And all of this is on top of the usual lack of interest from the sports-viewing public, save for Trade Deadline Day and the postseason. Throw in COVID-19 and the ensuing league player's union battle for return-to-play stipulations, and baseball was a blackjack player in Vegas just trying to recoup its losses enough to buy a plane ticket home.
Baseball needed someone who attracts eyeballs without being a clown show. It needed someone talented, fun and unapologetically full of swag.
It needed Fernando Tatis Jr. And in 2020, it got all of him.
THE COME UP
One of the things that makes Major League Baseball unique to other American sports leagues is it thrives on anticipation. Die-hards follow their team’s top prospects through the minor leagues for years. Even the league’s bottom-dwellers maintain a certain level of interest.
San Diego Padres fans – and collectors, too -- had been calling for Tatis’ ascension to The Show.
And he did not disappoint.
Tatis played in his 100th career game in early August 2020. Here’s his stats in that time: 127 hits, 30 home runs, 71 RBI, .320 batting average, and .625 slugging percentage. None of that rack lower than second in franchise history. That’s also more home runs (twice as many), RBI, and a higher average than Mike Trout and Alex Rodriguez at the same benchmark of their careers.
In fact, pick any of those stats and see who he’s topped. You’ll find names such as Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio.
He’s already passed the “Superstar” category. He fits snuggly as a “Generational Talent.”
“There’s no question, he’s the face of this franchise,” teammate Eric Hosmer told ESPN. “And I think he’s gonna be the face of this game very, very soon.”
He also stole 20 bases in that time, if you are into that sort of thing. And let’s not forget he is a shortstop, perhaps the most physically demanding position this side of catcher and pitcher. At 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, mind you.
“Five-tool player” doesn’t begin to accurately describe him.
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