Under the circumstances, the San Diego Padres have been very patient with Fernando Tatis Jr. The Friars star shortstop, in the second season of a massive 14 year, $340 million contract, has not played a single game in 2022 due to wrist surgery stemming from a motorcycle accident last winter. Now, the Padres will have to wait quite a bit longer for his services.
The word spread quickly in the baseball world when Tatis Jr. was recently slapped with an 80 game suspension after testing positive in a random drug test. The news was a shocker for the Padres, who only a few days earlier, acquired sluggers Juan Soto and Josh Bell in a blockbuster trade with the Washington Nationals. Tatis Jr. tested dirty for a substance called Clostebol, which he said was purchased to treat ringworm. Fernando’s dad would later claim his son used the drug because of a skin fungus that developed after getting a haircut.
“It was something for the skin and didn’t contain testosterone or any performance enhancing drug,” said Fernando Sr, who enjoyed a 10 year big league career. “This was an honest mistake and could have been handled differently.”
Perhaps his pop is correct. But Tatis Jr. never consulted a team trainer or doctor regarding the issue, and has the habit of ignoring proper protocol off the field, typically marching to the beat of his own drum. As a result, “El Niño” will now be sidelined into next season and will be banned from playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. The suspension will be without pay, costing the flashy 23 year old an estimated $2.9 million.
Reeling too are the Padres, a club that has been mediocre of late, particularly on offense. Fernando Jr. had been on a week long rehab assignment at AA San Antonio and the repaired wrist was nearly 100 percent. The addition of Tatis in a top of the order lineup with Jurickson Profar, Manny Machado, Soto and Bell would have been as good as any team in the National League. So when the bombshell news hit the San Diego clubhouse, it was not well received.
“This is the second time we’ve been disappointed with him, so you hope he learns from this and grows up,” said starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, who reacted harshly. Others were more guarded with their statements, including Machado, the team’s “unofficial” captain.
“It’s devastating,” noted Manny, who had a couple of bench incidents with Fernando last year. “But we’ve got a strong group here and we’ve gotten this far without him.”
Bob Melvin, the Padres veteran skipper, said he was “disappointed,” but later admitted that Tatis seemed “sincere and remorseful.”
Indeed, Fernando himself offered no excuses, and admitted he made a “dumb mistake” and didn’t take advantage of “resources” that were available to him. But another statement he made, honest yet candid, seemed to irritate players and fans alike.
“I would never do anything to disrespect the game I love,” he declared.
Those words created a knee-jerk reaction on social media, and it wasn’t pretty.
“That’s exactly what he did,” commented a fan on Facebook. “Shame, shame, shame.” Another post was downright ugly.
“He’s a train wreck. Get the bleep out of San Diego, punk!”
Expectations are high in San Diego, and folks are hungry for a championship after being a doormat and the Dodgers weak little brother since 1998. The majority of the home games at Petco Park, an MLB gem, are sellouts. And when the Padres signed Soto, a childhood pal of the Tatis family, everybody went nuts. The problem here is that while Fernando and Juan are the same age, the latter is miles more mature. Most of us in San Diego are hopeful that Fernando Tatis Jr., throughout the upcoming months, will start to understand that the organization and his teammates are more important than personal decisions that bite him in the behind. I think he’ll figure it out.