By now, Padres’ fans, players, and executives have had some time to digest the gut-wrenching news of superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 80-game suspension for taking the banned substance Clostebol.
Tatis claims to have taken the a medication to treat ringworm that contained the substance, which resulted in the positive test result. Whether or not he ingested the substance knowingly or not, it is a massive disappointment to everyone that relies on or looks up to Tatis Jr. For the Padres’ organization, it is another instance of trust being broken after the 23 year-old broke his wrist in December while riding a motorcycle in the Dominican Republic.
For the players on the team, there is certainly a level of disappointment that goes beyond the playing field. “He’s a young kid. He’s going to learn his lessons or whatnot. But ultimately, I think you got to start showing a little bit of remorse and you got to start showing that you’re committed to it and want to be here,” said Padres’ ace Joe Musgrove when talking about the suspension of his teammate.
People make mistakes, and as a young man at just 23 years-old, it is something that most people can empathize with. Most people, however, are not being paid $340 million dollars by a franchise to not just be on the field producing at a high-level, but also to be the face of a franchise and of an entire city.
That brings us to the impact that his decisions have on the fanbase of the Padres. Tatis Jr. is not just a great baseball player that impacts the game on the field, but he is a larger-than-life presence for a city that adores the man on and off the field. Adults and kids alike look up to him like no one in recent San Diego memory.
It was hard enough for Padres’ fans having to cope with Tatis Jr. being absent for the first four plus months of the season. A season in which the Padres have faired relatively well without one of the best players in baseball. Then, just as he was beginning his rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues and was less than a week away from joining the team for a playoff push, this news drops. All of the excitement and anticipation for his return now turns to heartbreak, anger, disappointment, and any other emotion in between that fans are currently coping with.
As fans, it is completely justified to be angry, disappointed, and sad. Not only because he will not be able to help the team on the field, but also because there seems to be a lack of awareness of his impact on the community that looks up to him so highly.
There will be plenty of fans that will look past this and forgive him, knowing that it was a likely mistake and that he obviously would rather be playing and helping the team. Those fans would understand that people make mistakes, especially young people, and will have confidence that the young man will learn from his mistakes and do whatever it takes to re-gain the trust of the team and the city.
There will also be fans that will be on the opposite end of the spectrum, who look at a man who is making $340 million dollars to produce at his normal high level, and will miss an entire season due to careless mistakes that could have and likely should have been avoided due to the responsibility that comes with such a large contract. Those fans may or may not forgive Tatis Jr., and again, that is something that is completely understandable given his importance to the franchise.
Then there are people in the middle of those two mindsets who will not waver on their infatuation of the man and the player, but are saddened by the whole situation. Likely willing to forgive the player’s mistakes when he returns to action in 2023, but who just want to see the generational talent play for their team because they understand that people make mistakes, but still miss watching him on the field.
The biggest impact, I believe, will be on the kids that look up to Tatis Jr. as more than a ball player. They look up to him as a superhero of sorts. The kids will likely not hold the same type of grudge that adults will, but what they are being robbed of is watching their hero play every day. The kids who own Tatis Jr. jerseys, wear his wig underneath their ball caps, who wait for hours just for a chance to see him up close, and if they’re lucky, get a picture with him or get an autograph. While the suspension might not affect them in the sense that they will be angry for his mistake, but it will certainly rob them of the ability to watch their favorite player.
What is done, is done. The mistake was made and everyone can only move forward and hope for the best. The Padres did an excellent job of adding major pieces to their team at the Trade Deadline that make the team more than capable of contending for the playoffs and even advancing in the playoffs. The additions of Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Josh Hader and Brandon Drury make this team far better than they were through July, but they would have obviously been a much scarier team with Tatis Jr. mixed in with those guys.
There is no telling what could have been if the Padres had all their pieces for the remainder of the season, but hope is certainly not lost with Soto and Manny Machado leading the team offensively, coupled with the star-power that the Padres have for starting pitching depth.
The best thing for Fernando Tatis Jr. to do going forward would be to speak from the heart to San Diego and the organization with more than just a cookie-cutter statement showing regret for his actions. It would mean a lot to everyone, especially those angered and disappointed in him, if he came out and spoke directly to the fans about how he is dedicated to doing whatever he has to do to right his wrong. Acknowledge that he understands how much he means to the city of San Diego and that he will do better going forward.
People make mistakes, and everyone can relate to that. People are willing to forgive, even if they won’t forget. However, I believe the fans and the team deserve an acknowledgement of just how much his mistakes impact this community. Not just a premeditated statement that lacks the emotional connection that San Diego has toward Tatis Jr.