Nightengale's Notebook: Padres owner has 'no regrets' giving Fernando Tatis Jr. $340 million
San Diego's star won't play at all in 2022 following his PED suspension, but Peter Seidler says being angry at a 23-year-old is "the wrong way to look at it."
San Diego Padres chairman Peter Seidler is sitting quietly at his La Jolla, California, home – well, as quiet as it can be with a 3-year-old running around and a $340 million elephant in the room – remaining remarkably calm.
His team made the biggest moves at the trade deadline, providing World Series hopes for every Padres fan. Barely a week later, the mood was anger, frustration and despair.
If the Padres aren’t playing bad enough, losing 13 of their past 21 games, their newest star, Juan Soto, was sidelined for five days with a bad back and All-Star closer Josh Hader has yielded a 23.14 ERA since his arrival.
And then, of course, there is Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres’ star shortstop.
Tatis, whose season ended when he was popped for performance-enhancing drugs, addressed his teammates and the media this past week, speaking for about 45 minutes alone in a private meeting with Seidler.
“I have let so many people down,’’ Tatis said at his press conference with reporters. “I have lost so much love from people. I failed. I have failed all of them. … I have seen how my dreams have turned into my worst nightmares.’’
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Seidler, the grandson of former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley and the Padres’ lead investor, isn’t going to sugarcoat it. He wasn’t as incensed as GM A.J. Preller. He wasn’t as angry as several of the Padres’ players. But he was deeply disappointed.
It’s one thing to have your star player unavailable for the rest of the season, extinguishing the grand vision of Soto, Manny Machado, Tatis and Josh Bell in the heart of the order, but this is the face of the franchise.
“It was a significant body blow for him, for the organization, and for the fans,’’ Seidler says. “But yelling, screaming, breaking glasses, that wasn’t going to help anything. In my experience, this can make you stronger and better.’’
Seidler, speaking to USA TODAY Sports for more than an hour, never once expressed any resentment or bitterness towards Tatis.
“The wrong way to look at it,’’ Seidler says, “is to be angry at a 23-year-old young man. We’ve had him since he was 17. He has grown up in front of our eyes. I know he’s a good guy with a good heart and he cares.’’
Does Seidler regret signing Tatis for $340 million?
“No regrets,’’ Seider says. “No. No. No. Fernando knows I have his back. There’s no way you go into a 14-year relationship and think it’s going to be a smooth ride for pure joy and happiness. Your eyes are wide open. There’s going to be a mistake or hiccup. I knew that going in. It’s a similar feeling in any long-term relationship.
“You’re going to have your speed bumps. My expectation is that we got rid of a lot of the speed bumps here.’’
You ask Seidler if he still believes the Padres can make the playoffs, let alone have their first deep October run in a quarter-century, and his confidence doesn’t waver.
“Everybody knows we’re in a dog fight,’’ Seidler says. “‘But if we keep controlling what we can control,’’ Seidler says, “the baseball gods are going to smile on us one of these years in a big way. Let’s have fun and see where it goes.'’’
You ask Seidler if he trusts that Tatis never used PEDs until June when he was caught using Clostebol, an anabolic steroid, or that he actually used the steroid to clear up a skin condition, and Seidler believes him.
“Fernando and I covered a lot of territory in our talk,’’ Seidler says. “There were no shields. Nothing was off-limits. Getting to see him face-to-face, seeing his body language, I was impressed. He owned up to it. He was very genuine about everything. It was real and authentic as you can get.
“I believe in him as much as I ever have. He’s a young man who made a mistake. I’m a 61-year-old man and still make mistakes, but as long as you own it, and you’re the best version of yourself, I can accept.
“I really feel like he’s a really good guy down deep, that he cares about his family and teammates, and that his actions going forward will more than back up his words.’’
While Seidler can’t stop companies like Adidas from terminating its relationship with Tatis, he makes it clear they will stand by him, whether his suspension costs the Padres a playoff berth or not.
This is a team that has broken the hearts of their fans for years. They have failed to reach the playoffs in a full season since 2006, and have only six postseason appearances in their franchise history.
But this year was supposed to be different, and after collecting some of the biggest prizes at the trade deadline – Soto, Hader, Bell, Brandon Drury – missing the playoffs again would make even San Diego a dreary place all winter.
