When the conversation turns to Fernando Tatís Jr. on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, maybe it’s best to steer Eduardo Pérez away from the microphone.
Pérez has already had to apologize once this season for chiding Tatís during a Los Angeles Dodgers-San Diego Padres game, with that taking place back in May. The slight came after Mookie Betts hit a game-tying, two-out, ninth-inning homer for the Dodgers. While showing a replay of the home run, ESPN cameras panned to Tatís, prompting Pérez to say, “That’s what a superstar looks like, Nando. Mookie Betts.”
Now, what Pérez offered up about Tatís, who was mic’d up during this past Sunday’s broadcast, wasn’t as vitriolic as what he said nearly three months ago about the 24-year-old superstar, but his comments over the weekend still managed to turn some heads.
As Tatís came to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning of Sunday’s contest, play-by-play voice Karl Ravech brought up a conversation that took place earlier in the game. According to Ravech, Tatís had said that he is playing with the same amount of confidence.
“Has some of his swag been knocked off a little bit?” asked Ravech, presumably posing the question to Pérez and David Cone. “Do you think he’s playing with that same level of brashness, confidence?”
Pérez was quick to say that he doesn’t believe Tatís is less confident.
“He answered right. That’s what he’s supposed to say. But look, they took a lot away from him,” Pérez said. “Playing shortstop, you’re in the play, you’re the captain of that infield. That’s an elite position. That’s an elite player with serious numbers as a shortstop. When he signed that major deal, it was because he was a shortstop, not a right fielder.”
"When he signed that major deal, it was because he was a shortstop, not a right fielder." — Eduardo Pérez on Fernando Tatís Jr.
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) August 7, 2023
Pérez makes a fair point, but as the San Diego Union-Tribune pointed out in an article penned about maturity being a part of Tatís’ transition from shortstop to right field, a lot of it had to do with Tatís’ defense being less than stellar.
While Tatis made a number of plays other shortstop simply could not, his .951 fielding percentage ranked last among the 13 NL shortstops who played at least 1,500 innings at the position from 2019 to ‘21. Many of his errors came on throws when he tried to finish a play he shouldn’t have after a diving stop or a long run to get a ball in the hole.
It’s an elite position, sure, but Tatís has been significantly better in the field since his transition to the outfield. Who’s to say that he wouldn’t be there anyways if the Padres hadn’t brought in Xander Bogaerts in free agency? Though, that’s beside the point here. Positional value is certainly a thing, but we can’t sit here and pretend that right field isn’t valuable either. Heck, arguably the game’s best hitter—Aaron Judge—signed a nine-year, $360 million deal with the New York Yankees. And guess what position he plays? Hint: it isn’t shortstop.
Positional value matters, but so does hitting value. And it’s no secret that Tatís brings more value as a hitter than in the field. Heck, he should’ve probably been an All-Star this season but was not voted in by his peers probably for a multitude of reasons, though we won’t speculate.
“He’s had to learn a new position and not only that, [but] he’s also not leading off,” said Pérez. “I think he identified with being that guy—the lead-off guy, spark-plug. And those two toys, shortstop and leadoff, have been taken away from him.”
Yes, he’s learned a new position, but that same San Diego Union-Tribune article details just how “miraculous” his transition has been.
“It’s probably come as quickly as anybody that has changed positions that I’ve ever seen before,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “… It’s been miraculous.”
Also, Padres didn’t necessarily take anything away from Tatís. He became a defensive liability at shortstop and the team wanted to make a big splash in free agency. At the same time, he’s also hitting second in the order. It’s not like San Diego has banished him to the Nos. 8 or 9 hole.
It’s certainly fair to question Tatís’ play this year, but Pérez, considering his prior comments, might not be the guy you want doing so.