There may come a point where baseball fans can fully appreciate Shohei Ohtani’s unicornian nature and jump into his games as if it could never get in their way again. Then again, the Los Angeles Angeles were playing in Auckland on Saturday – in a doubleheader, no less – so the 100th home run of Ohtani and the 200th walk in 444 career games were actually watched by only 7,737 fans.
In fairness, A’s fans are in the early stages of an organic boycott of John Fisher’s ownership, and to be even more fair (a rebellious idea, I know), the first game drew 12,719, meaning that 20,456 actually saw Ohtani in 18 innings. Batted 10 times. It was an equally unsatisfactory split for all parties involved; Oakland took a 4-3 lead on the day, with Angeles winning 9-1 in the evening. A real treat for people working on a baseball-based 300-calorie-a-day diet.
Ohtani’s 100th Homer, whom he cleverly described later as “a big number,” is your standard 418-foot rocket from A’s unfortunate Adam O’Leary, who previously allowed Taylor Ward a Grand Slam and whose Inflation 12.27. There is little to list the mathematical significance of what Ohtani does, as there are always three names – Babe Ruth, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui – but the word “a big number” comes up again and again.
Ohtani, though, is becoming an interesting Angels team which come – one of the most enduring oxymoron in baseball. The Angels have beaten the Dodgers just once in 61 seasons and have only one World Series to their credit. They’ve never been the thing Southern Southern likes the most – great things to pay for. In fact, Rob Manfred, the Guardian of the Game People Like to Hate, has used the best angel of all time, Mike Trout, as the game is losing popularity among mammals.
And when we say “the greatest angel of all time” to refer to trout, we mean to include Ohtani. What Trout is going through in his most extraordinary season so far, he looks much better than any other player in the game. The problem is, he has worked in a relatively competitive void, as the Angels have only done the postseason once in their 11 full years and have lost to Kansas City. In mythology the angels were what they were – completely ethereal.
But for all the trout, and secondly Ward and Jared Walsh and Reid Detmars’ no-hitter and team effort to prove that it ultimately understands the value of pitching, Ohtani is the core of its entertainment, and if there is a value to the most amazing player, it is still greater. He could not express himself to the people. Ohtani’s curiosity has waned in anticipation of Ohtani, but despite more support around him (Trout, for example, missed almost all of last year) the rest of the nation has not yet leaned towards the idea of Ohtanimania. The Angels haven’t had more than 15th on Road Attendance since signing her, and her pitching start doesn’t seem to have any extra drawing ability at home or on the street yet – at least not for the four seasons she’s had Ruth side by side.
And perhaps baseball has put itself in a position where there is no more visiting team mania to enjoy. Or maybe Michelle Tafoy has taken it – despite all the evidence, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye:
This suggestion, that the most amazing thing that baseball has produced in decades is openly annoying, is a strange worldview, but one that may be more prevalent than we realize. Maybe Shohei Ohtani and the team of suddenly brighter angels are still insufficient to capture the larger imagination – but not because she’s not doing enough, or because she’s being over-exposed.
Then again, the biggest hope lies at the back of Ohtani’s “a big number” quote, especially since:
“I am just happy to be free. But it’s early in the season. “