The NY Post ran a story in their sports pages early last week touting what I’d been hoping for. Two-way Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani would start for the Angels the day before Memorial Day at Yankee Stadium against countryman Masahiro Tanaka.
Ohtani had been on a pattern of starting most Sunday games. His numbers are great. Seven starts. 40.1 innings pitched, 52 K’s and a WHIP of 1.07.
I’d been watching the ticket prices climb steadily on the resale market and decided last Wednesday night to shell out $53.22 (with fees) to get a standing room only ticket via Stub Hub.
The next morning I woke up – and just for the heck of it checked the ticket prices again. They had plummeted by more than half. The Angels had announced that Ohtani would not start Sunday as expected. Citing “workload management,” the 23-year-old MLB rookie would get more than the usual six days between starting pitching assignments. I was a little aggravated but still got up early (for me) on Sunday morning to get to the Stadium in time for batting practice.
Heavy rain that morning led to the cancellation of BP – but I was glad to see Ohtani’s name in the Halos lineup – batting cleanup. A chilly, stiff wind blew straight in. It misted during parts of the game. For Ohtani’s first at-bat I stood on the field level concourse about even with the bag on the third base side. Tanaka had struck out Trout during a 10-pitch at-bat two batters earlier – and battled beautifully against Ohtani to get the K to end the inning. There were lots of Japanese fans in the house.
Ohtani came into Yankee Stadium batting .319. After going 0 for 9 with four walks in the three-game series, he left the Bronx with a .291 average.
The new Yankee manager Aaron Boone brought in Chappy an inning early to face Ohtani in a big spot in the Friday night game. I watched it on TV from the job. Chapman was throwing 100 mile an hour stuff up and down – and Ohtani didn’t appear the least bit phased. He ended up grounding out but has great plate discipline. Reporters say Ohtani put on a really big power display during BP on Friday night.
During all interaction with opponents he appears to show great respect – not with a bow but with a clear nod and smile. He’s 23-years-old and he’s playing at a high level both as a pitcher – and a hitter.
The only thing he’s not doing is manning the field.
Those espousing conventional baseball wisdom via the airwaves and in print are saying Ohtani won’t likely be able to continue both as a hitter and pitcher at the major league level long term. This assertion – to me – is unfair. Why can’t he do both – given what we’ve seen so far?
His decision to forgo an estimated $200 million in salary had he simply waited two years to be set free from rules governing contracts for international players – and his insistence on hearing organizational views about incorporating two-way status into a season-long program – shows that we could be looking at a once-in-my-lifetime kind of player who must be encouraged to live this dream. It’s really quite exciting.
It’s Sho – Time !