SEATTLE – MLB’s best were on full display in Seattle for the All-Star Game, but it quickly became apparent that you took center stage every time you stepped onto the field or sat in front of a microphone.
Shohei Ohtani isn’t just an All-Star. He is a global icon. That’s no disrespect to the other greats in the game today. Even they understand how unprecedented his game has been since he made the leap from Japan to the MLB.
But Ohtani’s elite pitching and hitting ability wasn’t the reason he was the talk of the Emerald City this weekend. His contract ends after this year with the Los Angeles Angels.
With the trade deadline looming, rumors and speculation have consumed pundits and fans alike, wondering if the Angels will move him or wait to see what happens in free agency.
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Either way, Ohtani is expected to land a nine-figure contract before the 2024 season. Many, including former slugger Gary Sheffield, don’t think it will be with the Angels.
«Oh, he’s definitely going,» Sheffield told Fox News Digital with a big smile at The Players’ Party hosted by the MLB Players’ Association, Lids and Topps.
«He’s the Babe Ruth of today. People talk about what Babe Ruth did. You can’t do more than what he’s doing right now. He’s the inspiration for all of our kids. When we go home, our kids are talking about that». right now.»
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Entering the break, the 29-year-old Ohtani leads the majors in home runs (32), triples (six), slugging percentage (.633) and OPS (1.050). His batting average is .302 in 89 games in the lineup.
On the mound, Ohtani has a 3.32 ERA over 100.1 innings with 132 strikeouts, tied for fourth in the MLB.
«The consistency that he’s had doing it, of course, has been a bit of a short period of time compared to most people’s careers. But to continue at the top of the league in two different major categories in pitching and hitting is just hard to understand». «, explained Whit Merrifield of the Toronto Blue Jays.
«The physical and mental energy it takes to sustain that. It doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon.»
Whether he stays with the Angels or goes elsewhere, Ohtani’s presence is changing the team. He could turn an already potent World Series contender into an MLB favorite for years to come or be the catalyst for a sidelined team trying to reach the World Series.
In the clubhouse, Ohtani is the ideal teammate, showing leadership when needed verbally and doing so primarily with his game on the field. He never seems to be in a bad mood even though cameras and reporters follow his every move.
He even makes jokes, like he did during Media Star Day when he was asked who might be recruiting him into the league. Ohtani wants to keep that a secret.
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Some players would rather go out and say it directly because, at the end of the day, it would be bad practice not to want Ohtani on their team.
«Oh man, I’d like to,» Mariners great Felix Hernandez told Fox News Digital when asked if Ohtani could land in Seattle.
«I think it changes any team he goes to, whether he stays with the Angels or goes to another team this offseason,» added Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith. «He’s the most valuable player in the league right now, obviously by a lot. We’d love to have him. We’d love to win the World Series and he could definitely help us.»
Every team would drop everything to sign Ohtani this offseason, but as former MLB pitcher Edwin Jackson, who played for 14 teams in 17 years, said, «Whoever pays more.»
Big markets, especially Los Angeles and New York, are seen as prime candidates for Ohtani. He’s already dealing with the West Coast in Anaheim right now, but the Angels, despite having Ohtani and Mike Trout on their roster, haven’t been able to build a playoff contender around the two.
That’s why the Dodgers, with their money and aggressive approach to top free agents, make a lot of sense if Ohtani wants to stay in California.
The Mets and Yankees can offer Ohtani potential immortality in a city desperate for a championship.
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But Curtis Granderson, who played for both the Mets and Yankees throughout his career, offered an argument that has been used quite often when discussing Ohtani’s next move.
«However, the New York media is a completely different animal than the West Coast media,» he explained. «One of the things that has made Ohtani’s career so great right now is you get to play, you deal with the fans. He’s popular and all that.
“New York is a completely different animal. If you can do everything you’ve been doing, you can literally be one of the biggest stars in the entire world. On the other hand, if things don’t work out, and that contract is huge. , and he’s not up to it, they’ll definitely be the first to let you know.»
Of course, the players have found success in New York despite the persecution by the media. And if Ohtani is looking for other Japanese stars who have, Hideki Matsui’s 2009 World Series MVP run is a case in point. Masahiro Tanaka also loved his years in New York, which included many postseason moments on the mound.
Mets star Pete Alonso is among those who don’t mind pitching their city and their team.
«I think you can’t speak enough about the positivity of what you can get from New York City. It’s a really amazing place and it’s a great place to play,» he said.
Player recruiting will continue as the front office prepares its best pitch and offers for Ohtani for the winter.
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Until then, everyone will still be in awe of Ohtani’s handling of the game.