Fernando Tatis’ 14-year, $340M deal finalized by Padres

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — In discussing options for a long-term deal with electrifying young shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., the San Diego Padres brought up the concept of “a statue contract.”

As in, if the kid is as good as Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman were, maybe in 15 or 20 years there will be a statue of “El Nino” alongside those Padres greats in a grassy area just beyond Petco Park.

The options were year-to-year, a multi-year deal that bought out a year or two of Tatis’ free agency or a contract in which Tatis was with the Padres for likely the rest of his career.

“In typical Tati fashion, his only real comment was, `Why not my whole career?”‘ general manager A.J. Preller said Monday in announcing the two sides had finalized Tatis’ $340 million, 14-year contract, the longest in baseball history.

“He wanted to be one of those very unique players that plays his career in one spot,” Preller said. “He loves the franchise, he loves the city, he loves his teammates and he talked a lot about really wanting to get on the path of that statue contract.”

Said Tatis: “I want the statue on one team. I want to be able to stay on one team and build my legacy over here in San Diego.”

If Tatis and the Padres are correct, the big decision will be which version of “El Nino” the statue shows: the one one making slick plays at shortstop, the one with a “Matrix” type move to avoid being tagged out at first base or the one with the epic bat flip after homering for the second time in a playoff game?

“I’m going to put those numbers first and then we can discuss it,” Tatis said with a laugh during a videoconference from spring training in Peoria, Arizona. “I don’t know. Maybe we can have three statues in different ways. We will see what happens.”

Tatis, 22, had been eligible for salary arbitration after this season and for free agency after the 2024 season.

A son of former big league infielder Fernando Tatis, he has played in only 143 games during two seasons, including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, yet has quickly become one of the faces of baseball.

He stands out because of his flair, easy smile, blond dreadlocks flowing from under his cap and his dance moves in the dugout after hitting home runs.

Most importantly to the Padres, Tatis has made baseball fun again in San Diego after years of futility. He helped San Diego end a 13-year playoff drought in 2020 and win a wild-card series against the St. Louis Cardinals before the Padres were swept by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

“I’m just the same kid on the field. Nothing’s going to change,” he said. “I’m playing the game I love. And I feel when you do the things with passion and with love, I feel like it’s going to reward you. And I feel like when people ask me how I’m going to play this game, I’m just going to be the same kid every single time.”

Tatis has dared to challenge old-school norms. After hitting his second home run in an 11-9 win in Game 2 of the wild-card series against the Cardinals, he unleashed an emphatic bat flip. A photo of Tatis in that moment is on the cover of the video game MLB The Show ’21.

In August, Tatis caused a stir when he hit a grand slam on a 3-0 count with the Padres leading the Texas Rangers by seven runs. The furor died down and the Padres became the first team in MLB history to hit grand slams in four straight games and five in six games, leading to the nickname “Slam Diego.”

“He has a tremendous respect for the game of baseball. A lot was made last year, young players changing the game of baseball,” Preller said. “What results in success, it doesn’t really change from era to era. Some of the styles change, maybe some of the skills change at times, but he respects greatness, he respects the people that have come before him. A lot of that credit goes to his family.”

Tatis has hit .301 with 39 home runs, 98 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 143 games.

San Diego promoted Tatis to the majors on opening day of 2019, forgoing the chance to delay his free agency by waiting a few weeks – a reality of the game experienced by other young stars like Kris Bryant with the Chicago Cubs and Bryce Harper with the Washington Nationals.

The length of Tatis’ contract exceeds the $325 million, 13-year agreement in November 2014 between Miami and Giancarlo Stanton, who was traded to the New York Yankees in December 2017, and the $330 million, 13-year contract ahead of the 2019 season between Harper and Philadelphia.

A company called Big League Advance will receive a portion of Tatis’ contract during the next 14 years as repayment of an advance he received four years ago. According to The Athletic, Tatis used the money to upgrade his training regimen in the U.S. and his offseason practice field in his native Dominican Republic. It is not known how big an advance he received, but it could cost him millions of dollars.

“It was really helpful, but it was a decision for me and my family,” Tatis said Monday, declining to provide further details.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.