Nobody likes a cheater, especially when it comes to sports. But, what happens when the guy who was supposed to become the face of baseball is suddenly cast in that light? This is the unfortunate reality of the San Diego Padres following the shocking 80-game suspension of Fernando Tatis Jr.
News broke Aug. 12 that Tatis tested positive for Clostebol, a muscle-building steroid listed on the Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program’s performance-enhancing substance list. Tatis’ suspension sent reverberations around the sports world. This wasn’t just a suspension of some nobody — this was the fall of the MLB’s most profitable, lauded and talented rising star.
In the following days, I spoke to my friend and longtime Padres fan. By then, the hero to zero swing narrative was in full effect. However, I felt as though that 180-degree heel turn by the masses was a little unfair to Tatis; I wanted to get some perspective from someone who had followed Tatis his whole career. My friend recounted the moment he found out about the suspension.
“I found out when I got my new phone and (it said) I got a free subscription to Apple TV. You could only watch the (baseball) game that night on Apple TV. I turn on the game and the first thing that comes on is ‘breaking news, Nando suspended,’” my friend said.
He described his shock. He couldn’t believe that Apple TV of all places was where he was getting such inconceivable news. With any player caught taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), the first question running through everyone’s minds is: Did they do it? For my Padres friend, the statement Tatis issued hours after the MLB announced his suspension weighed heavily on his mind.
“You know,” he said to me after a long and thoughtful pause. “That’s where I’m at a crossroads.” He was referring specifically to the part in Tatis’ statement where he claimed he “inadvertently took a medication to treat ringworm that contained Clostebol.”
My friend talked through multiple theories conjured up by the Padres fanbase, theories that he admitted sounded a little ridiculous. The one working theory that seems the most compelling is that he used Clostebol to help with recovery from a wrist injury suffered from a motorcycle accident during the MLB lockout. Optically, this points to the widespread belief amongst Padres’ fans that Tatis was not actively doping to gain a physical and chemical advantage in the field of play, rather, he was using drugs to return to the plate as quickly as possible. But ultimately, he came to the conclusion of “disappointment.”
He pointed to Tatis’ motorcycle accident from December 2021 (or at least speculated within that time frame because Tatis was asked about that motorcycle injury, and he famously said, “Which one?”) as the most concerning story regarding Tatis. He described Tatis’ actions leading up to the suspension as immature and highly avoidable.
My friend isn’t the only one who feels this way about Tatis. The Padres president of baseball operations A. J. Preller talked to reporters in the wake of the suspension.
“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,” Preller said in a press conference.
Preller’s comments lend credence to how Tatis’ teammates feel. Padres pitcher Mike Clevinger added that he felt enormous disappointment as well, especially given that Tatis time and time again refuses to learn from his mistakes.
My friend settled on a sort of dismayed optimism, one that looks towards some of the silver linings to this dour situation. He concluded that he was relieved that it happened now of all times, conveying the sentiment that Tatis’ lack of maturity was going to catch up to him eventually.
“In that gray area (whether he was doping or not) there’s only one step and that’s a step forward,” my friend said.
For my friend and the Padres fanbase, Tatis’ mistake is something forgivable. It’s not a coincidence that Tatis is called “El Nino,” which translates to “the boy” in Spanish, but also refers to the powerful and mighty storm that forms around Central America. Whether this suspension is an early warning for the San Diego Padres or a wake-up call for Tatis, only time will tell if this storm is a disaster or a blessing.
“It’ll all be good. And no one will be thinking about this when we have a World Series under our belt.”