Tingler on Tatis: 'He plays the game right'

Padres skipper clarifies remarks following superstar's grand slam

August 18th, 2020

In high spirits following their 14-4 victory over the Rangers, the Padres loaded their bus for their trek from Globe Life Field to their team hotel on Monday night.

Manager Jayce Tingler sat in his row. Star shortstop  took a seat in the row behind him. They chatted for the entire 30-minute ride. Others around them chimed in, too. Some conversation surrounded Tatis' first career grand slam -- and his decision to audaciously swing at a thigh-high 3-0 fastball from Juan Nicasio. Some of it veered toward topics that had nothing to do with baseball.

Regardless, the mood on the team bus was lively and somewhat euphoric. The Padres' 10-run victory had snapped their five-game losing streak and was arguably their most complete team win of the year.

"That, to me, is the storyline," Tingler would say the following morning.

Oh, but it was not.

At the same time, a wholly different tone unfolded across the baseball landscape. Never mind that Tatis had just driven in seven runs with a pair of homers to retake the Major League home-run lead from Mike Trout.

Had Tatis broken an unwritten rule by swinging at a 3-0 pitch while up seven runs? Had the Rangers broken a written one by throwing at Manny Machado with their next pitch? Were the managers of both teams taking the fun out of baseball with their postgame comments in which both expressed -- for different reasons -- that Tatis shouldn't have swung?

In the Padres clubhouse Tuesday morning, several players and team personnel scoffed at the idea of a rift emerging between Tatis and Tingler.

"Maybe I didn't word it exactly right last night in reference to what I was talking about," Tingler said. "In reference to a 'teachable moment,' I was talking about the signs. We miss signs throughout the year and we address these things."

Tingler then offered a quick follow-up:

"I'm glad he missed this one."

Tingler, it's worth pointing out, is a rookie manager. He made a decision to take the green light away from his star shortstop, and he relayed that decision to third-base coach Glenn Hoffman. Tatis never looked at Hoffman, and instead crushed an opposite-field bomb, giving the Padres a 14-3 lead.

Tingler noted that the moment was something of a personal learning experience. On Monday, he noted that he was trying to avoid “running up the score.” A day later, he acknowledged that he should’ve been focused on growing a big enough lead to avoid using his back-end relievers -- especially considering the Padres’ bullpen woes this season.

So that 3-0 take sign?

"Obviously, it wasn't the right call," Tingler said. "He took one swing of the bat and got four runs."

The fireworks truly ensued on the following pitch, when Ian Gibaut's fastball sailed behind Machado. Tingler reiterated his belief on Tuesday that Gibaut's actions were intentional, even though Gibaut was not ejected.

"That whole stuff is tired, throwing at players and throwing behind them," Tingler said. "It's just tired. But we've got a lot of confidence in ... MLB to review it. They've been very adamant from the get-go that this won’t be tolerated."

Sure enough, an hour before Tuesday's game, Gibaut was suspended for three games, while Rangers manager Chris Woodward received a one-game ban. Gibaut will appeal.

"I find it funny that I'm being labeled as the old-school guy," said Woodward, who served his suspension on Tuesday. "I’ve thought about a lot of the gray area in the game when it comes to the unwritten rules. We’ve moved past a lot of these things. The line is one [thing] for one person and one for the other. ... I expect him to swing 2-0. I expect him to swing 3-1. That 3-0 pitch was always the one that you’d get in trouble for it if you swung at it. That was just common knowledge in the game. And now that it’s a little bit blurred. Whatever, I’m willing to move on and kind of adapt to the new norm if that’s the case."

Tingler has been vocal in his support of Tatis' all-out playing style. The Padres shortstop has always turned heads with demonstrative bat flips and daring baserunning. Tingler has been quick to praise Tatis for it, saying Tuesday: "If we're going to grow the game, let the guys play, promote 'em and go."

Perhaps that's why his comments Monday night rubbed Padres fans the wrong way. It seemed as if Tingler was calling on one of the sport's most exciting young stars to dial back his playing style a bit.

A day later, Tingler wanted to reiterate that that wasn't the case.

"Looking to put any restraints, that would be insanity," Tingler said. "The way he plays, the electricity -- he plays the game right. He's passionate, he works, he's loved by his teammates, his staff. Those are all qualities we would never restrain."