The story of Fernando Tatis Jr. is a tale of a young, talented athlete with enormous potential who has fallen into a world of lies and deceit. He is in a fight for his professional reputation following Major League Baseball suspending him for 80 games after testing positive for Clostebol, a performance-enhancing substance. So, where do the San Diego Padres and Tatis Jr. go from here?
The Foundation of Tatis Jr.’s Star Status is Crumbling
From the first day after making his MLB debut in a Padres uniform, Tatis Jr. has been viewed differently from his peers. But the tarnish has been slowly removed from his armor. First, it was a dugout blowup with Manny Machado in St. Louis last season. The incident was deemed as two teammates showing their frustration with the Padres falling out of playoff contention.
This past spring, Tatis Jr. was diagnosed with a broken wrist on the first day of camp. No controversy, right? Wrong, as the shortstop would not confirm how the injury occurred. First, it was broken in offseason workouts, then came reports of Tatis Jr. being involved in multiple motorcycle accidents in the Dominican Republic last winter.
Finally, the truth came out after the press questioned Tatis Jr.’s commitment to the Padres. Now a PED suspension, his silence has been deafening since the news became public. The front office, his teammates and the Friar Faithful offer no sympathy to him.
San Diego Padres Are Trying to Hold The Course
For the Friars, it is business as usual. Tatis Jr.’s suspension will have more of an impact in 2023 than for the remainder of this season. No question, it has not been easy replacing what Tatis Jr. offers to the lineup each day. His replacement, Ha-Seong Kim, cannot match his talent level, but he has not played beyond his own skill level in games. At times, the Friars’ play has been frustrating, but you cannot argue with a 65-52 record in the middle of August.
Surprisingly, Padres general manager A.J. Preller was candid with his comments about Tatis Jr.’s suspension. He reiterated how the team would have liked to have seen some maturity from their star player. Instead, Tatis Jr. disappointed them with his questionable off-the-field actions.
Clearly, the Padres front office is disgusted with him and expects Tatis Jr. to make changes to his personal life choices moving forward. However, the odds are high that we have not seen the last of him in a Friars uniform. His big-money contract makes him untradeable, so the Padres must welcome back Tatis Jr. to the fold next season.
On the field, Kim is very capable of continuing as the everyday shortstop for the remainder of this season and beyond. He is not a defensive highlight reel, but he will catch everything that is hit at him. Padres manager Bob Melvin is confident that Kim can remain solid in the field
Offensively, Kim has been steady (.249 BA) with the bat. But he is clutch with runners in scoring position (.325 BA in 40 ABs with runners in RISP and two outs). Kim simplifies his approach at the plate, which has transformed him into a run-producing machine (16 RBIs with runners in RISP and two outs). His overall play has lessened the need to acquire reinforcements at the trade deadline. However, it is imperative to keep Kim healthy or the Padres will be behind the eight-ball in their chase for a playoff berth.
Tatis Jr. is No Longer The “Face of Baseball”
Tatis Jr. must come to the realization that he will wear baseball’s scarlet letter (S) for the remainder of his MLB career. Regardless of what Tatis Jr. accomplishes on the playing field. The stigma of his suspension will overshadow all of the accolades achieved. The fans will never forget his professional sins.
The more you watch baseball, the more you get convinced that the outcome of games is less dependent on a person’s athletic ability. The sport is a mental war where the player’s confidence in their skill level is the ultimate opponent.
It is too early in Tatis Jr.’s career to have doubts that he cannot return to his former level of being a difference-maker in the Padres lineup. But no one knows how a 20-month absence from the majors will impact his ability to play the sport. Even if Tatis Jr. maintains a rigorous workout program, there is no guarantee that his body will not break down when he returns in 2023.
Tatis Jr. is facing an uphill climb in re-gaining the trust of Friar Faithful once again. He must confront his flaws as a human being during his time away from baseball. Tatis Jr. must work to change his public image, but that could get ugly if handled incorrectly.
It is a challenge that no one wants to face.