A team this talented shouldn’t be clinging to dear life in the wild-card race, praying for their closest challenger, the Milwaukee Brewers, to lose every night.
The Padres want to win, and will do anything possible to knock off their mighty neighbors up north in the Dodgers. They have the fifth-highest payroll in baseball, and could go higher. Soto alone could earn $60 million the next two years in salary arbitration, and if they want to assure he sticks around, it’ll probably cost a minimum of $500 million.
“We know he’s with us for at least two more years, and we’ll see where the Juan Soto talks take us,’’ Seidler says. “I do like what I see. He’s such an impressive young man. The thinking is, 'Let’s enjoy it, let’s make sure we understand each other and what it means to here."
Who says the Padres can’t act like the Dodgers or Yankees or Mets and sign whomever they desire?
“I do like the long-term contracts,’’ Seidler says, “so fans know that they can grow up with Tatis and Machado. We wouldn’t have signed these guys unless we believe in them. You look at Machado, and no matter how you break it out, he’s exceeded our hopes.’’
Seider is encouraged by their attendance, averaging 36,942 a game, fifth in baseball just behind the Yankees. They have a gorgeous park, and have the second-fewest empty seats (3,278) per game in the major leagues, according to a study conducted by OLBG.
“We felt if we spent money,’’ Seidler says, “the fans in San Diego would spend in bigger numbers, tickets, apparel, sponsorships, and show what’s possible. We have massively increased our controllable revenue. It’s off-the-charts good.’’
Now, all that’s missing is fielding a team to win the first World Series in franchise history.
“We fully intend to be a top-five National League contender every single year,’’ says Seidler. “And if we ever win a championship in San Diego, it will be nuts here.’’
There may be a time when the Padres' front office, the players and fans forgive Tatis, but it’s going to take time. He needs to change and show that he’s all in, too. It’s not about his statistics, his endorsements or video game covers. It’s about helping make the Padres a championship-caliber franchise instead of the worst team money can buy. He finally agreed to undergo the shoulder surgery the Padres recommended a year ago, and plans to spend the winter in San Diego rehabbing before spring training.
“This is a blow to him, self-induced yes,’’ Seidler says. “My belief is that this hit him hard. I’m really optimistic that he’s going to rebuild the love and the trust with our team and city.
“We have great fans that support our team, fill the house on a nightly basis, and the relationship between our fans and players are excellent. While this is a blow, this can lead to a more positive relationship."
Now, it’s up to the Padres to do the same, and prove they’re more than a beautiful Porsche with a Hyundai engine.
“We’re not going away,’’ Seidler says. “My family is going to own this team for 100 years. We’re set up now with a platform for success, and we intend to be good every single year. I really believe that.’’
Rod Carew has some things on his mind
We sat on the veranda at the Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, N.Y., last month, talking about everything from the state of the game to religion to his health to his late daughter to the Minnesota Twins to the Los Angeles Angels to commissioner Rob Manfred.
Hall of Famer Rod Carew never raised his voice, never slammed his fist on the rocking chair, but he was seething that the game he grew up loving was breaking his heart.
“The game has gone through so many different changes,’’ Carew told USA TODAY Sports, “it’s not even baseball to me. I don’t know what’s going on with it. But they’ve ruined it.
“They’re trying to get guys to all be the same hitter with their analytics, and forcing them into trying to hit home runs instead of learning how to hit. Guys can’t think for themselves. Why force them into doing things they can’t do?’’
So, Carew, the seven-time batting champion and 18-time All-Star, stopped watching.
“The Commissioner has allowed too many crazy things to happen in this game,’’ Carew said, “trying to make it easier for kids. You know, like the rule of the runner on second base [in extra innings]. That’s what they used to do when I coached my girls’ softball team. They’ve turned this thing into a softball league."
“We have come to the point that we’re letting guys that never played the game dictate the game, and ruin it.’’
“I’m not trying to hurt anybody,’’ Carew said. “I’m just trying to help these kids. No one is even trying to move runners over anymore. No one is running. No one is trying to do anything but hit home runs. Billy Martin [the late managerial great] would be rolling over in his grave right now seeing how the game is going today.’’
