Major League Baseball suffered two gut-punches this past Sunday, not even four months after losing one of its top young pitchers in the game…Jose Fernandez. This time, the double blows came from the Dominican Republic. Former major leaguer Andy Marte was killed in an auto accident at the age of 33. While the Dominican Republic authorities were trying to collect information on Marte’s crash, news trickled in that 25-year-old Yordano Ventura, starting pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, was also killed in an automobile accident. Ventura would have been leaving for Spring Training in about three weeks. Talk about a one-two punch!
MLB has been no stranger to tragedy over the past 27 months. Fernandez, the 24-year-old flame thrower from Cuba, died in a boating accident on September 25, 2016. He was having a banner year…a 16-8 record with a 2.86 ERA and 253 strikeouts. Fernandez probably would have generated quite a few votes for the Cy Young Award. The Miami Marlins pitcher had made 76 starts for the Marlins from 2013 through 2016. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2013 and had recorded 589 strikeouts in those four years. His statistics would have been even better had Fernandez missed almost all of the 2014 season by undergoing Tommy John surgery. His Marlins teammates honored Fernandez by donning his #16 jersey for a game at Marlins Park.
In 2104, the St. Louis Cardinals lost a top prospect, Oscar Taveras, who was 22 when he and his girlfriend died in a car wreck. Taveras was also from the Dominican Republic. He appeared in 80 major league games for the Cardinals in 2014…batting .239 with three home runs and 22 RBI. He was chosen as a minor league All Star in 2012, playing for Springfield, an affiliate of the Cardinals.
Marte, born in Villa Tapia, had been considered a “can’t miss” prospect when he signed with the Atlanta Braves in 2000. He played nine years with Atlanta, Cleveland and Arizona. On December 18, 2005, Marte was traded from Atlanta to Boston for infielder Edgar Renteria. Then, on January 27, 2016, he was flipped to the Cleveland Indians in a six-player trade. Marte appeared in 80 major league games twice…in 2008 and 2010. He had a career MLB average of .218 with 21 home runs and 99 RBI. In the minors, Marte hit 20+ home runs four times and had a career-high 105 RBI in 2002.
Ventura exploded onto the MLB scene with his debut on September 17, 2013. The following year, he was starting for the Royals in the 2014 World Series and then won a World Series ring with Kansas City in 2015. In all, Ventura made 93 starts in the majors and recorded double-digit wins in his last three seasons. He was 38-31 with 470 career strikeouts.
So, is there anything that connects any or all of these deaths? Tragically, there may be…and it is: alcohol. It was reported that Taveras had a blood alcohol content of 0.287 which is six times the legal limit for the Dominican Republic. Ironically, Ventura—starting game six of the 2014 World Series—wrote on his hat “R.I.P. O.T. #18 as a tribute to his fellow countryman.
Fernandez was not only intoxicated, he had cocaine in his system that led to the boat crash that killed him and two friends. He, most certainly, was on his way to becoming one of the top pitchers in the major leagues.
It will be at least three weeks before we find out whether Marte and Ventura had been drinking…one thing was confirmed: Ventura was not wearing a seat belt when he crashed.
Hopefully, other major leaguers will learn something from these two tragedies. First of all, don’t drive while intoxicated…take a taxi or have someone drive them home.