Fernando Tatis Jr. is arguably the most exciting player in baseball right now. Not the best (although he’s up there), but the 22-year-old San Diego Padres shortstop is “BOX OFFICE,” as Stephen A. Smith would say. While there is practically no limit to what he can do on the field when his body is cooperating with him, there’s one very real threat to his productivity both in the short and long term. His left shoulder.
Tatis left yesterday’s game after diving for a ball in the field and tweaking his left shoulder. This is the fourth time since the start of Spring Training that he’s injured the same shoulder, the last one coming in early April when he suffered a subluxation, essentially a partial dislocation. He’s also admitted that this same shoulder has given him problems for years now, all the way back to when he started playing professionally at 16.
The man needs surgery. Plain and simple. He’s probably needed surgery for a while. Tatis is opting to strengthen it instead so he doesn’t miss an extended period of time. You have to love the attitude, but man, it would be a real shame if this ends up holding him back.
Pretty much any time you see a star athlete battle a nagging soft tissue injury early in his career, it only gets worse. The fact that the same shoulder has been bothering Tatis for six or more years is a scary trend. He’s such an exciting player. It’s not his throwing shoulder, but his left arm is still an integral part of his swing and the arm he uses to reach for balls in the field. I really don’t want this to be Larry Bird’s back or Sandy Koufax’s elbow. I want Fernando Tatis Jr. to have as long of a career as possible, giving millions a chance to enjoy a generational talent and persona. But what is he to do?
He can call it quits on 2021 and elect season-ending surgery. This would be a huge blow to the Padres, who have World Series aspirations. But it is probably better for him in the long run. At 22 years old, he should have plenty of postseason opportunities in his future, though it’s never a guarantee in baseball.
He can also keep doing what he’s doing; play through the pain and deal with the little setbacks as they come. Plenty of stretching and rehab. This is what’s best for his team right now, as he is the Padres’ best player and the face of their franchise. But what will this cost him down the road? That’s the question I’m wary to have answered.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to his nagging shoulder. All we can do is hope he gets good advice from his doctors and therapists. MLB is much better when he’s on the field.