Carew vowed that day he would express his sentiments – loud and clear – to Manfred at the Hall of Fame dinner the next night.
Well, as it turns out, he didn’t hold back, leading the charge as the loudest voice among a handful of Hall of Famers who spoke out to Manfred, as he wrote in his newsletter:
“He tried to sweet talk us,’’ Carew wrote. “We laid into him. We asked questions he clearly didn't want to answer. He looked as if he wished there was a trap door that he could've escaped through.
“The bottom line is that he's not looking out for the best interests of the game. He's not looking out for what fans want. Or what players deserve. Certainly not what us old-timers would like to see. …
“Manfred tries giving off the vibe that it's not his fault. OK, then, whose is it? If the commissioner of baseball doesn't have the final word, then nobody does. I think what he's saying is that he, Rob Manfred, is helpless. If so, then maybe we need someone else in that job. Or we need to create a new job. ... We need someone, though, because things need to change.’’
Carew, reached at his home this week, says he knows that Manfred was upset with him for publicly airing his sentiments. But Carew refuses to apologize.
“I don’t care what Manfred says, that we should keep that in-house, I was very vocal about that,’’ Carew says. “A lot of other guys were saying the same thing, but I can take the brunt of it. I was able to speak my voice. But it doesn’t help that more don’t come forward and voice their opinions.
“They should speak up.’’
It’s no different than keeping his thoughts private about Arte Moreno announcing this past week that the was selling the Los Angeles Angels franchise.
“The fans are letting him know he’s got to go,’’ Carew said of Moreno. “The Angels were doing well when Arte first came in, going through the stands and talking to people, lowering beer prices at the stadium, and all of a sudden it stopped. They only started thinking about was the bottom line, and not doing something to make sure you’ve got a good team on the field for the fans.
“I would have liked to help, but I did nothing for the Angels because as far as the alumni, we were nothing to them. The Twins, on the other hand, treat us like first class.’’
If the Angels are interested, Carew, 77, would welcome a return to the organization as a special assistant, providing they make some sweeping changes atop the organization.
“I’d definitely go back and would be available to do some work if they want me,’’ Carew says. “I love living out here. I haven’t done anything for the organization once [manager] Mike Scioscia took over, and [GM Bill] Stoneman came in, and left a message on my phone that my services are no longer needed.
“I was doing so much for the organization [player, hitting coach, special assistant and alumni ambassador] for the community, and they treat me like that.’’
Carew would tell them that no matter how many prospects the Angels can get by trading Shohei Ohtani before he’s a free agent after the 2023 season, they must keep him.
“If he goes, then they will be in a bad state,’’ Carew says. “It would be a tremendous loss for the fans. Mike [Trout] is not as healthy as he used to be with his back. The third baseman [Anthony Rendon] is out for the year. It all falls on Ohtani’s shoulders to keep doing the job he’s been doing and put people in the seats.’’
For now, Carew says he will keep reading the Bible every day, visit children’s hospitals, and raise money for pediatric cancer research. His 26th annual Rod Carew Charity Golf Classic tournament on Monday, Aug. 29, in honor of his late daughter, Michelle, who died at the age of 18 from leukemia in 1996. The tournament, Carew says, has raised in excess of $5 million.
“I remember Michelle telling me, 'Daddy, if I don’t make it, I want you to do this. I want you to continue to help,’’’ Carew says. “I stuck to that.
“Let these kids realize their dreams, find a cure for this blood disease, and give kids the opportunity what they want to do in life.’’
Around the basepaths
► Joe Maddon, the former Angels manager who was fired in June, was hoping to become manager of Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
The job instead went to MLB Network analyst Mark DeRosa, who spent 16 years in the major leagues, but has no managerial experience.
Maddon’s criticism of the Angels front office surely played a part in torpedoing his candidacy considering that Tony Reagins, the GM of Team USA, was the former GM of the Angels.
► Cardinals All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, who has five years, $144 million left on his original eight-year, has an opt-out clause for the final time after this year.
He hasn’t officially informed the Cardinals he’s coming back, but the only real suspense is whether the Cardinals will sweeten the pot considering his contract pays him just $15 million in 2027.
