If San Diego Padres phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. has taught us anything, it’s that baseball needs more swagger.
The date is August 17th. It’s the top of the 8th inning. The San Diego Padres are demolishing the Rangers, 10-3. The bases are loaded and the count is 3-0. Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is at the plate, daring Rangers hurler Juan Nicasio to throw him a fastball.
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And Tatis obliterates the offering, smacking a controversy-inducing missile into the right-field seats. Tatis’ blast extends the Friars lead to 14-3, and simultaneously hurls the baseball world into a frenzy.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward was livid and here was his gripe: Tatis broke an “unwritten rule.” The Padres were already up seven runs. The count was 3-0. Woodward felt the Padres ran up the score unnecessarily.
I’m here to tell you Woodward – and anyone who agrees – is utterly mistaken. It’s time for Baseball to eradicate its so-called unwritten rules which hinder showmanship and swagger, two traits the game sorely needs. Dramatic performances, such as Tatis’ slam, inspire excellence and excitement.
Observe what happened following Tatis’ slam: the previously hum-drum Padres went on a tear, going 13-5, bringing their season record to 24-17. Prior to the slam, San Diego was 11-12, preparing for what looked like another season of disappointment. Tatis’ slam was a turning point and a jolt of energy. It rejuvenated the team, helping the gifted roster realize its potential.
The San Diego Padres are packed with premier young talent. Whether it’s the meaty lineup or fiery pitching staff, San Diego boasts one of baseball’s deepest and most compelling group of players.
Before the slam, San Diego looked like a roster full of youngsters struggling to make their mark in the majors. After the slam? The Padres are Major League Baseball’s most enthralling team.
Another key development: following the Padres dominant win streak, General Manager AJ Preller pulled the trigger on a series of ambitious trades. Preller hauled in nine players, including the most sought-after commodity in last Monday’s trade deadline: ace Mike Clevinger.
Clevinger belongs perfectly in San Diego. He looks like a surfer — he’s tall and thin, at 6’4” and 215 pounds. His stringy brown hair flows out of the back of his cap and rests on his shoulders. He sports a dirty-brown mustache that coats his upper lip, and powers 98-mph fastballs to the plate with a funky-yet-effective delivery. He completes a rotation already brimming with stud pitchers.
Following Clevinger, Dinelson Lamet slings fastballs through the strike zone at 97 mph, and Zach Davies manipulates weak contact with his tumbling changeup. Garrett Richards spins the ball like a top, averaging a 2,885 spin rate on his slider, and Chris Paddack is equipped with a mid-90s fastball and an array of off-speed pitches.
And that’s only the starting rotation. Preller also acquired veteran slugger Mitch Moreland – who’s hitting .308 with 8 homers. He retrieved two catchers, Austin Nola and Jason Castro. Finally, he solidified the bullpen with three flame-throwing relievers: Trevor Rosenthal, Dan Altavilla, and Taylor Williams.
In the beat of a heart, Preller transformed the Padres from wild-card hopefuls to serious World Series contenders. San Diego is all in. They’ve pushed their chips to the center of the table.
And there’s something refreshing about that. Something invigorating. In a day and age when many teams are hesitant at the trade deadline, AJ Preller was fearless and deliberate.
Thanks to those aggressive moves, San Diego presents a prodigious hurdle in the postseason. They’ll roll out a 1-2-3 combination of Clevinger, Lamet, and Richards. Opposing pitchers will have to wade through San Diego’s deep lineup of sluggers, including Tatis, Manny Machado, and former World Series hero Eric Hosmer. The San Diego Padres snatched Baseball’s attention, and they’re primed for a deep run in October. And It all traces back to a humid night in Texas, when Fernando Tatis Jr. lasered a fastball into the right-field seats.