I’ve written about Shohei Ohtani before in this space. About how he almost certainly can’t be all that he teases, and the Angels are losing out on all he can be as a hitter or a pitcher by allowing him to be both.
My fear is that would be taken to mean I don’t enjoy Ohtani, or the rare glimpses that he provides of being a baseball unicorn (or at least the first one since Babe Ruth).
Not the case. It would be a truly cold heart indeed that if I didn’t marvel at all Ohtani was last night. And perhaps what excites people so much about Ohtani is that he can be everything, both good and bad. He’s what happens if you don’t have to balance out the meters by raising one and lowering another and can just push them all to the hilt. That childlike joy of not knowing what budgeting is.
Ohtani was Nuke Laloosh last night, if Laloosh could also turn around a chin-high fastball into a 450-foot defiance of nature.
The word “unbelievable” gets used roughly 67 times per night by various sports analysts and color guys, because they haven’t bothered to learn another adjective. But Ohtani unleashing 101 MPH fastballs in the top of the first and then doing that in the bottom is, or at least as close to “unbelievable” as sports get. Because we haven’t seen it before. It hasn’t been done.
Ohtani’s stuff was electric, even if he had little idea where it was going. He struck out seven in 4.2 innings, but he also walked five. It was as if he couldn’t contain the raw energy within him that came out in 101-mph or 91-mph splitter bursts. It’s simply unmanageable.
And that’s the fear with Ohtani, that’s it’s all unmanageable. It’s simply too raw. He throws too hard, the stuff too violent, and the hitting when he should be resting, pushing everything over the surge protector’s limits. That’s what the previous three seasons have proven.
That doesn’t mean that, while it’s all still barely contained, it isn’t worth seeing. That it isn’t appointment television. It most certainly is. Perhaps the fact that it could come undone again at any moment only makes it more so. It can only be harnessed for such a limited time. You’d better catch it.
After watching Tony La Russa wander in the general direction of the mound tonight, needing the voices of the infielders to finally lead him to where he was supposed to be, I’m convinced he will end up at second base one night, and will fail to even make it to the mound on another before turning around or simply stopping like someone unplugged him. If your overriding thought while watching him was either you really missed your grandfather, or you don’t at all, I’m with you.
Here’s a story everyone’s sick of either writing or reading but keeps happening. In La Liga yesterday Valencia CF walked off the field in the first half of their game against Cadiz after Mouctar Diakhaby said he was on the receiving end of racial abuse from Cadiz’s Juan Cala.
Valencia returned to the field to complete the game a short time later, and the story was that Diakhaby told them to finish the game even though he was substituted after the incident.
What really happened was that Valencia was threatened with forfeit and further points-docking if they didn’t return, and Diakhaby didn’t want to be seen as the fulcrum of such a punishment.
Obviously, neither Diakhaby nor Valencia should have been put in that position. La Liga should never make the victim of racial abuse responsible, nor protecting those who have been accused of using a slur on the field (Cala denies using a slur).
Referees in Spain do have the power to call a match where racial abuse has taken place, but that has never happened. This gets back to just how empty the kneeling before matches has seemed of late when it hasn’t even stopped the actual players from being racists. Valencia being under pressure when they did the right thing just shows how backwards things still work in the sport. Almost so much it’s a real challenge to see how change would even come about.