Royals fans everywhere are mourning the passing of pitcher Yordano Ventura Sunday morning after an early hours car accident in the Dominican Republic. As awful as everyone who cares about the team might feel right now, the tragedy won’t necessarily ruin the 2017 season.
There’s really no way to portray Yordano Ventura‘s death at age 25 as anything but a horrible event. But, some recent history of nearby sports teams show that the passing of a teammate doesn’t always result in a poor season. If anything, both teams—and the cities that they represent—might even need the sense of community that sports can bring more than they would have before the tragedy.
Both Chris Young and Edinson Volquez managed to help the Kansas City Royals win their second championship in 2015 despite the passing of their fathers. Indeed, both pitchers had good individual seasons. Mike Moustakas earned his first All-Star nod in 2015 despite his mother’s passing in July of the same season. The year after the horrific suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot, the 2013 Chiefs went 11-5 and qualified for the playoffs following a 2-14 finish in 2012.
If we look to cross-state rival St. Louis, we discover that the 2002 Cardinals team—who suffered the death of pitching star Darryl Kile—finished the year with 97 victories and earned the NL Central title. That squad proved to be particularly resilient since Kile was found dead in his hotel room on a team road trip. The 2015 Cardinals also finished with the best record in baseball with 100 wins the season following Oscar Taveras‘ tragic death in the winter of 2014.
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Of course, with the KC Royals spring report date still 23 days away, pulling together as a team and a community will come first. Next week’s Fan Fest in Kansas City will likely end up as an unofficial public wake for Yordano Ventura. Certainly, he’s going to be on everyone’s mind. Danny Duffy helped begin the healing process, by appearing at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday afternoon and exchanging hugs with grieving fans.
Teammate Christian Colon also posted a heartfelt message on Twitter:
— Christian Colón (@C24Colon) January 22, 2017
Godspeed Yordano Ventura. Twenty five is just too young.