Sixty-four players will make the trip to Seattle for next week’s MLB All-Star Game but, after being snubbed by his peers, San Diego Padres slugger Fernando Tatis Jr. will not be one of them.
Tatis, who has made a successful transition from shortstop to right field following the Padres’ offseason acquisition of Xander Bogaerts, would seem to have a strong case, contributing a .280/.341/.867 batting line with 14 homers, 41 RBI, and 14 steals in 64 games this season (not to mention his 15 defensive runs saved, tops among MLB outfielders). And though he could still make the NL squad as an injury replacement, Tatis’ absence from the initial roster speaks volumes about his diminished standing within MLB, viewed as a cheater following his 80-game PED suspension.
While Ken Rosenthal “hates” that one of the most exciting players in a generation won’t be on hand for next week’s festivities in the Emerald City, he admires players for taking a moral stand, voting with their conscience in denying Tatis entry to the most prestigious event on MLB’s summer calendar.
“The All-Star Game often is referred to as a fans’ game because the fans elect all of the starters except the pitchers. But the players’ participation in the voting process makes it a players’ game, too. And on Tatis, the players have spoken,” wrote Rosenthal in a column for The Athletic, which he would expound on during his appearance on Foul Territory. “When it comes to Tatis, I can picture players sitting at lockers filling out their ballots and thinking, ‘**** this guy.’”
After losing out to Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuña, and Corbin Carroll in fan balloting, the 24-year-old’s fate was left up to the players, who instead chose Lourdes Gurriel, Nick Castellanos and Tatis’ San Diego teammate Juan Soto as the National League’s three reserve outfielders.
“Is that right? Maybe not, considering Tatis’ performance. But players generally prefer to police themselves, both on and off the field,” said Rosenthal, who, despite his conflicted feelings on the matter, voted for suspected steroid users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on his Hall-of-Fame ballot when both were still eligible. “Tatis’ suspension did not just cost him nearly $3 million in salary and his chance to participate in the 2022 postseason, during which the Padres fell three games short of the World Series. It cost him the respect of his peers.”
It will be interesting to see, in the coming years, if Tatis can salvage his career and reputation or if he’ll be treated as a pariah, confined to the fringes of a sport he once dominated.