We Were Young and Stupid

When I was younger and measured days by the inning rather than by proximity to the next mortgage payment, I ridiculed people for arriving late to ball games. Such luxury… Nowadays, I am grateful to arrive at all.

We showed up to Tuesday night’s contest in the second inning, never made it to our seats… Got sidetracked by pizza and beer. Stood on the field level concourse, along the left-field line, amongst the Royals fans.

Yes, a few travel with their team. And unlike fans of some other teams, they do not descend upon our city via bandwagon. I respect them. Nobody follows the Royals to look cooler than they are.

It’s like being a Padres fan, but with George Brett instead of Tony Gwynn… Dan Quisenberry instead of Trevor Hoffman… mustachioed Bud Black instead of clean-shaven Bud Black…

When I was younger, I might not have appreciated Cameron Maybin’s talents as much as I do now. He singled twice on grounders to the pitcher and second baseman, and was robbed of an easy triple when his drive to right-center in the sixth short-hopped the fence.

Maybin stole a base in the fourth, then stole a run. When Kyle Phillips flied out to left field, Maybin bluffed tagging up to third, drawing a throw from Alex Gordon. The Royals left fielder sailed his throw over third baseman Wilson Betemit’s head, between the legs of Royals pitcher Felipe Paulino, and into the dugout, allowing Maybin to trot home uncontested.

It was a stupid way to give up a run. Had I traveled to see the Royals play on this night, I’d have been peeved… maybe even irked or perturbed.

The Padres won, 4-2. Clayton Richard worked 7 strong innings… never mind the home run he allowed to Jeff Francoeur in the seventh (or the walk in the second; Francoeur came around to score because, honestly, who walks that guy?)

The bullpen did its thing. Heath Bell ended the contest with a strikeout. After slinging a slew of curve balls, Bell fired a fastball that Betemit couldn’t catch up to, sealing the game and the series for San Diego.

When I was younger, I exercised questionable judgment on more than one occasion… Like Chase Headley getting picked off first base in the fifth, or Will Venable doing the same in the seventh… Except that my transgressions tended to sprawl beyond the confines of the well-orchestrated dance that is competitive sports.

I no longer feel qualified to ridicule people for arriving late to ball games. Ridicule… Really, who among us is not ridiculous at some point?

Former first-round pick Donavan Tate has been suspended 50 games after a second positive drug test (yes, second; there was a first earlier this season that received little, if any, coverage).

What the heck is his problem?

I don’t know, but I hope he gets it fixed.

How stupid can he be?

Pretty stupid, just like the rest of us.

This absolves Tate of nothing, of course — as Jason McLeod says, “You messed up, now you have to accept the punishment and make it right.” Still, if I’d been given bucketloads of money at his age… let’s just say that the return on investment for whomever gave me the money would have been less than stellar.

If you never made a mistake when you were younger, I count three possibilities (all of which are themselves mistakes):

  1. You’re lying
  2. Your memory has failed you
  3. You did “younger” wrong

I met Tate once, a few minutes before his signing was announced. Inasmuch as it’s possible to formulate an opinion about someone on the basis of a handshake and 15 seconds worth of words, I’ll say that he seemed like a nice kid. Pat Murphy, his manager at Eugene, calls Tate “a great kid.” (What else is Murphy going to say, but still…)

I’ve known many nice/great kids. Many of them did stupid things. Most survived and grew from the experience, but some did not.

I hope Tate gets his act together, not only for the Padres’ sake (although it would be nice to see one of their first-round picks, acknowledging Tim Stauffer’s recent revival, do something positive for a change), but for his sake as well. If I’d had his talent at age 20 and pissed it away, I’d be pretty irritated at myself by the time I turned 42.

I guess. I can’t imagine having his talent… or his money… or the responsibilities that come with both, at such a young age.

I sometimes think it must be nice to have such problems, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe it sucks…

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28 Responses »

  1. The problem with comparing Tate to ourselves at that age is that Tate doesn’t live in the real world. I didn’t have handlers guiding my life when I was 20-years-old, let alone people looking out for me as a $6 million investment. I’m sure he’s a fine person, and no dumber than the rest of the 20-year-olds out there, but this is a baseball blog and at this point, Tate barely qualifies as a baseball player.

