This weekend’s MLB action opened with a shocking announcement. Young star Fernando Tatis Jr., whose return from injuries sustained in the offseason was imminent, would be suspended for 80 games for a positive PED test.
BREAKING: Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. violated Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy and is facing a suspension, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 12, 2022
The suspension means that the Padres shortstop will not be eligible for the postseason and cannot play until next year, giving him a dubious honor:
With his suspension, Fernando Tatis Jr. becomes the third player since the end of World War II to finish in the top three in MVP voting and then miss the next season.
Moises Alou (1998-99, torn ACL)
Sandy Koufax (1966-67, retirement).
— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) August 13, 2022
Tatis Jr. has been one of the league’s top young stars since his debut in 2019 despite sustaining several injuries that have limited his playing time. A confident Padres front office signed their star to a 14-year, US$340 million extension in February 2021. Although he again missed time in 2021 due to shoulder injuries, Tatis Jr. led the National League with 42 home runs and finished 3rd in MVP voting behind Bryce Harper and new teammate Juan Soto.
In March, the Padres announced Tatis Jr. would likely need surgery for a broken wrist sustained during the offseason and would miss several months of the 2022 season. This injury appeared to be connected to reports of a December motorcycle accident in the Dominican Republic, which were denied by the player’s father, Fernando Tatis Sr.
Tatis Jr. later appeared to admit to being involved in more than one accident over the offseason.
Probably not a great thing, when Fernando Tatis was asked when his motorcycle accident happened, he responded, 'which one.'
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) March 14, 2022
However, the waters were just muddy enough to ensure that the Padres could not take action against Tatis Jr. for violating contractual provisions against dangerous activities. According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, they could not be sure that the motorcycle accident was a direct cause of his wrist fracture. ESPN’s report at the time also said, “[t]he Padres are hopeful it’s a lesson learned, though.”
It appears the team has changed its tune following the PED suspension announcement.
Preller: "I think we're hoping that from the offseason to now, that there would be some maturity. And obviously with the news today, it's more of a pattern and something we've got to dig a little bit more into. (1/2)
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) August 13, 2022
Pitchers Mike Clevinger and Joe Musgrove also cast doubts on El Niño’s maturity:
Joe Musgrove: "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 us that you're committed to it and you want to be here."
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) August 13, 2022
It should be noted that Clevinger, who was traded to San Diego from Cleveland for reportedly violating COVID-19 protocols, is no model of rectitude. However, Manny Machado, the team’s de facto leader in Tatis Jr.’s absence, had the harshest reaction of all without specifically criticizing Tatis Jr.’s behavior:
Manny Machado on Tatis:
“He hasn’t been part of our team all year, and we’ve gotten this far without him…We still have the same goal, which is to try to make a World Series and try to bring a championship to San Diego.”
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) August 13, 2022
According to a report by Dominican news producer Ramon D. Carmona, the efforts to deny the motorcycle accident resulted in the positive drug test. According to Carmona’s source, Tatis Jr. tested positive for the steroid clostebol, which he used as a wound treatment to conceal the accident.
Una fuente me confirmó que la prueba antidopaje a Fernando Tatis jr fue realizado a final de marzo, donde dio positivo a clostebol, una sustancia para cicatrizar herida, después de su accidente en un motor en RD, el comenzó a usar esta pomada para ocultar el accidente.
— Ramon D. Carmona (@carmonaTV) August 13, 2022
Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that clostebol is a banned anabolic agent known for its use in the East German state-sponsored doping program of the 1960s and 70s. Zeigler further notes that athletes can test positive for clostebol after using over-the-counter antibiotic creams, like the one mentioned by Carmona.
Tatis Jr. would later release a statement through the players’ union claiming he had inadvertently used such medication to treat a case of ringworm.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 12, 2022
Bob Nightengale and various MLB fans have humorously noted that there appears to be a “Curse of Dairy Queen,” which has struck the players anointed by the chain as the faces of MLB worthy of hawking their treats and sandwiches.
The Curse of Dairy Queen? They selected 4 players this season to market their ice cream and sandwiches:
Bryce Harper: Broken thumb, out since June 26.
Tim Anderson: Broken finger, out 6 weeks.
Cody Bellinger: Hitting .210 with 668 OPS.
Fernando Tatis: Suspended for PED use.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) August 13, 2022
I’m not sure Tatis Jr. can expect further such marketing and endorsement deals in the near future. The PED suspension, resulting from his poor decision-making during the offseason, has led to this situation which has tarnished his image. He has no one to blame but himself.
Machado’s statement should also remind Tatis Jr. to heed the lesson of Wally Pipp, the player who infamously lost his job to Lou Gehrig: when you are not available, your team – and the league – will move on without you.
Featured Image: Fernando Tatis Jr. running out a ground ball for the San Diego Padres in a game against the New York Mets on June 5th, 2021 by Ryan Casey Aguinaldo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.