Just a week and a half ago, the Padres had to be feeling pretty good about themselves. They were in playoff position and had just had a huge trade deadline, landing multiple big-name players, including 23-year-old superstar Juan Soto. Friday, though, the team suffered a bit of a gut punch. Fellow young star Fernando Tatis, Jr. has been suspended for 80 games for violating the league's drug policy, as he failed a PED test.
Keep in mind that Tatis suffered a fractured wrist in a motorcycle accident during the offseason. When asked the date of his accident, Tatis replied with a question: "Which one?"
Which motorcycle accident? In the same offseason?
And now on top of that, Tatis has been suspended into next May. He'll miss all of the 2022 season, essentially due to poor decision-making. There's a phrase I learned from a coach long ago that has stuck with me for years. "Control what you can control." You can't control the umpires, you can't control the weather, you can't control how the opposing team plays. You can control your decision-making, though, among other things.
Tatis got in a motorcycle accident last offseason and apparently decided to keep riding the bike. His wrist was injured and he didn't tell anyone about it until reporting to camp in March. These are bad decisions that kept Tatis out of the Padres' lineup into August. And now, on top of that, we learned that more issues with his decision-making have resulted in him being out another 80 games.
Padres general manager A.J. Preller had some words that were much more stern than we're used to seeing from from office execs when addressing one of their stars.
"I think we're hoping that from the offseason to now, that there would be some maturity," said Preller, via The Athletic. "And obviously with the news today, it's more of a pattern and something we've got to dig a little bit more into. I'm sure he's very disappointed, but at the end of the day, it's one thing to say it. You have to start by showing it with your actions."
"I think what we need to get to is a point in time where we trust," Preller said, via San Diego Union-Tribune. "Over the course of the last six or seven months, I think that's been something that we haven't really been able to have."
Harsh? Probably, but it's pretty spot on. Starting pitcher Mike Clevinger had similar feelings on the matter:
Tatis is only 23 years old, but his father played in parts of 11 seasons in the majors. The concept of being a responsible big-league player shouldn't be new.
As one of the most talented players in baseball, Tatis should be responsible to his teammates. Remember, they were in playoff position last year and collapsed down the stretch. They have played well in his absence and were gearing up to add a major talent in pursuit of a deep playoff run and maybe the Padres' first World Series title. Instead, they'll have to do without him.
He's also on the second year of a 14-year, $340 million contract, which means he needs to be responsible to management and ownership. As Preller alluded to, Tatis hasn't come through on this one so far.
The best bet here is the PED suspension scared Tatis straight and he'll grow a lot between now and when his suspension has been served, moving into the future with better decision-making. Then again, shouldn't the first motorcycle accident have been the wake-up call?