“Come to Seattle!”메이저놀이터
After the 2023 season, the most talked-about element of the stovepipe won’t be the arrival of Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes) in the major leagues, nor will it be the arrival of Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes) and Shota Imanaga (Yokohama DeNA Basestars). It’s the rise and fall of “baseball genius” Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels).
A much-talked-about prospect since his arrival in the major leagues, Ohtani became a “superstar” in 2021. He went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 23 starts as a pitcher and 158 games as a hitter with 138 hits, 46 home runs, 100 RBIs, 103 runs scored, 26 doubles, a .257 OPS and a .964 slugging percentage, earning him the American League’s unanimous MVP award. It was the season that marked the beginning of the real Idoryu.
But it wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Ohtani continued his good form last year, going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA in 28 games on the mound and hitting .273 with 34 home runs, 95 RBIs, 90 runs scored, 11 doubles, and an .875 OPS in 157 games at the plate, and this year he is well on his way to winning his second career MVP.
On the mound, Ohtani has appeared in 17 games this year, going 7-4 with a 3.32 ERA. That’s not quite as good as his performance on the mound last year, but it’s still one of the best in the league. At the plate, he’s on a “career-high” pace. Through the first half, he’s on pace for 103 hits, 32 home runs, 71 RBIs, 63 runs scored, 11 doubles, a .302 OPS and a 1.050 slugging percentage in 89 games. The home runs are already very close to last year’s total (34). With the rest of the season to go, there is nothing standing between him and the MVP and home run titles.
With Ohtani set to become a free agent, there has been a lot of talk in the local media lately about his price tag and where he will go. The price tag, which was estimated at $400 million (KRW 516.1 million) last year, has risen to $500 million (KRW 645.1 million) after he led Japan to victory at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) this year. The price tag could rise further if more clubs join the bidding war.
The question is, who can afford such a large price tag? Small-market teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays, are likely to only be “drooling” over Ohtani. However, teams with deep pockets, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and New York Mets, will be in the running for Ohtani. His current club, the Angels, are also expected to make an effort to retain him.
However, it is unlikely that Ohtani will stay with the Angels at this point. Ohtani dropped a “bombshell” during an interview with reporters ahead of the 2023 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Washington, USA, on 11 November.
“There were so many reporters covering him that it was hard to hear exactly what he was saying, but one message was clear: ‘I’m tired of losing,’ Ohtani said,” The Athletic reported. “Through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, he said, ‘Those feelings are getting stronger and stronger with each passing year. Losing sucks. I want to win,” he said, according to the report.
This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Ohtani’s obsession with winning. He made similar comments at last year’s All-Star Game that caused a stir. It’s unclear how much “money” is on his mind, but what is clear is that he’s not likely to stay with the Angels. The Angels are unlikely to make the postseason again this year.
With the Angels seemingly on the move, an interesting situation arose at the All-Star Game on the 12th. As Ohtani, the second American League All-Star to start the game as the designated hitter, stepped to the plate, the fans in T-Mobile Park began to chant “Come to Seattle!” Seattle is a club that has been incredibly supportive of Ohtani throughout his journey to the major leagues.
According to Japan’s Full Count, Ohtani said of hearing the chant after the game, “I hadn’t heard it until now. It sounded (to me), but I was focused on my at-bat,” he laughed, adding, “Seattle fans are passionate and great. I’ve stayed in Seattle in the off-season for the last two years or so, and I think it’s a great place with clean streets.”
Seattle sits just above the Angels in the American League West this year with a 45-44 record and a .506 winning percentage. While the Seahawks aren’t that much better than the Angels, they did make the postseason last year. It remains to be seen if Ohtani will head to Seattle, or if the Angels are interested in signing him, but it’s clear that the fans have shown their love for him through their ‘tchotchkes’.