Potential Not Always Fulfilled
Sports in 2014 are seemingly all about the future. Teams buy into this narrative, especially if they are bad, by saying “It’s bad now, but it’s we’ve got people on the way who are going to make it better.” Fans take that and run to publications like Baseball America, and listen to people like Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, and Chad Ford telling us who the next great one will be and we buy it as the gospel – failing, many times, to remember what is happening in the present and what has happened in the past.
This is all prologue to what turned into a most interesting conversation on Facebook for me this week. It started with a comment by Jamey Newberg, whose Newberg Report is a must read for anyone who follows the Rangers. As knowledgeable as Jamey is about the Rangers and all baseball happenings, his even deeper passion is the minor leagues, and the prospects that may or may not make it to the major leagues. When Cardinals uber-prspect Oscar Taveras was killed in an auto accident earlier this week in the Dominican Republic, he was moved to say that, “Oscar Taveras will be my son’s Lyman Bostock.”
Understand that Bostock, who was killed in an auto accident in 1978, played four years in the major leagues. He never hit below .282. His 1977 season saw him rank in the top seven in numerous offensive categories, including finishing second to the incomparable Rod Carew in the AL batting race. He was an elite defender in center field as well. He had proven himself. Taveras, while promising, struggled after being called up in May hitting just .234 with three home runs. His biggest moment came in Game 2 of the NLCS when he hit an eighth inning, game tying home run. In other words he was potential. And nothing more.
Some try to use the model of LeBron James, but there couldn’t be a worse example. Yes, James was hyped, and yet as an 18-year-old James proved worthy of the hype averaging more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game – the baseline for what has become one of the greatest careers in NBA history. The better example might be that of Len Bias who died of a cocaine overdose in 1984 before ever playing a game for the Boston Celtics.
Look at football recruiting rankings. The Universities of Texas, Michigan and Florida, all blue-blood programs have either fired their coach or are about to fire their coach despite having consecutive recruiting classes that were deemed to be “can’t miss.” We all know the crapshoot that is the NFL and NBA Draft. I don’t know how it’s possible that any fan can fall in love with anyone before they’ve made a truly meaningful contribution to their team. And from a Rangers standpoint Jamey has brought nearly daily updates about the likes of Jorge Alfaro, Lewis Brinson, Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor. Sure these players have potential. Odor has even shown that he just might belong at the big league level, but right now, potential is all it is. You know what they say about potential.
I don’t begrudge anyone how they mourn. If you’re a ten year old kid who is devastated at such news, I completely get it. However, if you’re an adult who has the advantage of perspective and chooses not to use it, then that’s wrong. In our desire to make the future now, we lose our perspective on what was and what is. We need to be better than that. Now is as good a time as any to start.