I think I had a pretty typical reaction to the news of Any Winehouse’s death: “I wish I could say I’m surprised. Seriously, what a waste of talent.” What’s even more sad is that Winehouse wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last person of whom we can say that. Even in baseball, we run into similar stories. They may not have wound up in a City of London body bag but they flamed out just as badly.
The first two guys that inevitably come up are Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Watching those two pitch in 2003, the entire NL and a good portion of the AL had to have been crapping themselves. Sure, that was still the era of the long ball but you could see the future of baseball in the Cubs’ duo. And then they disappeared. Maybe Baker overused them. Maybe they were always destined for injury because of how hard they threw. Maybe it was just the baseball gods doing what they do with the Cubs once again. Whatever it was, Prior and Wood wound up being legendary more for what they could have done than for what they did.
But if you really want to talk about baseball’s Winehouse, how about Daryl Strawberry? Yes, I know he played almost two decades but he lost so much to health and drug problems considering the tools he had. It’s especially sad because we can imagine what he could have done. It’s the same thing as Winehouse. It’s not that she wasn’t impressive and it’s not that she didn’t do anything. It’s that she, like Strawberry, could have done so much more.