On November 15, 2008, St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak agreed to an amateur free agent deal (worth a reported $145,000) with Oscar Taveras, a 16-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Nearly six years later, Taveras, at the age of 22, (along with his 18-year-old girlfriend Edilia Arvelo) died in a tragic, yet avoidable car accident while spending some much-needed offseason time with his loved ones back home.
In the time between these two events, Taveras was named the organization's top prospect by Baseball Prospectus twice, compiled a .320/.376/.516 slash line in 436 minor league games, and produced a handful of timeless moments at the big league level (despite having only 87 games of experience). One of the last moments we will remember is the game-tying laser shot off Jean Machi in game two of the National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants. The very last hit of his career. The very last hit of his life.
Back on January 19th, Derrick Goold, of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, put together an informative piece detailing the Cardinals' plans to honor the late Taveras, one of the organization's treasures over the last six years. One of those plans included the placement of a black circular patch with "OT" inside of a white circle on each of the uniforms for the 2015 season. Nearly one month after Goold published his piece, Paul Lukas, an ESPN writer known as @UniWatch on Twitter, decided to provide his thoughts on the matter. Lukas addressed both ends of the spectrum, but seemingly concluded to not second-guess the Cardinals—stating that a memorial patch is "not for the deceased—it’s for those who are left behind."
In my opinion, the decision by the Cardinals to honor Taveras in this manner really shouldn't have led to this much controversy in the first place. In no way should the Cardinals' use of an "OT" patch on their uniforms (and likely somewhere else in the stadium) be considered an endorsement for Oscar's actions on that fateful October evening. Of all MLB organizations, I think it is safe to say the Cardinals are well aware of the gravity of drunk driving. Bill DeWitt made this quite clear in Goold's article. Since Josh Hancock's death, the Cardinals have made adjustments to the way they handle situations involving alcohol and have set up a driving program for players to use at their own discretion. After Oscar's death, they know that there is still much more to be done, and both DeWitt and Mozeliak are up to the task.
Back to the main point of the article—a memorial patch. That is all it is meant to be. The St. Louis Cardinals are a baseball team that lost one of its own. They have addressed (and will continue to address) the seriousness of drunk driving. I can assure you of that. However, come Opening Day 2015, 25 players (plus coaches) will begin another chapter of their respective careers without their teammate, their friend, their brother. Carrying "OT" along for the ride that will be the 2015 season will serve as a therapeutic coping mechanism for the men that grew so very close to Taveras over the years.
Now, for those that weren't necessarily given the privilege of getting to know Taveras personally during his short time on Earth, the patch can serve a multitude of purposes. Some will view it as "oh, what could have been"—that sweet swing, that thunderous finish (refer to the article's main photo), but most importantly, that infectious smile. Others will view it as a reminiscent memorial to such a great professional baseball career, especially those who followed his journey through the minor leagues. An entire town will embrace the presence of the patch honoring one of their very own, El Fenomeno. Finally, as Jesse Spector said on Twitter last night, if one so chooses, it can indeed serve as a public service announcement against drunk driving.
In conclusion, is it okay for the St. Louis Cardinals to honor one of their own, despite the negative circumstances surrounding his death? Absolutely, because remembering Oscar Taveras the ballplayer/teammate/friend/brother is not, in any way, condoning Oscar Taveras the drunk driver.