There aren’t enough Wheaties in the world to account for what Major League journeyman Fernando Tatis did in 1999. I’m not saying Tatis was a steroid user, but he makes Dean Palmer’s numbers seem legitimate.
I’m sure nobody thought any funny business was afoot when, in 1999, the historically light-hitting Tatis hit two grand slams in one inning for the Cardinals, less than a month into the season. Tatis set a record for that feat, which included a record 8 RBI in a single inning, all off of Dodgers’ pitcher Chan Ho Park.
Just listen to the soothing sound of Bob Costas talk all about that glorious evening in April, 1999.
Tatis’ career lasted parts of 11 Major League seasons, but due to various injuries, he played in over 100 games just four times. When he hung it up for good in 2010, he was a career .265/.344/.785 hitter–pretty good right? But the real story lies in the individual seasons.
Look at Tatis’ 1999 campaign. He hit 34 homers, more than he hit in any two other seasons combined! Just out of curiosity, I looked up the Home Run leaders for that year, and the numbers are downright hilarious. A stunning 45 players hit 30 home runs that season. His 34 home runs landed him in a tie for 25th in the majors. For comparison’s sake, last year just 14 players reached the 30-homer plateau. His 34 would have placed him 6th in baseball in 2013.
Anyway, in 1999 Fernando Tatis put up a .957 OPS, almost 200 points higher than his career average. He hit .298, and drove in 107 runs. He netted no more than 64 RBI in any other season. His 1999 season saw Tatis score 104 runs, 35 more than he scored in any of his ten other Major League seasons.
Tatis was named the 2008 Comeback Player of the Year, when he converted from third base to outfielder for the Mets. All told, Fernando played for five teams in his eleven-year career, and was able to hold on for eleven seasons thanks in large part to his 1999 supremacy. The Steroid Era features so many of these stories–guys who play serviceable baseball for a few years, then EXPLODE in the late-90’s for a season or two. Guys like John Jaha, for instance. These fellows make some of the best Obscure Athletes.