Contributor: John Dudley
Unless you’ve been avoiding news from the sports world, you’ve already had a decent amount of time to process Fernando Tatis’s 80-game suspension for a positive steroid test. His once bright future is now riddled with question marks. Collectors are left to wonder what will become of Tatis’s card values. Darren Rovell raised a lot of eyebrows by quickly asserting that Tatis’s steroid usage could cost the overall Tatis card market to lose over $100,000,000 in value. While that figure looks absurd at first, it becomes more reasonable upon examination. I’m not going to try to break down that figure fully, but I think it is worthwhile to check out the immediate future, the near future, and the long-term prospects for Tatis.
The immediate impact was severe. His 2016 Bowman Chrome Refractor Auto in BGS 9.5 went for about 50% of its last sale of $3400. His 2019 Topps Chrome PSA 10 has dropped to $80 from $125. Likewise, the refractor version of the same card dropped to $200 from $300-$350. Some decent sales are mixed in with the low ones, but the overall trend is still downward.
There are a few positives for the immediate impact. First, his cards are selling at a decent pace. Prices are dropping, but people are snapping them up. Additionally, a 2016 Bowman Gold Refractor Auto went for over $16000. Sure, it would have gone for substantially more just a few days ago, but it is a great sign that someone is still willing to plonk down that much for a Tatis card.
The Near Future
We won’t see Tatis until 2023. It’s likely that he will see some short-term jumps in prices as anticipation for his return ramps up. With Juan Soto and Manny Machado, he will become part of the most outstanding trio of hitters in the game. His on-the-field future looks bright if he can get healthy.
Even so, winning may solve everything, and performing well helps too, but overcoming the stigma of PED usage in baseball is an uphill battle. Tatis is going to face a new round of boos and catcalls and each stadium he visits and if the Padres make the playoffs expect to hear the jeers all over again. This will inevitably color perceptions against him. I think the negative impact of being one of the most hated players in the game will greatly limit his cards’ potential for growth in the near future outside of a few brief bumps upon returning.
Guys with steroid suspensions or strong ties to PEDs do retain some hobby value, but it takes a truly incredible player to reach the levels most collectors are looking for. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark McGwire all have seen their cards rebound somewhat and are highly sought-after players for many collectors. This upper echelon talent is the level Tatis has to hit for his cards to retain much of their current value and to increase.
Players like Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Robinson Cano, and Manny Ramirez on the other hand have gone from major names in the hobby to guys that hold nowhere near the status they once did. These are Hall of Fame caliber players with amazing highlights. The difficulty these guys’ cards still have in the hobby is ice-water. Tatis could have a Hall of Fame caliber career, even first-ballot worthy, and still not get his hobby value back. The damage very well could be permanent.
It’s always possible that things could change, and hobbyists and baseball fans stop caring so much about PEDs. Baseball fans are a fusty bunch and resistant to change so I’m not holding my breath. While I think Tatis can have a stellar career, given the way previous players have been treated I’m not sure he’s worth the risk yet.