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Ohtani remains on the menu for Dodgers or Angels

Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

The tea leaves run dry. The Seattle Mariners have a long and proud history of featuring Japanese players, and Nintendo owns a share of the team. The Texas Rangers happily employed Ohtani's friend, Yu Darvish. Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein recruited Daisuke Matsuzaka to Boston. The San Francisco Giants have three rings this decade, a huge Japanese community among their fan base, and a bench coach who speaks Japanese.

The Dodgers boast what is widely regarded as baseball's most creative front office, and they undoubtedly have presented Ohtani with options intended to maximize his opportunities to pitch and hit.

Because starting pitchers generally work once a week in Japan, Ohtani might care that the Dodgers eased Kenta Maeda's transition to the major leagues by using him on more than four days' rest in the majority of his starts last year. Or Ohtani might care that the Dodgers put Maeda on the disabled list this year on the day after he took a shutout into the ninth inning, not because he was seriously hurt but because of what manager Dave Roberts called "the potential for injury." Or Ohtani might not care either way.

The Angels boast one of the best players in the game, Mike Trout. Ohtani might choose to measure himself against Trout and, depending on the condition of Garrett Richards, could emerge as the ace of the team. The Angels, the last team eliminated from the American League playoffs this year, have a rotation beyond Richards tilted toward too many No. 4 starters with injury histories. If Ohtani cares to be the guy that could lift a team into the playoffs, he might make his greatest difference with the Angels.

Trout is not the face of baseball's marketing efforts because he chooses not to be. He would rather spend his off-season hanging out with his family and cheering on the Philadelphia Eagles than flying from one commercial shoot to another. Ohtani would rather play video games. Two of a kind?

The Ohtani derby is great theater, and good for Ohtani. The system is rigged against him; he is an accomplished professional player forced to accept a bonus suited to an unproven high school or college player. However, he is enjoying the flip side of that injustice: simply choosing the team for which he wants to play, rather than auctioning his services.

 

No one knows what he will do. The latest speculation focuses on the San Diego Padres, with their extensive Japanese ties in the front office, including former Dodgers scouting director Logan White, former Dodgers coordinator of Asian operations Acey Kohrogi, and former Dodgers pitchers Hideo Nomo and Takashi Saito. The Padres, unlike the other six finalists, could let Ohtani grow into his major league hitting shoes, rather than fret about what to do if he is hitting .200 in June.

Ohtani could get a condo within walking distance of Petco Park, play video games by day and Major League Baseball by night. If all he wants is to play baseball, live somewhere he enjoys and not chase every last dollar, he would not have to look far for a role model. He would play his home games at 19 Tony Gwynn Drive.

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times

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