Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Toronto Blue Jays are better off without Ohtani

Sorry, fellow Blue Jays fans, but I'm not upset that Shohei Ohtani has opted not join our team.  On the contrary, I'm rather pleased.  Don't get me wrong.  Ohtani is an international superstar.  The thought of him playing for the Jays was both exciting and enticing.  However, when I scratched below the surface, I couldn't help but notice some liabilities where Ohtani is concerned.  I was left with some strong reservations about him playing in Toronto.  They were reservations which I could not ignore.  Now that he has signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the ungodly sum of $700 million over ten years, I am relieved.  

I am not questioning Ohtani's talent.  There is no doubt that he is a unique athlete.  His claim to fame is that he is both a pitcher and a position player. - a designated hitter, and a good one.  He is one of baseball's more dominant sluggers, with 171 home runs, 437 RBI, 86 stolen basses and a career batting average of .274 over 2,871 plate appearances.  He's also been an outstanding pitcher.

Due to an injury, however, the Japanese phenomenon will be less effective this season.  In late August of 2023, he was shut down due to an elbow issue in his throwing arm.  Shohei Ohani was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and he underwent surgery on September 19, 2023.  In a press release, his agent, Nez Balelo, stated that the procedure was done in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttache.  Dt. ElAttache has performed surgery on such star athletes as, pitcher Chris Sale, as well as basketball's Kobe Bryant and football's Aaron Rodgers.

According to Ohtani's press agent, "the ultimate plan after deliberation with Shohei was to repair the issue at hand and to reinforce the healthy ligament in place while adding viable tissue for the longevity of the elbow.  I expect a full recovery and he'll be ready to hit without any restrictions come opening day of 2024 and do both (hit and pitch) come 2025."

The bottom line, however, is that Ohtani is not expected to return to the mound until spring training 2025.  The two-way star will be unavailable as a pitcher for the Dodgers in 2025.  As with any injury, there is no guarantee as to whether he will be able to pitch as effectively once he fully recovers.  

Ohtani has never played in a post season game in Major League Baseball since he signed with the Los Angeles Angels on December 8, 2017.  He ended his time with the  Angels without taking part in a single playoff game.  It must be pointed out to Blue Jays fans, that despite having arguably the two best  MLB players in Ohtani and Mike Trout, the Angels were unable to produce a winning team.  The Angels couldn't make the playoffs even with Ohtani both hitting and pitching.  

Ohtani desperately wants to player on a winning team.  He has more of a chance of doing so with the LA Dodgers.  The Blue Jays' disastrous playoff record in 2023 and 2022 did not help their attempt to acquire his services. Perhaps Ohtani never really intended to come to Canada.  Perhaps he and his agent used the Jays as a bargaining chip to gain more from the Dodgers.

Ohtani is not a particularly young player.  He is 29 years old and will turn 30 on July 5, 2024.  By the end of his ten-year contract with the Dodgers, he'll be pushing 40.  A 40-year-old can still be a designated hitter. Ohtani is very careful about his conditioning, so that shouldn't be a problem when he reaches his mid to late 30s.  

Rogers Communications, owner of the Blue Jays, Rogers Centre and Sportsnet, the network which broadcasts Jays games, pursued him relentlessly.  Their number one consideration was to boost sales of Rogers products.   His face on advertisements for Rogers would have increased the sales of their cell phones dramatically.  Building a good team and contending for a World Series was a factor, but not the determining factor for Edward Rogers and company.

The Blue Jays have a lot of holes to fill in their lineup.  Many of their players have become free agents.  Rather than spend all that money on Ohtani, the Jays have a golden opportunity to put a more balanced team on the field.  They have not placed their hopes in one player.  Yes, Shohei Ohtani is a generational superstar, and an extraordinarily talented ball player.  Yet I would rather have the Jays contend for a World Series.  It's a matter of looking beyond the hype.


- Joanne