Shohei Ohtani famously served as both starting pitcher and leadoff man for the American League in the All-Star Game. Twenty-four hours after performing as the No. 1 seed in the Home Run Derby. It was all a bit difficult to process, that there could be a player who not only walked in Babe Ruth's footsteps, but ran over them en route to a one-of-a-kind career. And yet there he was on consecutive Denver nights, his face on full display as mythical baseball character there in flesh and blood.
But here's the thing about Ohtani. Just when one starts to think they have their arms around the greatness and absurdity, he'll author new heroics to break brains yet again. This is one of his many gifts. The intoxicating ability to induce a warm haze of confusion and contentment to be witness to greatness. It's transportive to a time when baseball players were these larger-than-life figures to a child's mind, uniformed gods performing superhuman feats.
The Los Angeles Angels dual-threat moved the goalposts on comprehension once again last night in Detroit with arguably his most impressive single-game performance. Ohtani dominated a surprisingly plucky Tigers lineup with eight innings of one-run ball, striking out eight without surrendering a walk. He needed only 90 pitches and was denied a sure complete game only out of an abundance of caution. The sweet-swinging slugger also blasted his Major League-leading 40th homer of the year.
A delightful riddle remains. What in the hell are we supposed to do with this? Baseball lifers who have given eight decades to the game are in the same position as first-year bandwagoners. No one has ever seen this. No one knows what to do with the simple yet arresting fact that a player twirled eight sparkling frames on the mound on the same night his 40th round-tripper crashed into paying customers.
It's a hypothetical that didn't seem possible pre-Ohtani. And yet it's very real. No one has hit more homers this year than this magical unicorn. No American League pitcher has a lower batting average against. He hits the ball further, with more regularity than anyone else. He throws it with the most difficulty for opposing hitters.
Eventually we'll all get used to it but it will never cease being insane.
Number-crunchers can pour over stats for hours and continue to come up with new and astounding accomplishments. The quantitative measure of Ohtani is hard science proving his uniqueness. But perhaps the most impressive feat of them all will be more narrative-based.
There's a very real chance he goes an entire year without a meaningful slump or hiccup as a hitter *or* a pitcher. Ohtani's 162-game march to immortality may never take even a slight detour. How is that possible? How is it possible to be this consistently transcendent in two opposing disciplines?
The allure of future mind-blowing nights in which he adds to his unprecedented journey is intoxicating. Ohtani is an astronaut exploring the outer reaches of space, uncharted territory for a player. This could be the perfect storm of a season in which everything clicked. Or it could be the promise of further dominance to come. It could — and sit down for this — not be his peak. He could actually get better.