Baseball needs a hero after AstroGate. Los Angeles Angels two way star Shohei Ohtani could be it.
In the aftermath of the 1919 Blacksox scandal, when members of the Chicago White Sox colluded with big-time gamblers to fix the season’s World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, baseball fans were needless to say, troubled. The following season, Babe Ruth was sent to the New York Yankees from the Boston Red Sox, and in turn, distracted fans with his never seen before home run hitting capabilities. I won’t go into too much more about that story, you’ve probably heard it before. However, I sense a similar story could be told at the end of the 2020 season.
Wrapped in scandal and buzz, the theme of the 2019 off-season has been the Houston Astros banging on trash-cans, wrapping their arms in buzzing band-aids (not likely) and replays in which they simply refuse to rip off their shirts after scoring game-winning runs. Fans don’t know what is up and what is down. Where do we turn, what do we do?
Much like fans needed something to hope for after their trust was shattered in the 1919 offseason, fans today need something to hope for. Thinking that all games must be influenced or affected by gamblers, fans needed a distraction. Babe Ruth’s launch angle may not have been mentioned, but he continued to put the ball over the wall and gave the fans, or cranks at that time, a much-needed respite from the negative extracurriculars that shrouded the game.
Ruth was no longer a pitcher, he was a hitter in 1920 and Los Angeles Angels two way star Shohei Ohtani could be the next coming of Ruth 100 years later. No, I’m not comparing the two statistically, but more so as both being the puff of wind that fills the sails of fan’s standing ships.
As it was reported a week ago by R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports, MLB brass has changed ruling so that Ohtani can rehab his post-TJ surgery arm while also hitting as a DH. In 2018, Ohtani slashed .285/.361/.564, maintained a 3.31 ERA in 51.2 innings, and had the third fastest fastball among starting pitchers with at least 50 innings. Let that last stat sink in a bit. This guy’s UCL was basically wearing down to a thread and he was averaging out at 97.4 MPH only to fall in behind Luis Severino (2nd fastest at 97.9) and Noah Syndergaard (1st fastest at 98.1). That’s nuts.
That’s what I am most excited to see. But it’s not all about heat, heat, heat. Ohtani also had a Kershaw-Esque breaking ball (sinker) that looked like it had buzzing band-aid inside the ball and ranked eighth in vertical movement among all pitchers with at least 50 innings. Who was the second on that list? Kershaw. I just can’t wait to see what post-TJS Ohtani looks like on the mound.
Though his bat may have been a little lack-luster in 2019, shouldn’t we expect some growing pains out of the only 25-year-old, still new to American pitching, Ohtani? Yes. Hitting .286/.343/.505 with 18 home runs and 110 strike-outs didn’t exactly turn Ohtani into the modern-day Ruth. But, think of how much room there is to grow once he is healthy.
I know I am and I know that’s what I’ll be focusing on when the season begins and Los Angeles Angels two way star Shohei Ohtani hits in between his rehab pitching schedule. I just can’t wait. Bang on a trash can if you’re with me!