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Someone Please Save Shohei Ohtani From the Angels

By Stephen Douglas
Shohei Ohtani in New York.
Shohei Ohtani in New York. / Sarah Stier/Getty Images
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Shohei Ohtani is the most exciting thing to happen to baseball since Benny pickled The Beast. Ohtani is a modern day Babe Ruth, which seems like a big deal since Ruth is on the Mount Rushmore of larger than life mythical sports figures who actually existed. That's how awesome Ohtani looks right now.

He is a position player in the team's starting rotation. If he had pitched enough innings to qualify, his 1.180 WHIP would be 38th in all of baseball. His 12.4 K/9 would be sixth. His 2.58 ERA would be 16th, right in front of Trevor Bauer.

He's also a pitcher so good at hitting that he plays the field between starts. He's currently leading the AL in home runs and triples, a feat no one has pulled off since Jim Rice in 1978. Before that Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays both did it in 1955.

So how do we save him from toiling in obscurity with the Angels? Ohtani has one year remaining on his current deal and will then hit arbitration after the 2022 season. Following 2023, at 29 years-old, he will be a free agent. The Angels will certainly wish to keep him because he is good for business. They can give him a huge deal and try to keep him on the only MLB team that he's ever known. Or will some other team step in and rescue him from possibly spend his historic career with the Angels?

If Ohtani was doing something this amazing in the NBA, the first block of every debate show every single day would feature a conversation about the latest Ohtani trade rumor. Two years left on his deal? Would the Lakers give up LeBron for him?

And that's the thing. This is not a small market problem. We see all his highlights, very nearly in real time, thanks to the Internet. We can watch his games on MLB Extra Innings when blackouts don't apply. If anyone wants to put him in a national ad campaign or get him a cameo on a television show or in a movie someone just needs to hop on The 5. This isn't about him being a hidden gem.

This is about him wasting his career like Mike Trout. While Trout has put together a Hall of Fame career, he's been in the postseason just once in 2014. The Angels were swept. Trout's postseason legacy is literally a small sample size. Trout is a Hall of Famer, but will he ever be a legend?

I know it's the exact kind of semantic quibbling that I hate, but as Babe Ruth himself once said, "Heroes live forever, legends never die." Yeah, it's a cheesy line from a kids movie, but it's kind of true in baseball. Will anyone remember Trout as fondly as people in Boston remember David Ortiz or how fans remember somebody like Justin Turner across town? Is that what we want for Ohtani? Is it what he wants? The Angels better hope so.

The Angels are currently in fourth place in the AL West and eight games out of the Wild Card with multiple teams ahead of them in line. To put it politely, this is about as good as things will get in Anaheim. This is his third season in LA and they've finished in 4th place every year.

Any team lining up for Ohtani's free agency pitch in 2023 would be wise to start making offers for him now. He just needs to be somewhere that is going to compete. Somewhere he can get in the postseason on a regular basis and show off all these awesome things on baseball's biggest stage. Is that too much to ask? We know it is for the Angels based on a decade of irrelevance with a perennial MVP in Mike Trout. Let's not wait around and find out.

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