Trevor Bauer’s accusation seemed straightforward enough: Fernando Tatis Jr. detected a sign by peeking back at Dodgers catcher Will Smith, using the information to tag Bauer for a home run and violating one of baseball’s unwritten rules in the process.
Three former major-league catchers, however, described the sequence as more nuanced than Bauer portrayed in a video he posted on Sunday, the day after he allowed two homers by Tatis while pitching six strong innings to help the Dodgers to a 5-4 victory over the Padres. The catchers also said that if Tatis was peeking, Smith should have taken measures to stop him.
Tatis hit his fifth home run in three games on Sunday in the Padres’ 8-7 triumph over the Dodgers in 11 innings. Earlier in the day, he countered Bauer’s charge with a tweet showing a picture of him holding a small child with Bauer’s head, adorned by a Dodgers cap, super-imposed on the body. The tweet said, tranquilo hijo – “calm down, son.”
The public exchange between two of the game’s biggest stars obscured the stunning physical aspect of Tatis’ second home run off Bauer, which came on a pitch that was so far outside, it crossed the plane of the left-handed batter’s box. A similar event occurred last season, when the debate over Tatis swinging on 3-0 in a blowout of the Rangers overshadowed his grand slam with an exit velocity of 109.8 mph, the highest for a Padres opposite-field homer in the Statcast era, which began in 2015.
Erik Kratz, who recently retired after 11 seasons in the majors, said Tatis “definitely” peeked back at Smith, but too late to pick up the sign. In Kratz’s view, Tatis might have determined that Bauer wanted the pitch to be outside from looking at Smith’s positioning. Bauer, though, had worked Tatis away almost the entire at-bat, making it easier for Tatis to anticipate the location.