Now we can only imagine.
Of all the players for the Kansas City Royals, Yordano Ventura easily was the most intriguing.
His lively arm produced fastballs with bazooka-like power. He had that mischievous smile, maybe one reason he at times did some mischievous things on the field.
He had an unquestioned will to win, a will that sometimes overtook his better judgment. You never knew from game to game whether Ventura was going to throw zeroes or throw a buzztower message to upset the hitter.
Ventura died on Sunday at the way-too-young age of 25. He had flashed his infinite potential during his three years in the Royals’ starting rotation. He pitched a memorable shutout in Game 6 of the World Series, which ascended him to the top of the staff. The Royals would never have won the 2015 World Championship without him anchoring the rotation. He left us wanting for more after an indifferent 2016 season when he won 11 games, lost 12 and made headlines for the wrong reasons.
But that talent, that potential. That easy arm motion. It gripped Royals’ fans emotions as they so wanted him to become another Pedro Martinez, another slight pitcher who went into the Hall of Fame.
The Royals had locked up Ventura for the long term. They wanted to cultivate him. Sure, there were the maddening antics that caused the Royals to think about trading him (I don’t think they really did, they were just air balloon testing), but the good far, far outweighed the bad.
I really believe Ventura would have matured into a consistent 15-to-18-game winner. He never quite developed a knee-buckling curveball on a consistent basis. If he had, he would have made hitters look silly as every pitch he threw was off his fastball. And he would probably have thrown a better change-up with advancing years. He’s the one pitcher for the Royals over all others I would have paid a little extra to watch because he was so electric and there was always a chance he could have that one night when it all came together as he had no-hit stuff.
2017 was already going to be difficult enough for the Royals. They know this could be one last hurrah before the gang is broken up. No team in baseball has more players who can be set free after this season, most of them being the nucleus of the team. They could very well enter 2018 with no Eric Hosmer, no Lorenzo Cain, no Mike Moustakas just to name three. This thing could very well get blown up and we could return to the dark days of Royals baseball, the after 1985 to 2012 nightmare that was unbearable to stomach.
Now the death of Ventura has cast a pall over the organization. The home opener will be dripping in emotion and tears. He was such a well-liked member of the team as they looked past some of his nonsense because they knew he was such a talent and competitor. The first few weeks will be hard. Time will pass, but there will always be reminders of the kid they called “Ace.”
Gone far too soon, but not forgotten. RIP Yordano Ventura.