    In two years, he’s been busted for drugs twice and injured himself in an ATV accident. He’s also had 183 PA. By the end of the year, it’s doubtful that he’ll have more PA than Cory Spangenberg, who started his pro career three weeks ago.

    Tate may just be 20-years-old, but he’s an old 20. He has grown up expectations and obligations and he’s yet to show reason to think he’ll justify either.

  2. Everything that Ray just said.

  3. Saying anything along the lines of “He’s young and kids do stupid things” does a disservice to all of the other 20 year old baseball players that put their head down and work their tail off to reach their dreams. Tate isn’t the first 1st round pick ever, nor will he be the last kid given millions before he’s allowed to drink. Some handle it well, some flail about badly. The choice is theirs. We can’t fathom what it’d be like to have that talent or money, but there are lots of examples of people his age that do and handle it with grace.

    In other words, it’s not impossible, or even otherworldly, to have that talent and money and still keep your head on straight. Neither you or I know that from experience, but we sure do know it from observation.

  4. I understand Geoff’s sentiment, but how commited to baseball is he if he is willing to risk his baseball career on an ATV and taking drugs. Ray makes some good points. Some of us made mistakes and did dumb things as young adults, but to risk throwing away a once in a lifetime career tells me he may have other priorities…. frankly, he should have gone to college. When I was his age I wasn’t getting tested for drugs on a regular basis, had I been I certainly would have had to ask myself is it more important to keep my job or smoke some grass? If the kid was not ready for pro baseball on a maturity level then his advisors and family should have encouraged him to go to school first.

  5. But the “he’s not a regular 20 year old” is a sliding, slippery scale.

    Compared to hundreds of millions of 18-22 year old kids in the world, the average American college student is in no way average. Well-fed, doesn’t have to work, expenses paid by parents. Yet many (I’d say most) of those students make stupid decisions that could get them kicked out of school. They were raised to value education, their parents are forking out tens of thousands of dollars, which, relative to income, is just as big an investment as Tate, and when they get to college a fair portion of them do a lot more boning, drinking, and smoking than studying. That’s not a value judgment. I’m in favor of 2 of 3, and smoking gets left out because I’m THC-intolerant. But you don’t see this level of disapproval even though the relative stakes are comparable.

    The responsibility issue goes two ways. If the Padres weren’t 100% sure of his commitment, they could have picked someone else. Even then, if you had all the information available, things change between 18 and 20. It may have been impossible for Tate to know that (hypothetically) he’d find something more interesting than playing ball and for the Padres to know that he might incline that way.

    I’m disappointed that it happened and Tate’s career has been a long, downhill ride since draft day 2009. But lots of people have come back from lots worse than this.

  6. Couldn’t agree more that Headley should be an All Star over Ty Wiggington.

    Congrats, Wiggington, you have a pretty good OPS and you play half your games in a stadium without gravity.
    Headley’s .808 OPS is much more impressive than Wiggington’s .827, considering their respective home parks.
    Looking at each player’s OPS away from their home field, Headley beats him: .899 to .830.

    Put Chase in the ASG!!

  7. @USMC

    Agree. He used non-adjusted wOBA, which gives Wiggington an undeserved edge. I’ve never understood how people can make comparisons like that, especially between players with such extreme home parks, using non-adjusted stats.

    StatsCorner does adjust wOBA, and Headley has a 24 point edge there.


  8. OT … Assuming the Padres only deserve the minimum of 1 All-Star rep, my vote would be for Tim Stauffer …


    … and a big reason for that is what he did in 2010!!!

    ps. Tate pisses me off … ‘nuf said.

  9. Also, the Padres suck less than the Dodgers now …


    … which is always worth a yahoo and a smile! :-)

  10. The Padres play the Giants 8 times before the first trade deadline. After those 8 games if the Padres are within 5 games… they may have to hold the phone on trades or ask for a lot more in return.

  11. @LM – Gyorko will be promoted as soon as the Texas league all star festivities are over.

    Domoromo and Galvez are quickly becoming legit prospects. Domo is only 19.

  12. @PadresFuture: Do I have a convert? I keep telling people it ain’t over yet. You have to admit, since the first game debacle in Boston, the Padres have played like, well… the 2010 Padres. Those little things, like driving in runners in scoring position, make a difference.

  13. @Larry- I have been on the lets wait and see bandwagon for a while…. leaning towards ok to sell Ludwick and Bell for the right price regardless of contention.

