Carlos Martinez: Pitching with Oscar on his mind

El GalloNothing makes you feel more human than when you lose someone in life who is close to you. It’s not fair. It’s too soon. And it really hurts. For St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher Carlos Martinez, losing his best friend and teammate Oscar Taveras may never wear off. Everywhere Martinez goes and whatever success follows him, the legacy of his friend will follow along.

Every time Martinez climbs the mound, he draws an #18 into the mound. Whenever something great happens, such as Friday’s announcement that he was an All Star, the 23 year old mentions “representing” Oscar at the festivities. 2015 may be an extended tribute show dedicated to his fallen friend, but something tells me Carlos will be pitching with Oscar in mind for a long time. Maybe his whole career. That’s the way it goes with legacies. They never drift. They stick with you.

Also, I need to address the moral police. The people who see fit to slam Carlos or anyone who mentions Taveras in good graces. Unless you have NEVER driven under the influence or know anyone who has, please stand down on breaking out your little moral badge here. Carlos lost a friend dear to him. Nothing changes that, circumstances or not. Oscar made a mistake many of us made at 21 years of age. Why dog his best friend for that honoring him after his death? I don’t walk around with my shiny fake moral badge on slapping people for remembering an exuberant young man who made a tragic fatal mistake. Let it be.

If pitching for Oscar makes Martinez pitch like this, as fans and writers we just need to enjoy the ride and stop judging. Sometimes in life, avoiding judgement can feel really good, almost like a weight falls off your shoulders. Think about being a kid again, and seeing something amazing. You sit there, in awe of it and if it were up to you, it wouldn’t end. That’s Cardinals fans with Martinez. That is Carlos when it comes to honoring his friend.

Martinez knew Oscar since they were kids, scrapping for a chance to pitch in the big leagues. They grew up together, pushing each other and never forgetting to be happy and remembering that sometimes the great game of baseball simply requests smiles at their toll booth.

Martinez has every reason to be there and deserves a night to feel like a kid. He pitched out of his mind during the first half of the season in a time of need for his team. Martinez went 10-3 with an 2.52 ERA and 113 strikeouts. Opposing hitters have only reached him for a .226 average and barely touch the kid with runners in scoring position. Entering the season as a promising yet raw unknown quantity of talent, Martinez has amazed with ten consecutive quality starts. Take out his two rough starts in May(14 ER in 9 innings) and his ERA sits around 1.40. That’s an impressive run.

When Carlos is paying tribute to his late friend, he isn’t idolizing Oscar or turning him into a hero. He is simply pitching with more passion and emotion on the mound. He’s a stronger man these days. All grown up. Cardinal nation should be proud of that. Everybody else just needs to respect a young man’s mission.

Nobody is perfect in life. It doesn’t work that way. Mistakes are common. It’s how one reacts to those mistakes is what sets the tone for their future. The loss of his friend will never leave Martinez’s mind. The manner with which Oscar left will only make Carlos Martinez smarter and more ready for a long road ahead. Let him honor OT. Don’t despise it. Embrace the passion on display. Embrace the feeling Carlos has at the moment. The purpose that drives him every day. There’s nothing wrong with honoring the dead as long as you don’t insist on turning them into heroes.

Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Carlos Martinez owns the stage now.

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