Fernando Tatis Jr. is the current frontrunner for the National League MVP, as the Padres’ young shortstop is playing absurd baseball to start the shortened 2020 season.
On Monday night, Tatis belted his 10th and 11th home runs of the season late in the game — a three-run shot and a grand slam, respectively — racking up seven RBI in the process and continuing to show off his prodigious power to all fields and powering San Diego to 14-4 win in the series opener in Texas.
After that performance, the 21-year-old Tatis now leads MLB in home runs (11) and RBI (28), as he’s been nearly unstoppable at the plate from his leadoff spot. However, the conversation late Monday night and Tuesday morning was, somehow, not about how baseball’s newest young star is further injecting life into the game with his electric play, but about how he is, in fact, bad because he dare chose to swing at a 3-0 meatball with the bases loaded in a 10-3 ballgame.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward took exception to Tatis’ grand slam and made it known he wasn’t happy about it, complaining about old baseball people’s favorite topic: the unwritten rules.
— Levi Weaver (@ThreeTwoEephus) August 18, 2020
Padres manager Jayce Tingler likewise was unhappy with Tatis missing a take sign on the pitch, explaining after the game he didn’t like running it up, while Tatis offered a semi-apology, while also seeming as confused by the entire controversy as many fans.
“Just so you know, a lot of our guys have green light 3-0,” Tingler said. “But in this game in particular, we had a little bit of a comfortable lead. We’re not trying to run up the score or anything like that.”
“I’ve been in this game since I was a kid,” he said. “I know a lot of unwritten rules. I was kind of lost on this. Those experiences, you have to learn. Probably next time, I’ll take a pitch.”
Baseball has long been in a battle between young and old, particularly with regards to unwritten rules, codes of conduct, and how one should act on the diamond. The newest crop of stars play with a certain flair that the establishment scoffs at, whether with bat flips or, apparently, swinging at pitches that you’re supposed to not swing at.
It can’t be separated that many of these new young stars are Black or Hispanic, wearing chains and having dreads flowing out from under their helmets, threatening to rocket to superstardom and positions of influence in a very white game. Not everyone in baseball wants Tatis Jr. to bend to the unwritten rules, as evidenced by Trevor Bauer’s pushback to the comments he was seeing after the game, along with Tim Anderson of the White Sox — who has also stirred up controversy with his bat flips after mammoth home runs — who doesn’t want to see Tatis change and doesn’t like his manager not having his back.
Hey @tatis_jr listen up:
1) Keep swinging 3-0 if you want to, no matter what the game situation is
2) Keep hitting homers, no matter what the situation is
3) Keep bringing energy and flash to baseball and making it fun
4) The only thing you did wrong was apologize. Stop that.
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) August 18, 2020
This why the game won’t grow!! Why the manager don’t have his back through whatever anyway. The Game Wasn’t Over Yet💪🏾 #GoodSwingBra Dont Apologize next time let them sit in it bra💯 https://t.co/RpaFppCUUY
— T A 7 (@TimAnderson7) August 18, 2020
Still, that both managers in the game talked about giving the young star a talking to of some sort indicates that baseball’s internal culture war is far from being settled, and, despite Tingler’s insistence he doesn’t want Tatis not to be a free spirit, pushing for him to stop playing just because they have a lead is doing exactly that.