  14. I too, am starting to believe this team might have a run in them. Except for that sequence against Atlanta, they’ve stopped kicking the ball around on defense, and are stealing bases again. We couldn’t catch a break early in the season, and now its starting to even out, from Guzman’s no-hit-no-walk run to the 4 run inning today. Even the line drives are starting to find some open grass.

    I think Maybin might make a run at the leadoff spot, the way he’s been playing. It seems that his success driving the ball early in the year has earned him a steady diet of pitches away, and he’s making teams pay with his speed. The defense has to respect how hard he can hit the ball, and they just don’t have a chance on slow ground balls. He just needs to get with a Dave Roberts type (what’s Rickey Henderson doing?) and work on grinding out ABs and making the pitcher work, because the more I watch him, the faster he seems, so he might be a nice long term fit in the lead off spot.

  15. @Adam – I believe the Padres would like him to take the leadoff spot at some point, until Spang is ready. BTW, you do know that Dave Roberts does work as a coach for the Padres right?

  16. Yes, I know he’s the first base coach, it was more setting up the Rickey Henderson line. And while Roberts definitely was a plus lead off man, I never really considered him great at grinding out ABs, not like Henderson and his squat that made the strike zone seem 6 inches tall.

  17. I am skeptical of this recent winning streak. I find myself in the position of rooting against us for the sake of a firesale. We must trade our assets. If we go on a winning streak and it prevents us from trading bell and/or ludwick it will hurt us down the line. The goal is to win the world series not hover around .500.

  18. Um, yeah, as of yesterday if we went on a tear and won another 9 games in a row AND the Giants (hottest team in baseball having won 7 in a row) lost 9 in a row at the same time, we would still be 1.5 games behind them and, presumably, we’d be behind at least another team who didn’t lost 9 in a row. This team is not going to compete for a playoff spot.

    Although I do love the optimistic posts much more than the unnecessarily harsh judgmental posts about Tate. Geez, cut the kid some slack.

  19. Wait, I don’t quite understand. Is there a chance that Tate’s suspension is because of PEDs? Or is it just recreational drugs? If he’s just smoking pot, he’s stupid to get caught, but I wouldn’t worry too much. I’d rather have him getting high than driving drunk or carrying guns around.

  20. @Brian

    Not PEDs. You get popped for that in the minors, it’s an instant 50 game suspension. For recreational drugs you go into a diversion program on the first offense and only get suspended for the following failed tests.

    Nobody seems too upset about the pot itself. The aggrieved folks seem to be mad because Tate “should have known better.” He should have, but it’s a common failing among people that age and even older.

  21. @All – the problem is a repeated pattern coming from Tate. He tested positive a 2nd time, apparantly after going into rehab. He also made a dumb decision regarding the ATV’s. I count three blunders in under 2 years. Do I think he can regroup and move on, sure…. but I don’t like the pattern.

  22. @PadresFuture

    I understand the concern, but it seems overblown, and for most of the humans I know, hypocritical. How many times had Tate ridden an ATV without incident? It’s close to blaming him for getting in a traffic accident.

    The pot / fake pot is more of an issue, but as several people have pointed out, the 20 year old who doesn’t repeat mistakes is a rare beast. Drug regulations, laws, and testing have changed over the past 20 years, substantially so in minor league baseball, but the wiring of the brain hasn’t changed at all in that period. I’m not excusing him. His parents, teammates, and coaches should be upset with him. But I’m also not willing to make more of it than I would any other person his age doing something they KNOW is wrong but that FEELS right.

  23. Baseball Prospectus gives Headley an appropriate amount of All-Star Love.


  24. @Tom Waits
    ” How many times had Tate ridden an ATV without incident? It’s close to blaming him for getting in a traffic accident. ”

    I think it’s a bit more serious than that. Correct me if I am wrong, but was he not violating his contract by riding an ATV in the first place?

  25. @Parlo

    I don’t know the details of Tate’s deal, but I don’t believe all baseball contracts include a “dangerous sports” provision. And if they do, as far as I understand the matter, the prohibited activities have to be explicitly listed. The team can’t simply state “Forbidden to engage in dangerous activities.”

    If the contract did rule out ATV riding, then it’s worse and you could argue it was the start of a pattern.