Fernando Tatis Jr. Talks SD Swag Chain, MLB Foreign Substances, Bat Flips, and More

The Padres' shortstop chatted about baseball's big controversy—pitchers using sticky substances—and the fun his teammates are having rocking the special chain.

Fernando Tatis Jr Padres Swag Chain 2021
USA Today Sports

Jun 3, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (23) is interviewed following the game against the New York Mets at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Fernando Tatis Jr Padres Swag Chain 2021

The biggest mystery in baseball today isn’t the precise number of pitchers using sticky substances (figure most of them are). Nor is it whether the baseball is different this year compared to last (it almost assuredly is). And it definitely isn’t what the hell happened to the Yankees’ bats prior to visiting the Twins this week (don’t get a New Yorker started).

For our money, the biggest mystery in baseball today is how much the San Diego Swag Chain—the gaudy, completely ridiculous, and massive medallion that Padres players don after hitting a home run or doing something heroic—actually retails for.

Featuring 8,000 stones, a spinning interlocking “SD,’ and weighing more than you’d probably guess, if you haven’t seen one of the Padres rocking the chain after launching a moonshot then consider this your introduction to a side of baseball sorely missing from the game. The chain that Padres third baseman Manny Machado gets credit for conceptualizing and helping design took a couple of months to put it together in conjunction with his famous jeweler. And since it debuted in May, it’s been fun to see players on one of the best/most exciting teams in the sport regularly rocking it.

Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres’ star shortstop and frequent wearer of the chain since he’s enjoying an excellent season, says he doesn’t know the exact retail price of it. Machado and his jeweler have kept that a secret. But when pressed for an answer, we got Tatis to ballpark it for us. 

“It’s probably like 25 percent of Manny’s game check,” says Tatis. “Which is a lot.”

We’ll worry about confirming the actual number for another day, but it was fun talking to one of baseball’s brightest young stars—.358 OBP, .996 OPS, 17 HR, 39 RBI, 13 SB—about something so innocuous when the rest of the sport is currently experiencing an existential crisis about sticky substances, spin rates, and strikeouts.

So enjoy our brief conversation with Tatis, who Complex Sports caught up with via Zoom during a Padres off-day before San Diego takes on the Mets in a three-game series in Queens this weekend. Besides the Swag Chain, we did chat about the controversy dominating baseball—and Tatis has a strong opinion on it. But we also talked about the best rivalry in the game right now, going at Trevor Bauer on social media, and pitching a new Gatorade product the brand recently introduced called Gatorlyte that promotes rapid hydration.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Pitchers using sticky substances and foreign substances is the biggest controversy in the game right now. Give me an idea how serious you guys as hitters are taking it?
It’s really serious, man. What can I say? If it’s illegal it shouldn’t be out there. It’s a hard one, it’s a tough one. 

Aaron Judge said the other day that he thinks 95 percent of guys on the mound are using some kind of substance. Curious if you think that’s a close or accurate number? Do you think the majority of pitchers are using something?
What can I say? That I’ve seen? [Laughs.] I don’t want to put no excuses out there and I don’t want to talk bad about pitchers. But it’s different, man. It’s different and it’s way harder this year and that’s something I can definitely tell.

That’s fair. And Mets first baseman Pete Alonso had that comment the other night that the league changing the baseball from season to season is actually a bigger deal than pitchers using sticky substances. Do players feels that way?
The baseballs are totally different this year. There’s a change out there and maybe that’s one of the reasons why pitchers are better, you know, and balls are traveling way less, that’s for sure.

But you’re smoking the baseball this year. You make it look incredibly easy up there so give our audience an idea of just how hard it really is to barrel up a baseball in the majors.
It’s super hard. It’s extremely hard. What can I say? All those pitchers throwing all different kinds of pitches and everybody’s throwing 100 [mph], it’s just extremely hard with what pitchers are doing this year.

You missed some time due to Covid and a shoulder injury, but you’re having an incredible season and could easily flirt with leading the league in homers and steals. That hasn’t happened in 90 years. Curious if you’re thinking about those numbers at all and if you did achieve that milestone how cool would it be to do something historic like that?
It’s definitely something you listen about, it’s definitely something you need to pay attention to. What can I say? It would be awesome. That would be something that I can hopefully keep working toward on the field, do it, and hopefully we can be there.

Definitely wanted to ask you about the back and forth on social media you had with Trevor Bauer earlier this season. It was great. Why does baseball need more of that?
[Laughs.] Bauer. I feel like Bauer is the guy you can definitely go at on social media and have some fun. I know that it’s just going to stay there. We’re trying to have a little bit of fun, give something to the fans, but I feel like he’s a really professional guy and when we get on the field next time he’s definitely going to try and get me out and I’m going to try and get him back.

Why is Dodgers-Padres the best rivalry in baseball right now?
The teams, the history, and what happened last year and what we’ve brought into this year. We’re a better team this year, they’re a better team. What can I say? You can just feel it when we’re on the field playing against each other. 

You have the best bat flip in baseball. They’ve been epic. I really enjoy them. I hope you keep doing them. Does anyone else’s bat flip come close to yours?
[Ronald] Acuna [Jr.]. I definitely have to go with Acuna. I think Acuna really likes to have fun with it.

Wanted to ask about the SD Swag Chain because it’s awesome. Manny Machado gets credit for introducing it, but did he consult you at all during the design process?
No, he didn’t. Him and his jeweler did it and they did an awesome job. It definitely caught attention from everybody. It’s epic. It’s one-of-one.

Manny Machado Fernando Tatis Jr Padres Swag Chain 2021

What was the clubhouse’s reaction when he first showed it off?
We were nerding out. Everybody was going crazy. Everybody thought he was going to go with something smaller. Something not that big or swaggy. Everybody was just surprised and talking shit just to see who was going to be the first one to wear it.

How heavy is that thing?
It’s pretty heavy. You can definitely feel it when you have it one. I think it’s like five pounds.

And I saw that Gabe Jacobs, the designer of the chain from of Rafaello & Co., said he didn’t want to reveal how much it costs. I’m wondering if Manny revealed how much it costs? Can we get a ballpark figure for what that thing would retail for?
[Laughs.] I don’t have the details.

Is it a game check, less than a game check? What are we talking about here?
It’s probably like 25 percent of Manny’s game check. Which is a lot. [Ed.’s note: Machado makes over $185,000 per game.]

And just talk about how you and Gatorade started working on some projects together.
Me and my agents got in touch with Gatorade and I think we’ve found a way to work together and I think it’s worked.

And you’re appearing in a campaign for Gatorlyte so give me an idea of what it is?
It’s a perfect product for an athlete that’s going for a quick way to hydrate, especially for us being in the game, being on the field, coming on and off, that quick hydration is just key for us right now.

Latest in Sports