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Fernando Tatis Jr.’s rookie season was incredible, even if it was cut short

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Fernando Tatis Jr. watches during the Padres’ game against the Colorado Rockies Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

“[Fernando Tatis Jr. is] most likely done for the remainder of the season. It’s been really tough for him over the last couple of days to kind of swallow this. For us, it’s a tough blow. For him, we’re going to take care of him.”

That line from San Diego Padres manager Andy Green was met by howls of anguish from the assembled baseball internet. Fernando Tatis Jr. had been a revelation, a dynamic defensive shortstop mashed into a power/speed hitting package that might even impress Ronald Acuña Jr.. Losing him for the rest of the year makes the season a little less bearable, and robs us of what was shaping up to be a fascinating NL Rookie of the Year race against Mets slugger Pete Alonso. Why can’t we have nice things?

But what baseball taketh away it first had to give, and while Tatis Jr.’s absence from our lives is a minor tragedy, it’s worth remembering that it’s incredible we the Tatis Jr. that we did. His was a season to celebrate, not to mourn. So let’s celebrate it.

Fernando Tatis Jr. did this:

And this:

And this:

A team finding itself with a 20-year-old who also happens to be a plus defensive shortstop might be happy for them to hit like a utility infielder. Tatis Jr. hit like an MVP candidate, going .317/.379/.590 in a little more than half a season, while also terrorizing teams on the bases. Watch that last video again. He tags and scores on a sacrifice fly that never left the infield, and he did it from second base. There’s a sort of brilliant recklessness to his game which, when combined with his profound athletic talent, makes him one of the most watchable players in the game.

With respect to Alonso, a very fine player in his own right, there’s only so much aesthetic joy you can derive from a right-handed slugging first basemen. (I think Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas probably stole all of their future swagger and kept it for themselves. Blame the ‘90s.) Tatis Jr., meanwhile, thrilled, at the plate, on the bases and at shortstop. Injuries took and are taking a big bite out of his season, but he’s expected to be back and healthy for 2020. Assuming that’s true, leaning on “why can’t be have nice things” here seems misguided. In Tatis Jr., baseball has given us a very nice thing, and we’ll be enjoying him for a long time yet.