“You know, I really haven’t thought about it at all," Arenado says. “I’ll wait until the season is over. But I will say, I really like it here. I mean, I really, really like it. It’s great.’’
► It is silly, and really absurd that the Cubs honored future Hall of Famers Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina of the Cardinals last week but still haven’t honored Sammy Sosa.
Mark McGwire, who broke Roger Maris’ single-season record and admitted to steroid use after his career, is revered in St. Louis.
Barry Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron’s career homer record and was a central figure in the BALCO investigation on performance-enhancing drugs, is idolized in San Francisco.
Sammy Sosa, who hit at least 35 homers in 10 consecutive seasons but denied using performance-enhancing drugs in front of a Congressional hearing, is shunned by the Cubs.
► While it’s widely assumed Twins shortstop Carlos Correa will opt out after this season, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he sticks around for at least another year where he’ll earn $35.1 million. He’s hoping the Twins open long-term contract discussions this winter.
“I think this is the time to invest in this team and take it to the next level,’’ Correa told reporters in Houston this week. “They know how much I love it here. They know that I'm very happy here in this organization. But at the end of the day, it's a business, right?’’
► Teams are locking up their young stars more than ever these days, years before they’re eligible for salary arbitration, let alone free agency.
There have been more than $500 million worth of extensions given to players 25 years or younger this month alone with the signings of Austin Riley ($212 million) and Michael Harris ($72 million) of Atlanta and Julio Rodriguez of Seattle ($210 million).
The Red Sox, who offered third baseman Rafael Devers an eight-year, $168 million contract extension, can only cringe watching these $200 million contracts being given out to players whose resumes pale in comparison.
► Atlanta is making it no secret that they want to sign shortstop Dansby Swanson before he hits free agency, and has been active in contract talks.
Swanson, too, badly wants to stay put in his hometown.
This sound familiar to a year ago with Freddie Freeman?
► Future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander won 48% of his 380 starts with the Detroit Tigers (183-144).
He now has won 61% of his 97 starts with the Houston Astros (59-18).
Verlander, 39, who has a $25 million option, surely will opt out and get even a bigger extension.
► The Phillies could have given up when Bryce Harper broke his thumb on June 25, and didn’t return until Friday, but instead went 32-20 in his absence.
Rob Thomson, who was promoted to interim manager after the firing of Joe Giradi, is expected to be retained as manager after this season.
► The Yankees acquired A’s ace Frankie Montas at the trade deadline and sent homegrown starter Jordan Montgomery to St. Louis.
The results in their first four starts?
- Montas: 0-1, 7.32 ERA, 19 ⅔ innings, 24 hits, 16 earned runs, 14 strikeouts, 7 walks, 2 HRs.
- Montgomery: 4-0, 0.35 ERA, 25 ⅔ innings, 13 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 24 strikeouts.
Hardly what the Yankees envisioned.
► While no one is showing any urgency to win the AL Central, the Guardians will go ahead and take it.
They are starting to pull away from the pack despite having 14 players make their major-league debut this season, the smallest payroll ($68 million) in the division, playing 10 doubleheaders. and doing nothing at the trade deadline.
Terry Francona just may be the American League Manager of the Year with the best season yet of his Hall of Fame career.
► The Rays have a major-league leading 39 full-time analytic and research employees, followed by the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox and Mets.
The fewest: The White Sox, A’s, Rockies, Royals and Marlins.
► The Mets have the easiest remaining schedule in baseball these last five weeks. They host the Dodgers for a three-game series this week, and then play their next 16 games against the worst teams in the NL: The Nationals, Pirates, Marlins and Cubs.
Once the Dodger series is over, the only teams they play with winning records are the Brewers and Atlanta.
Atlanta’s schedule is slightly more difficult with four games against Philadelphia and three against Seattle.
It all could lead up to a doozy of a series in Atlanta on Sept. 30-Oct. 2 where the NL East title is at stake in the penultimate series of the year.
– Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado’s $4.5 million option for 2023 quietly kicked in last week when he played in his 90th game.
– The Seattle Mariners have that magic touch in close games.
They led MLB with 33 one-run victories last year, and lead again this season with 28 victories.
