Fernando Tatis. Jr. became one of the faces of baseball at 21 years-old. He was a kid with a man-sized game who set Major League Baseball on fire. Two years later, it's time for that kid to grow up.
Tatis will miss three months thanks to a wrist injury suffered this offseason. The San Diego Padres will be deprived of their superstar and MLB fans will miss out on weeks of watching the most electric player in the league. Tatis has a responsibility to the Padres, and the game of baseball, to mature and take better care of himself.
Though we don't know for sure, most believe the wrist injury stems from a motorcycle accident Tatis was involved in this offseason. That crash was either severe, or no big deal depending on who you talk to. If he's still injured from it, I think it's safe to say it was a pretty big deal.
This isn't the first questionable decision Tatis has made. In 2021, he only played 130 games thanks to a recurring shoulder injury and a bout with COVID-19. He still put up MVP-worthy numbers, slashing .282/.364/.611 with 42 home runs, 97 RBIs, 25 stolen bases and a 6.1 fWAR. Imagine what he could have done with a full season. That shoulder injury has lingered for a long time, but Tatis opted not to get surgery to correct the problem this offseason. If it recurs again in 2022, it'll be clear he made the wrong call.
Tatis is only 23-years-old, and guys that young do reckless things -- trust me, I know from experience. But given the enormity of the 14-year, $340 million deal he signed last offseason and his position as one of the faces of baseball, he doesn't have the luxury of making those kinds of mistakes. Part of signing that deal was becoming the face of the Padres and agreeing to take that responsibility on his shoulders -- at all times, not just during the season.
What does that mean for the future? Well, Tatis needs to part ways with the motorcycle. He needs to get any potential injuries checked out immediately, and listen to team doctors when they give advice on treatment. While he's incredibly exciting to watch, he's only valuable when he's actually on the field. That could mean he needs to dial back some of the plays he attempts throughout the season, take fewer risks and remain available.
Tatis is a great player. Everyone loves him, he's got a 10,000-watt smile, incredible energy, plays how we wish every star would play and it's clear he loves his teammates and the game of baseball. This isn't about changing any of that, he just needs to make better decisions given the responsibilities he's chosen to accept. It might suck, but it's just a reality.
Tatis owes the Padres and the game better than he gave this offseason. Hopefully this injury is a wakeup call and he comes back more mature and focused.