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Shohei Ohtani and Reframing the Way We Think About Sports

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he year of Shohei Ohtani began with home runs and strikeouts, but in the wrong order. Instead of crushing homers at the plate and whiffing every batter in sight from the mound, as had been expected from Japan’s Babe Ruth, Ohtani spent his first MLB spring training enacting the ruinous reverse.

As a pitcher, the 23-year-old Angels rookie faced two major-league lineups and allowed nine runs (eight earned) while collecting just eight total outs; as a hitter, he posted the second-worst OPS among 535 players with at least 30 at-bats in spring training, collecting just four singles, three walks, and no extra-base hits throughout the exhibition schedule. Article after article after article wondered whether Ohtani was ready for the majors, or outright proclaimed he wasn’t; one scout told ESPN Ohtani belonged in single-A.

Those alarmist reports will make for excellent montage fodder in the eventual Ohtani movie as one of the early hurdles he needed to surpass en route to major league stardom. In retrospect, those articles seem wildly overreactive. But in the moment, even though samples were small, concern suffocated and overwhelmed all manner of reason. We as a baseball-watching audience had no real concept of what Ohtani would look like in the majors as he attempted to become the first two-way star since Ruth, and after a frenzied free-agent search and his surprising selection of the Angels, the early returns looked as discouraging as possible...

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45 minutes ago, Slegnaac said:

Hopefully some folks now realize that ST isn't about the scoreboard.

That was why I was withholding judgment till the season. I’d read somewhere that Japanese players focus less on results and more on working on whatever needs practice in ST. I did wonder if he was over his head at the plate, but I never seriously doubted his arm was ready for the show. 

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Before MLB pulled the plug on all the message boards, I would read the threads on other teams boards about Ohtani. First the Yankee fans thought they would sign him for sure. Once he narrowed it down to 7 teams they were very bitter, same with the BoSox.

Then once he decided to sign with the Angels a lot of team's posters were butt hurt. After that the report he had a sprained UCL report was leaked everyone was skeptical of Ohtani. But his spring training results got all the message boards laughing and saying how glad they were they didn't get stuck with Ohtani.

The Mariner's board especially were saying that very few Japanese players ever live up to the hype. Even though Dipoto made all those trades to pile up the slot money to persuade Ohtani to sign in Seattle.

Now that he won the ROY it gives me a little bit of pleasure to see all the sports writers, scouts, and posters wipe the egg off their faces.

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