Eleven days after he accepted his 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, Fernando Tatis Jr. spoke. He spoke to his San Diego Padres teammates. He spoke to reporters.
Padres General Manager A.J. Preller had talked about it. He was disappointed. Tatis’s teammates had been asked about it. They were disappointed, too. Even his father, former big leaguer Fernando Tatis Sr., had given an interview in which he blamed a haircut for giving his son a fungal infection that led to the positive test and railed against MLB for what he said was “destroying the image of a player over something as minor as that.”
But not until Tuesday did Tatis, in street clothes because he is not able to work out with the team while suspended, slide in front of a circle of waiting cameras and microphones to answer for himself.
“I’m really sorry. I’ve let so many people down,” Tatis said Tuesday. “I’ve lost so much love from people. I’ve failed. I’ve failed to the front office, the San Diego Padres, [chairman] Peter Seidler, A.J. Preller. I have failed every fan of the city. I have failed ... my country.
“I have failed my family, my parents. I’m really sorry for my mistakes. I’ve seen how my dreams turned into my worst nightmares in a couple days, couple months. But there’s no other one to blame but myself.”
Since Tatis burst onto the scene and grew into one of the most hyped young stars in the sport, he has stumbled into ignominious company. When a shoulder injury threatened his 2021 season, he opted against surgery to stick out the rest of the season but never looked the same. When he reported to spring training after the MLB lockout in March, he did so with a broken wrist suffered in one of what Tatis indicated were multiple offseason motorcycle crashes — something he had not been able to tell the team about according to lockout rules and which cost him the first four months of this season.
“I haven’t made the right decisions this past week, month. Even starting at the beginning of the year. I have made a mistake, and I regret every single step I have taken in these days,” Tatis said, according to ESPN and other outlets in attendance. “There’s a long way going forward.”
Tatis has never been able to hide his feelings quite as well as some of his colleagues, so much so that when he and the Padres slumped as he battled a shoulder injury in 2021, his dour demeanor led to questions about morale — his and that of his clubhouse. The team changed managers in the offseason in the hopes that veteran Bob Melvin could help a star-studded roster turn into a winner with Tatis at the heart of it. But while Tatis has at times seemed flippant in his approach to his profession, his body language suggested he was shaken by what has happened this month.
“I’m going to remember how this feels. And I am going to make sure I am never in this position ever again,” Tatis said. “I know I have a lot of love I have to gain back. I have a lot of work to do. It’s going to be a very long process to gain everybody’s trust again, to gain the love back that I have stabbed straight through the heart of every baseball fan.”
Perhaps, given the fact that his career path has now been altered dramatically, given that his 2022 season is over, being shaken is to be expected. But the time will not be wasted entirely: Preller and Tatis confirmed he will undergo surgery on that balky shoulder he has been taping together for a year or so now and spend much of his offseason rehabbing in San Diego. Tatis’s suspension will end in May.
“I’m going to do everything in my power, everything in my strength, everything I can do on the field, out of the field to be a better teammate. The distraction I have been is just something unacceptable, something I have no excuse, something that needs to be redeemed right now in the moment,” Tatis said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk out there, but it’s with actions. It’s actions that I’m going to start beginning doing and actions that are going to speak for myself in the future.”
Starting pitcher Joe Musgrove told San Diego reporters, including 97.3 FM, that Tatis showed “remorse” and offered clarity about what happened in a players-only meeting Tuesday, and Musgrove said the young star received “tough love.”
“But people make mistakes, man. It’s something we’re definitely not going to hold over his head for the rest of his career,” Musgrove said. “I know there’s fans out there that will and people will feel how they want to feel, but something I stressed to him is the most important people are the people in this room.”
Fortunately for the Padres, one of the people in that room is Juan Soto, a 23-year-old star the team traded for before it knew Tatis would be out for the rest of the season. Even with Soto, the Padres are clinging to a playoff spot, not cruising. They were set to take the field Tuesday night a game and a half ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers for the final National League playoff spot.