Chris Russo took his own swing at Fernando Tatis Jr., shaming the San Diego Padres superstar for his controversial grand slam Monday night while comparing the star shortstop to an NBA player.
Tatis swung at a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded and his team up seven runs against the Texas Rangers in the eighth inning, purportedly breaking the so-called “unwritten rules” of baseball that call for a hitter not to swing in that situation or run up the score.
Though many former and current baseball players and fans defended one of the burgeoning faces of the sport, the long-time former WFAN voice chastised Tatis Jr. for not taking the take sign from his manager to lay off the pitch.
“No matter what you think about the game score, no matter what you think about the idea that Tatis hit a grand slam and he’s fun to watch, and he’s sort of an NBA guy playing baseball, a young enthusiastic … he’s got to take signs from his manager,” Russo said on his MLB Network show, “High Heat.”
Tatis indicated after the 14-4 rout that he did not notice the sign, and on Tuesday apologized for hitting what was his league-leading 11th home run. In baseball it is sometimes ill-advised to swing at a 3-0 pitch because then the hitter risks an out as opposed to waiting out a walk.
The 60-year-old Russo taking issue with the 21-year-old Tatis is symbolic of a growing baseball divide, which pins traditionalists, who prefer players to be business-like, compared with a new generation of players like Tatis, who flip the bat after home runs and aren’t afraid to show off their personality on the field.
“I believe in respecting authority,” Russo said.
Tatis’ manager Jayce Tingler, who spent the past 14 seasons working in the Rangers organization and Rangers manager Chris Woodward each criticized Tatis for his decision to swing at the pitch.
Woodward was suspended one game after Texas pitcher Ian Gibaut threw behind Manny Machado immediately following the grand slam. Gibaut was banned three games but is appealing.
Tatis, the son of a major leaguer, did have the backing of two baseball legends, Reggie Jackson and Johnny Bench, while it seemed Russo was in the minority.
“So you take a pitch…now you’re 3-1. Then the pitcher comes back with a great setup pitch…3-2. Now you’re ready to groundout into a double play. Everyone should hit 3-0. Grand Slams are a huge stat,” tweeted Bench, likely referring to the fact that baseball players’ contracts often include bonuses for stats such as home runs and grand slams.
Mr. October tweeted, “Fernando Tatis keep playing hard and playing great, it’s a pleasure to watch you play, love your success and the Padres rise to be a winner. Keep leading the way. It ain’t easy to hit Hrs. Keep bringing energy you have to the game, we need players like you. An All Star.”
There were others who pointed out that no lead is safe in today’s game.