect realm.  For the past couple years it was between Jurickson Profar and Taveras for the top spot on many prospect lists.  I was insanely jealous of this.  We also got this very funny moment at the expense of Taveras.

Taveras was slowed last year by injuries, but finally got his shot in 2014.  He had his difficulties during the season as most rookies do, but still flashed the athletic brilliance that he did in the minors.  For many Cardinals fans, and just baseball fans in general, the culminating moment of his sadly short career was when he hit a Jean Machi splitter deep into right field to tie the game in Game 2 of the NLCS.  Kolten Wong would end up winning the game with a walk off of his own.

This is a tragedy for the Taveras' family, the Cardinals, and Major League Baseball.  This transcends baseball, petty rivalries, and dislike that fan bases share for each other.  As Reds fans, we can relate to their anguish.  We know how it is to lose a beloved player, whether he was taken from this world before his time or lived a full life.  In a similar heartbreaking case, the Reds lost Dernell Stenson when he was murdered in 2003 when he was kidnapped outside of a nightclub in Arizona.  Stenson had a cup of coffee with Cincinnati in 2003 and was participating in the Arizona Fall League.  RR didn't really exist at the time of Stenson's murder, but JD Arney had a couple articles on the subject a couple years later.  Interview with former Reds Prospect Brian Peterson. --  One of the murders pleading guilty.

We don't have to go much farther back to remember when Ryan Freel lost his life to suicide caused by depression and alcoholism.  His depression may have been caused by brain trauma from the numerous concussions he received during his playing career.  Freel was the first baseball player to be diagnosed with CTE, which is something football players usually deal with.  We will also never forget when Nuxy passed from cancer in 2007.  He lived a full life with children and grandchildren, but his voice and presence is something that is missed by Reds fans every time they listen to a game.  Everyone of us has probably been listening to the radio and thought back to listening to Nuxy when you were younger.

In the end, what we have is a young man and woman who had their entire lives ahead of them taken too soon.  As I shared in one of our SIS discussions on Friday night, I've had to deal with my fair share of death.  This accident brought me back to 2009 when I lost one of my best friends in a traffic accident.  He was a young man, much like Taveras, who had his whole life in front of him.  He was the type of person that would drop anything to help a friend, and was never too busy to get a beer with you on the weekend.  In the snap of a finger he was gone.  It's too final, it's too unfinished, and I hate it.

When I heard of Taveras' accident the first thing I thought about was my friend.  Then I thought about my life, and about the lives of the people I love.  Life is a fragile thing and we never know which moment is our last.  I'm not going to go into any kind of Carpe Diem bullshit or anything like that.  Live your life the way you want, but make sure the ones you love the most know it.  They are the ones left picking up the pieces in the end.

I really think Mike Matheny said it best when he finally gave his statement on the death of Taveras, and I'll end this article with that.  I really can't put this in better words than he did.

"In my opinion, the word 'love' is the most misused, and misunderstood word in the English language. It is not popular for men to use this word, and even less popular for athletes. But, there is not a more accurate word for how a group of men share a deep and genuine concern for each other. We loved Oscar, and he loved us. That is what a team does, that is what a family does. You will be missed, Oscar."