October 1st, 2020. It’s Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series. Tatis Jr crushes his second home run of the game against Cardinals pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon. It not only gave the Padres a 9-6 lead in the seventh but it felt like Tatis arrived. His epic bat flip was seen over and over again all over social media. In a year during a worldwide pandemic, more eyes were on sports more than ever. Tatis, who is one of the most exciting players in Major League Baseball, made his mark.
He’s easily likable and found himself becoming the face of baseball, something the sport so desperately needed. Tatis became the cover boy of MLB The Show 2021 and his mainstream recognition grew. He finished the 2021 season slashing .282/.364/.611 with 42 home runs, 97 RBI, 99 runs scored and 25 stolen bases through 130 games. He finished third in MVP voting and at this rate, his age 23 season was about to be massive.
The lost 2022 season
December 2021 is where things started to sour. It was reported that Tatis was in a “minor” motorcycle accident but only suffered “scrapes and scratches.” Subsequently, no real alarm bells went off. It would later come out that Tatis was in multiple accidents during the offseason. To be fair, the MLB lockout didn’t help situations, as Tatis did not have access to the team medical staff. This would lead to Tatis showing up to Spring Training with a fractured wrist and would require surgery to fix. He was scheduled to miss the first three months of the season, which would give him a target return date around the All-Star Break.
Then came the pivotal blow to the season. Tatis tested positive for the performance-enhancing substance Clostebol, a synthetic form of testosterone. This suspension would carry throughout the 2022 season and bleed into 2023.
We know the talent for Tatis is there. I mean, this man went to the minor leagues and raised hell at the plate like he was the modern day Stone Cold Steve Austin. Through eight games, he slashed .515/.590/1.212 with seven home runs, 15 RBI, 11 runs scored and two stolen bases. We know he’ll produce MVP type numbers but it made me ask a legitimate question. For an award like the MVP, which is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, can they forgive and forget? I’m honestly not sure.
A unique situation not yet seen in MLB
When you think about active players that have been popped for PED use while active, has anyone really been in a position where they would be a legitimate MVP or Cy Young award winner?
Alex Rodriguez was at the tail end of his career when the announcement came in 2013. He would miss all of 2014 and then would play two more seasons after. Ryan Braun is probably the best example we have to compare Tatis with, as he tested positive in ‘13 as well. That said, Braun was 29 at the time where as Tatis is entering this season at 24. Tatis is entering the prime of his career and should be in the conversation moving forward. But I truly have to question how the BBWA will handle this when it comes to voting. We ALL know about some of their stances on players who have been popped for PED and putting them in the Hall of Fame. The late Hall of Famer Joe Moran, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1990, wrote a letter to the BBWAA, encouraging them to not elect these players. It created a lot of controversy but Morgan has seemingly seen his wishes come to fruition.
While MVP isn’t on the same level as the Hall of Fame, I think it’s extremely possible we could see this trickle into MVP voting. MLB has cracked down on PED use and the extreme consequences of testing positive has been heard loud and clear from players. But should that affect them after they’ve served their time? I don’t think it should but I don’t have a vote to give (sad!). Yet, we will have these out of touch, dinosaur writers, who think Angel Hernandez is still a capable umpire, dictating who is earning these awards or being elected to the Hall of Fame. I fear that the HOF voting mentality will show it’s ugly face in the award votes and Tatis may not get the MVP he may deserve. Unless Tatis is completely running away with the MVP award, it wouldn’t shock me to see him as a runner up or third in votes. Just enough to make it LOOK like they’ll give him a chance, but we know better. These writers have drawn a line in the sand and are too stubborn to cross it or adapt.
I won’t sit here and not acknowledge what Tatis Jr did was wrong. The rules are the rules. If you break them, you, and any other player, should serve the punishment handed down by the league. What happens after that, however, should have no bearing on what the numbers and talent show. I just hope to be proven wrong and the talented outfielder continues to excel at the game he was born to play.
Follow me on Twitter: @SBuchanan24
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