Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata was a top prospect once. In 2006 he was ranked as the number two prospect in the New York Yankees farm system, and he reached as high as number 22 on league-wide prospect rankings. Looking back at it, it seems a bit unclear as to why that was ever true. His best season in the minors was in 2007 when he hit .307/.371/.392 with 5 home runs and 15 steals in 103 games with the Yankees A+ affiliate. He wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire with the bat and didn’t offer spectacular speed or defense, but scouts seemed to like how he profiled and became very high on his potential, despite his severe lack of giving-a-shit when photographers were around.
The Pirates bought into the hype and acquired Tabata in a three team deal that brought Daniel McCutchen, Jeff Karstens, and Ross Ohlendorf to Pittsburgh with him in exchange for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. A lot has changed in seven years and Tabata is the only remaining player that has seen MLB time this season.
Frankly, Tabata is one of the more… interesting, for lack of a better word, players that the Pirates have had, at least in my life time. He was married to a woman that was more than twice his age, she stole a baby and lied about it being his while he didn’t even know of the baby’s existence, and then they tragically broke up and she was taken to prison. That can’t be easy to deal with.
Things got a little easier in Jose’s professional life as he found enough success in the Pirates farm system to earn a promotion to the Major Leagues in 2010. He then found a full-time starting job at the start of the 2011 season after hitting .299/.346/.400 in his first 102 big league games. He showed the Pirates enough to make them want to lock him up, and Tabata signed a very team friendly six-year contract in August of that 2011 season. In fact, the deal was so team friendly that Tabata’s agent had to resign so as to not have that on his resume.
For Pittsburgh Pirates fans, this is where the story takes a negative turn. Here is what the Pirates have paid for the last three years.
|2013||$1,000,000||106 G, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 3 SB, .282/.342/.429|
|2014||$3,000,000||80 G, 0 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB, .282/.314/.647|
|2015||$4,000,000||27 G, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, .289/.341/.289|
Honestly that’s not all that outrageous. When Tabata plays, he hits. He has consistently posted above league average batting averages, however that’s really all he brings to the table. He’s notoriously apathetic, hits for no power and plays below average defense. The contract didn’t stop in 2015 however, he is due $4.5 million next year and then has team options for $6.5 million, $7.5 million, and $8.5 million the next three years. He certainly won’t be seeing much of that money given that he hasn’t found a way to stick in the majors, but the contract is still comical to look at.
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Now that the facts are taken care of, let’s stop using them.
Tabata, justified or not, has always been seen as an absent-minded, lazy, apathetic player. He’s downright strange. But you know what? None of that sounds all that bad to me. Life’s tough, there’s a lot of crap you have to deal with, and that’s substantially magnified when you’re a professional athlete. Tabata has seemed to find the best way to deal with… just stop caring.
He was recently in the news as a bad guy when he ruined Max Scherzer’s perfect game by leaning into a pitch down six runs with two outs in the ninth. Was Tabata affected by the backlash? While I can’t say for sure, I’m doubting very much that he was. At this point I’m doubting that Tabata knows what the Internet is.
Jose Tabata is most likely going to be a career AAA player at this point, and it seems that that’s just how he likes it. He is making multi-millions a year to play in low pressure situations where not much is expected of him. Who wouldn’t take that job? Sure, there are guys that are “competitive” and “strive for excellence” and “don’t want to be in the minor leagues”, but I don’t think that Tabata has that personality. And I must say, as a fellow apathetic, I think Tabata has his head screwed on just right.
So here’s to athletes being human. Cheers to Jose Tabata, enjoy your remaining years making millions to play a game. And here’s hoping that you find love again, preferably to someone who doesn’t kidnap babies.