Last month we learned that the Cardinals will wear a patch with Oscar Taveras’ number on it. Taveras, of course, was killed when he crashed a car he was driving in the Dominican Republic in October. Also killed was his 18-year-old girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo. Taveras was drunk at the time of the crash, well above the legal limit.
As Paul Lukas of ESPN notes, the circumstances of Taveras and Arvelo’s death are such that the Cardinals’ wearing the patch is creating some controversy. Which is understandable. After all, if Taveras had lived, he’d have been prosecuted for vehicular homicide. His acts killed himself and an innocent passenger. As Lukas puts it:
This discussion raises a number of interesting questions. Should a person’s character have any bearing on whether he’s memorialized with a patch? Does the fact that Taveras was only 22 at the time of his death make a difference in this case? Is a memorial patch an endorsement of a person’s entire life or a gesture of mourning?
Fair questions. Baseball — and the Cardinals in particular — have a checkered history with drunk driving. Players have died. Players have killed or injured others. Some, like Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, died as a result of his own drunk driving. Others, like Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, were innocent victims. One-time Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was once arrested for drunk driving. It’s always been a problem around the game, largely ignored until quite recently.
But, despite that, I’m having a hard time taking issue with the Cardinals wearing a Taveras patch. It’d be one thing if the Cardinals went crazy here, retiring his number, proclaiming days in his honor and otherwise attempting to whitewash what happened to Edilia Arvelo and Taveras, but nothing they have done since his death suggests anything like that. Their public statements have not been such that they condone or deny Taveres’ actions or that they are seeking to minimize the danger of drunk driving or the tragedy that it causes. In light of that, to claim that a small patch honoring Taveras’ memory is the same as endorsing or excusing his actions is a bit too much in my view.
Ultimately, the Cardinals as a team lost someone they knew and loved. They knew him and loved him even if the circumstances which led to his death and the death of another were borne of his own irresponsibility. Those circumstances don’t make them love and miss him any less or make their loss any less painful. Given the relative modesty of this gesture, it seems presumptuous to me for people to tell Cardinals players that the manner of their mourning is somehow wrong.