– Julio Rodriguez, baseball’s newest $200 million man, is the clear favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year award, but lost in the shuffle is the sensational year by Guardians rookie Steven Kwan.
Kwan, the Guardians’ leadoff hitter, leads all rookies in batting average (.298), on-base percentage (.372), walks (46) and triples (5). Yet, he also has just three homers and 35 RBI compared to Rodriguez’s 20 homers, 23 stolen bases and 64 RBI.
– The month of September used to be the time for traditional rookie hazing when they did everything from dress in women’s clothes, carry children’s backpacks to painting certain body parts on a statue in Chicago.
Well, it won’t be happening in New York.
“There’s no hazing,’’ Mets manager Buck Showalter told reporters. “There’s no, ‘Carry my bag’ or ‘Go dress in the training room.’ We don’t do that. I think that’s ridiculous.
“I hate when people do that. You know what usually happens? It’s because someone did it to them. What a great reason to haze a young player. It’s really stupid.”
– Nothing like the business of baseball.
Nate Fisher, 26, was a commercial lending analyst at First National Bank of Omaha, Neb. 15 months ago when the Seattle Mariners re-signed him, and he wound up with the Mets on a minor-league contract.
He made his major-league debut last weekend in spectacular fashion, pitching three shutout innings against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Only to be designated for assignment the following day.
He was unclaimed, and now is back in the Mets’ minor-league system.
“It’s been a crazy journey,” he said.
– While Verlander may win the AL Cy Young award, hidden in his shadows is teammate Framber Valdez.
Valdez has a franchise-record 21 consecutive quality starts, tied for the most by a lefty in MLB history, while going 13-4 with a 2.65 ERA, and leading the league with 156 innings.
– Look for the Giants to be among the most aggressive spenders this winter with just $96.5 million on the books.
They figure to be another team immersed in the prized shortstop market, and who knows, Aaron Judge would look quite good in orange and black, too.
– Fabulous move by the Guardians to induct John Adams, their renowned drummer for 50 years, into their Hall of Fame.
Adams began playing his bass drum at old Municipal Stadium on Aug. 24, 1973, attending more than 3,700 games.
– You want to enjoy a few adult beverages without having to take out a small home loan to purchase drinks at the ballpark?
The most bars and pubs within a one-mile radius of a ballpark is Petco Park in San Diego with 102, according to onlinecasino.ca. Coors Field in Denver has the second-most with 95, followed by the Rogers Centre in Toronto (91), Wrigley Field in Chicago (83) and Comerica Park in Detroit (79).
The fewest are in Kansas City and Oakland (1 apiece), Citi Field (6) and Yankee Stadium (7) in New York, and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (7).
– The Dodgers, according to the LA Times, have faced 24 starting pitchers at least twice this season.
The first time around, those pitchers have yielded a 4.11 ERA while the Dodgers have gone 15-9.
In the next outing, the pitchers have yielded a 7.55 ERA, with the Dodgers going 26-7.
– The Detroit Tigers dumped veteran outfielder Trayce Thompson, the brother of Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson, in June, sending him to the Dodgers for cash considerations.
He has since become a valuable weapon for the Dodgers off the bench, hitting .285 with six homers, 27 RBI, and a .363 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage.
The Tigers can sit back on their couch in October watching him play during the postseason, wondering how in the world they didn’t they keep him.
– Beautiful moment for Astros outfielder Yordan Alvarez, whose parents and brother came from Cuba to see him play this past week for the first time since he turned pro seven years ago.
– Love the worker’s mentality of Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman, who has started every single game this season and All-Star shortstop Trea Turner, who has started in all but one game.
“It’s my job,” Freeman told the LA Times. “I don’t come here to sit on the bench and collect a paycheck. I don’t believe in that. No one in this world comes to work and just sits there. If they did, they’re not going to keep their job, you know? I'm gonna do it.”
Said Turner: “I don’t know if it’s a pride or an ego thing, but I feel like I owe it to my teammates to be out there every day if I’m healthy.’’
Freeman and Turner rank first and second in the majors in hits this season and could become the first teammates to finish as the top two since Ichiro Suzuki and Bret Boone of the Seattle Mariners in 2001.
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