COLUMN: L.A. Times owes Fernando Tatis Jr. an apology

Padres Dodgers Baseball
Posted at 3:42 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-26 18:42:45-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Rivalry and controversy. They are the lifeblood of America's sports media machine.

Even on a busy weekend, live sports can only fill about 12 hours of programming per day. Fans, though, want to consume their favorite sports 24/7, which means radio hosts, TV anchors, newspaper columnists, and bloggers are always finding something to fill the time between games.

That brings us to the Padres and Dodgers, who supplied no shortage of rivalry over the weekend, with a dash of controversy thrown in for spice.

On Saturday night, Fernando Tatis Jr. blasted two home runs off reigning Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, part of a five-homer weekend at Dodger Stadium. Hours later, Bauer posted a video on Twitter that may or may not have shown Tatis taking a peek back toward the catcher on the pitch prior to home run #2.

Bauer called out Tatis on social media. Tatis fired back. The two superstars then went their separate ways.

But the discussion on ESPN and sports talk radio will likely continue for at least a day or two -- at least until the next controversy comes along to feed the all-important content beast.

Hey, I'm all for it. I make my living talking about sports on television and radio. We live in a world where the hottest takes get the most eyeballs, eardrums, and that holy grail -- clicks. Have at it; but also remember to do so responsibly.

When Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times suggested the Dodgers should have sent Tatis a message on Sunday -- perhaps with a few inside pitches -- that's not only his prerogative, it's his job. But when the headline writers at the Times posted the column under the headline, "Dodgers get cheated again, this time by sign-stealing Fernando Tatis Jr. of Padres," they took a big step over the line of responsible journalism.

We may never know Tatis' true intentions in that moment. Sign stealing? Scratching an itch on his nose? Distracted by some early movement by Dodgers catcher Will Smith? Maybe all of the above.

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We do know, however, that Tatis has never been accused of sign-stealing in the past, and teammates like Eric Hosmer quickly vouched for the shortstop's integrity. He's hit plenty of home runs in his young career, and not once has an opponent suggested Tatis knew which pitch was coming.

Saying the Dodgers got "cheated" in the headline labels Tatis as a cheater, and the use of the word "again" lumps him in with the Houston Astros, who used an elaborate scheme aided by technology and cameras to relay signs to the batter. It's nothing short of outrageous.

To say Tatis is a cheater, with no evidence to back it up other than one split-second frame of video on social media, is incredibly irresponsible. People will read the L.A. Times headline (and probably skip over the column) and believe for the rest of their lives that Fernando Tatis Jr. is a shady character.

It's the same way Manny Machado got labeled as a poor teammate who doesn't hustle or respect the game -- accusations framed through one or two moments out of a more than 8-year career that has stuck with one of the best players in the game -- even though Padres fans can see every night with their own eyes that those labels couldn't be more wrong.

How would Dodgers fans react if a San Diego columnist accused Mookie Betts of being a cheater with only the flimsiest of evidence? They'd rightfully be blasted from coast-to-coast.

The L.A. Times should retract their headline and apologize to the game's most exciting young talent.

Either way, he's going to be taking his revenge on your baseball team for the next 14 years.