Ohtani Gets His Lucre and His Wish

It was almost to laugh. Within an hour of the news breaking and confirmed that Shohei Ohtani signed at last, and with the Dodgers, yet, there also came the news that some Angel fans began holding burnings of one or another kind of Ohtani merchandise. It was to laugh that you wouldn't weep, of course.

Set aside what Ohtani signed for for the moment. Yes, it's 10 years and $700 million. It's also no opt-out clauses in the deal. It's also Ohtani himself deferring a considerable pile of that guaranteed money the better to enable the Dodgers to continue sustaining excellence via the farm and the market.

Now, consider the abject stupidity of the Angels and some of their fans. You want to burn Ohtani merch because, as a legitimate, lawful free agent, he signed elsewhere at all? Never mind with the beasts just up the freeway? Be my guest — and stand exposed as the fools you are.

The fools who'd rather turn Ohtani merch into burnt ashes than demand better of the team that let him walk with nothing of value in return — while going for broke elsewhere at the trade deadline only to unload two of the pieces they did acquire by way of the waiver wire at September's beginning ... just after Ohtani's elbow took him off the mound for the season without sitting him down as a designated hitter.

The fools who'd rather have kept Ohtani bound to a team whose administration seems clueless about the point that you need a viable team around them to enable Ohtani and whatever might be left of future Hall of Famer Mike Trout to play for chances at championships. The point that one or two players do not a championship contender make, no matter how overendowed in ability and execution they've been.

You want to make Ohtani an example instead of holding Angels owner Arte Moreno and his trained seals in the front office accountable for thinking the box office is the thing and if you just so happen to win it's mere gravy? Be my guest again. And stand exposed further.

For so long as he's owned the Angels Moreno's marketing background, the business in which he earned his fortune, has dominated what the Angels put on the field. Whether what they put on the field could play competent or cohesive baseball up and down the lineup seemed secondary to having what George Steinbrenner used to call "name guys who put fannies in the seats."

It was bad enough that the Angels unearthed the transcendent Trout and saw him build a jaw-dropping Hall of Fame case in his first nine seasons before the injury bug bit into him in too much earnest over the past four. It was worse that Trout showed his loyalty to the team that discovered him and turned him loose on the field by signing a glandular extension only to have too many people wondering if he hadn't lost his marble for it.

It was worse that Trout got to play with Ohtani, himself an injury bug victim for a couple of years following his Rookie of the Year season, and formed a tandem of transcendence (when Trout could play) that proved nothing more than a two-man supershow in the middle of a sad-sack sideshow.

"Ohtani has said he wanted to win," writes The Athletic's Andy McCullough.

The Dodgers have won their division in ten of the past eleven seasons and tallied more than one hundred victories in five of the past six full seasons . . . [Ohtani] has been never part of a team with a front office capable of regularly rebuilding a pitching staff with excellent results, as Andrew Friedman has often done. And he has never played for an ownership consortium like Mark Walter's Guggenheim group, who have been willing to invest in facilities, infrastructure and ancillary considerations.

That's putting things politely. The hottest item at last season's trade deadline was whether the Angels would wake up, wise up, and trade him for legitimate return value on the field and in the organisation at last. No chance.

Now it's possible that Trout will return healthy, play like something close enough to the Trout who punched his Cooperstown ticket, stir up speculation on whether the Angels finally deal him to a contender with rich return to offer, and find himself still bound and gagged to an owner who's willing to invest in his box office alone.

Quit the hemming and hawing over Ohtani's deal raising an unconscionable ceiling for the free agents to follow him in the current market. Instead of bellowing over the big bad Dodgers handing him what amounts to a Delta Quadrant kingdom plus safe passage through the Cardassian Empire and ownership of Ferengi Enterprises, try bellowing over other owners' too-entrenched refusal to invest and build in the major league product and the organisation behind it.

The Red Sox unloading Babe Ruth to the Yankees was nothing like this. Then, believe it or not, the Red Sox thought they were unloading a problem child to help relieve their owner's financial stresses, not all of which was tied to his concurrent theatrical production operation. The Ruth sale helped temporarily.

Ohtani, anything but a problem child, was allowed to walk into free agency eyes wide shut on the part of the Angels. It was perverse fun, too, watching the sports press get their proverbial panties into twists trying to figure out what was in Ohtani's heart of hearts while he and his agent played things close enough to the vest. I couldn't resist joining the fun for a moment, outlining a top ten list of what Ohtani was really thinking, feeling, wanting:

10) He really loves cats.
9) His dream car's an Edsel.
8) He has a crush on Yankee broadcaster Suzyn Waldman.
7) He thinks Disneyland's Jurassic Park in disguise.
6) He hopes to play Elmer Fudd in the next Looney Tunes film.
5) If he doesn't, he'll settle for Bazooka Joe.
4) He watches reruns of My Mother, the Car on YouTube.
3) He thinks the Beach Boys wouldn't know a surfboard from an emery board.
2) The last book he read is Stupid Vacuum Cleaner Tricks.
1) He's still waiting for the second album by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

When Dodger manager Dave Roberts admitted the Dodgers talked to Ohtani and he'd have loved nothing more than to see Ohtani in Dodger silks, panties into twists turned nuclear, they thought Roberts's honesty might have killed any deal in gestation. So much for that idea.

Too often with Trout injured Ohtani had to provide most of the Angels' offense. Joining the Dodgers that burden is lifted. He can swing the bat comfortably and not believe every one of nine innings of baseball is on his shoulders. When he recovers from elbow surgery and takes the mound again in 2025, Ohtani has good reason to believe the Dodgers will have remodeled the starting rotation whose dissipation cost them this past postseason.

He didn't have one millionth of a prayer of seeing that happen if he elected to re-sign with the Angels. Being a guy who makes baseball fun again is one thing. Coming home after yet another losing or short-of-the-postseason season proved something else.

So go ahead, some of you Angel fans. Burn his jerseys, blow up his bobbleheads, use his photos and posters for fish wrap if you must. You're going to look almost as foolish for it as your team's owner has looked for having resources unfettered and brains inoperable the entire time Ohtani wore Angels red. Almost.

Angel fans who don't have coconut juice for brains began flocking to Angel Stadium to mourn within two hours of Ohtani himself scooping the world by announcing his Dodgers deal on Instagram. A crane already began stripping Ohtani's mural from the side of the stadium. Fans slipped into the stadium's team store to snap up Ohtani merch before it would disappear forever.

They came to mourn.

And one fan, Sebastian Romero, lifted a page from the books of long-suffering Athletics fans whose owner has stripped the team of credibility only to wrest approval for hijacking them to Las Vegas. Outside the stadium, Romero held up a sign before the Ohtani mural behind him was stripped, as photographed by Athletic writer Sam Blum: "Sell the Team, Arte."

As Blum noted so mournfully, Ohtani's past three seasons have been three of the greatest the game has ever seen from a single player, on both sides of the ball, yet, with the Angels going 77-85, 73-89 and 73-89. What a waste of Ohtani hitting 124 home runs and striking out 542 batters worth two unanimous Most Valuable Player awards over that span.

A young man of few words for the press, Ohtani is on record as saying that, much as he loved the Angels, "More than that, I want to win. That's the biggest thing for me. So, I'll leave it at that." Nobody can say the Angels weren't warned. Nobody can say the Dodgers lack the resources or the brains to make that wish come true, either.

Now, I wonder. When Ohtani meets Clayton Kershaw as a Dodger for the first time, will he begin the conversation by saying, "About that All-Star Game pickoff, buddy...?"

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