by Hannah Begay | Remember in Little League when there was always that one player everyone went “wow he/she is really good”? That was my first reaction to Fernando Tatis Jr; that guy can play. As the starting shortstop for the Padres, Tatis Jr. can single handedly end the Padres playoff drought. Last year he finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting and has already continued on his war path this season. Currently hitting .314 with 12 home runs and 29 RBI’s, this guy is producing. At just 21 years of age, Tatis is one of the best players in the league right now.
Tatis Jr. is my new favorite player to watch for the pure fact he’s controversial. Now usually being a controversial player is a bad thing as we’ve seen with Bryce Harper and Yoenis Céspedes, but in this case it is one of the best things to happen to baseball and here’s why. Fernando is breaking from tradition. For decades, there have been unwritten rules teams “follow” such as not running up the score by stealing a base or swinging on 3-0. Tatis has done both of those. The unwritten rules were always a crapshoot. If a team was up by five or more runs, stealing stopped and first team players were swapped out for the second string. It stopped being a game and became a minor league scrimmage.
To set the scene, the Padres were up 10-3 on the Rangers and Tatis got a meatball right down the middle on a 3-0 count. He swung and hit a grand slam. The Rangers were in uproar as if someone just dented their brand-new Mercedes. Even Tatis’ own manager didn’t defend him! That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard! I don’t have a problem with Tatis swinging on 3-0 because the guy gets paid to hit the ball. Period. Let’s not forget that it is extremely hard to hit a grand slam. Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson, defended Tatis saying the MLB needs players like him. Many of the game’s greatest players defended Tatis and said the unwritten rules need to go.
In another game against the Rangers with the Padres up 6-0, Tatis stole third. Again, the Rangers cried that it was unfair. Danny Vietti, a reporter for CBS, said it best: play better and don’t give up so many RBI’s to a kid who is barely legal to buy beer. It’s a fair point. Play better and it might not have happened, just saying. Bottom line: Tatis did nothing wrong and he’s got some of MLB’s greatest players to back him up.
In a game against the Astros on Sunday, a fly ball was hit by George Springer to shallow left field. Tatis raced after it and made the catch…in left field. It was remarkable and showed how high his level of talent is. This time his manager had high praise rather than ignoring the high level of play that occurred earlier in the week. Two stellar plays and one is rewarded, and one is criticized. That is a problem in a day and age where players are called up and down more often than the Yankees starters go on the injured reserve list. When you’re called up to the big leagues, the point is to show what you can do and how you can contribute to the success of the team. Tatis did just that. I would like to see more of this from players. Pitchers might work harder to throw better pitches in a 7-0 game than they normally would if there was no more assumption of a “take it easy on me” rule. Tatis Jr. is breaking all the traditions of baseball in all the right ways with outrageous home runs and actions. Either way Tatis Jr. is fun and electrifying to watch and what happens next is about to be something amazing.
Featured image via San Diego Union-Tribune.