One of the biggest stories of the MLB off-season was the arrival of the “Japanese Babe Ruth” — a two-play player named Shohei Ohtani who has the potential to be an ace pitcher, but can also handle himself valiantly at the plate with a bat.
There’s a lot of casual interest in a player who could potentially fill both roles for his new team, and plenty of clubs attempted to woe the Japenese superstar. He had his preferences, of course. There were reports that he preferred a West Coast team, to be closer to his native Japan. Or that he didn’t want to end up in a major market area, like the Yankees, for example. He also wanted to be an (almost) everyday player, being allowed in the lineup to hit even on days he wouldn’t be pitching.
In the end, the Los Angeles Angels won the Ohtani sweepstakes by offering what other teams couldn’t (or wouldn’t). Ohtani will pitch in a six-man rotation, and will play the DH spot on most of his non-pitching days. The other team in Los Angeles, who also courted Ohtani heavily in the off-season, are extremely miffed about the whole situation, saying that Ohtani’s desire to be a DH means he shouldn’t have wasted the time of National League teams.
“It really just seemed like it was pre-determined that he wanted to DH,” said Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I’m kind of mad at his agent for making us waste all that time and effort. Fifteen teams should have been out of it, from the beginning. I know it’s probably frustrating for everybody in the National League. A lot of guys spent a lot of time trying to figure out what makes him tick, and try to get him over here.”
Playoff hero Justin Turner also spoke out about his efforts to recruit Ohtani, taking time off from planning his wedding to try and lure the Japanese star to Dodger Stadium.
“He might as well have not been sitting there,” Turner said, using an expletive for emphasis. “We might as well have been speaking to a window.”
At one point, Turner recalled, Ohtani was asked for his true preference: Would he rather hit or pitch? “And he said, ‘Whatever the manager says.’ I was like ‘Come on,’” Turner said.
Kershaw proceeded to call the whole recruitment process “a gigantic waste of time.”
Too bad the Dodgers and the Angels are in separate leagues, although they will play six interleague games against each other in July. There could be a fun little West Coast feud brewing here.