Padres general manager A.J. Preller first learned that his superstar shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr., violated the league’s banned substance policy and received a long-term suspension at 3:45 p.m. EDT, with his team set to play only a few hours later.
The San Diego Padres began a six-game road trip in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 12. At 7:05 p.m. EDT, the team was scheduled to play the first of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals. Before the game, after the news broke and the initial shock was still setting in, a team meeting was called. According to one player, it’s unusual for a team to meet that close to the first pitch. He feared the worst — a fatal emergency. When the team learned about Tatis’ suspension, a mutual feeling set in for everyone — disappointment.
The Initial Shock
The Padres were presumably weeks, if not days, away from Tatis rejoining the team. He had been out all season after having surgery to repair an injured wrist this past March. He had already begun a rehab assignment with the Double-A San Antonio Missions when it became clear he wouldn’t be back at all in 2022. A representative from the MLB Front Office called Preller to tell him about the suspension. The Padres general manager had stern words about his shortstop when he spoke with reporters later in the day.
Those words included “maturity” and “trust.” They extended into revisiting details in Tatis’ contract. The Padres made a major investment in Tatis last year, signing him to a massive extension that will pay him $341 million over 14 years. With this contract, Tatis will be a Padre until he’s 36. But Preller and the Padres don’t seem to have as much confidence in that investment after hearing the news.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it yet. But ultimately, that’s his explanation,” Preller told reporters at Nationals Park on Aug. 12.
A Lack of Trust and Maturity
Preller added that Tatis’ suspension was disappointing. The franchise had hoped that Tatis would have developed some maturity while away from the team. Looking at his current situation, it appears he has not. Preller told reporters that it was Tatis’ responsibility to ensure he remained in compliance.
Preller took things further by saying that the Padres would revisit incidents in Tatis’ past — specifically, the wrist injury and the shoulder injury. Tatis was hampered last season by subluxation of the left shoulder and a partially torn labrum. In 2021, he put up a .975 OPS and finished third in National League MVP voting. Despite three trips to the IL last season, he refused surgery. The status of his shoulder wasn’t reported when he suffered a wrist injury in a motorcycle accident. Tatis alluded to reporters this past March that he was in more than one accident but was vague with his answer.
How Teammates Reacted to Tatis’ Suspension
“You hope he grows up and learns from this and learns it’s about more than just him,” pitcher Mike Clevinger told reporters after the Padres’ 10–5 victory over the Nationals on Aug. 12. Clevinger would usually have fielded questions about his performance. This interview was different. He was answering questions about a suspension involving a teammate.
Clevinger told reporters during that brief postgame interview that players are disappointed with Tatis — for a second time. On the first day of spring training, the Padres set a goal to win a championship. Tatis was injured but still a part of the plan to get there. He is no longer a part of the plan, but an afterthought.
Third baseman and team captain Manny Machado told reporters after the game that the team “made it this far” without him. Machado said that the goal is still to win a World Series. Tatis’ permanent absence doesn’t change that.
“He hasn’t been part of our team all year, and we’ve gotten to this far without him,” Machado said. “We were waiting to get him back and hopefully be a spark plug for the team. But we’ve been doing it all year. Just continue doing it.”
Strategic Soto Reacts to the Suspension with Empathy
Newly acquired right fielder Juan Soto took a more diplomatic approach with his reaction to the suspension. The generational superstar had made his return to D.C. fewer than two weeks after being traded to the Padres. Instead of talking about the highs and lows he experienced that day, he also fielded questions about Tatis.
“We all are humans and we make errors,” Soto said. “We’re not perfect. … We’ve just got to move forward.”
Manager Bob Melvin said the team still has a good lineup without Tatis. That was evident in their 10–5 win. The Padres scored six runs in one inning for the second time in three games. They scored seven runs in an inning in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history. In the meantime, the Padres still have options. Ha-Seong Kim has been a decent stopgap at shortstop. Infielder Jake Cronenworth could also spend time at short.
What Happens Next to Tatis?
The overall consensus from the team appears to be that they would rather move on. The team captain said it. The new superstar said it. Preller suggested with his comments that Tatis is a concern they will address after the season. For now, they are still focused on their main goal.
“From our standpoint, obviously he’s a great talent, he’s a guy we have a lot of history with and do believe in,” Preller said. “But these things only work when there’s trust both ways. I think that’s going to be something that we’re going to have plenty of conversation and time to talk to Fernando about.”
Preller never mentioned ringworm when making his comments. He did say that the ringworm is Tatis’ story but did not validate it. The Padres released a statement expressing their frustration and also did not mention ringworm. Baseball writers and fans alike have expressed skepticism about the story. Clostebol is used in creams and ointments that treat skin conditions. At the same time, it is also a synthetic anabolic-androgenic steroid used for performance enhancement.
All this doubt makes it not entirely clear that Tatis used a banned medication to treat a skin condition. The only person who knows the real answer, perhaps, is Tatis.